Úno 28

Japan Police: 98.3% of Money Laundering Cases Don’t Involve Cryptocurrency

Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) say cases of suspected money laundering reportedly linked to cryptocurrency increased by 900 percent in 2018 when compared to the previous year. However, this still comprises only 1.7 percent of all money laundering investigations.

Cryptocurrency Money Laundering Up Tenfold in Japan

According to The Japan Times, the NPA reports that it recorded 7,096 cases of suspected cryptocurrency money laundering. This figure represents a tenfold increase from the 669 cases reported between April and December 2017.

Back in early December 2018, the NPA released a report stating that alleged cases of cryptocurrency money laundering for the year stood at almost 6,000. At the time, the period accounted for was between January 2018 and October 2018.

Since Q2 2017, regulators have required cryptocurrency exchanges in Japan to report instances of suspected illegal virtual currency transactions. This move was part of a whole host of reforms targeted at combating illicit activities carried out via digital currencies.

The NPA says many of the suspicious transactions involved multiple accounts with different bio-data information but using the same photo ID. Other cases involved accounts using foreign IPs even though details of the accounts show listing addresses based in Japan.

According to the NPA’s figures, the increase in crypto-related money laundering is indicative of a general rise in illegal financial transactions across the board in 2018. The NPA says it recorded more than 417,000 cases of alleged money laundering, an increase of over 17,000 from 2017.

Also, the percentage of crypto-related money laundering in the general reckoning has also increased. In 2018, 1.70 percent of money laundering was from cryptocurrency transactions compared to 0.16 percent in 2017.

Robust KYC/AML/CFT Rules to the Rescue

In August 2018, reports emerged that the NPA was set to commit more than $300,000 to develop a tracking software for cryptocurrency transaction. The NPA plans to implement this tool as a way of combating the rise of cryptocurrency theft and other illegal transactions.

FSA Japan

As reported by Bitcoinist in January 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations on cryptocurrency will come into effect by Q3 2019. These regulations which center around KYC/AML protocols will apply to the G20, of which Japan is a member.

Experts believe such international standards will hinder the ability for criminals to launder money via cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, the country’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) continues to implement stricter regulatory standards for cryptocurrency exchanges based in Japan.

Do you think the introduction and enforcement of KYC/AML regulations will curb money laundering? Let us know your thoughts below!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Říj 19

Nordea in Money Laundering Scandal After Calling Bitcoin ‘High-Risk’ for Money Laundering

Nordic banking giant Nordea Bank is allegedly implicated in a multi-million money laundering scandal. Reportedly, the case is related to another recent money laundering scheme involving Denmark’s Danske Bank.

Nordea in Hot Water 

Banking giant Nordea Bank, headquartered in Helsinki, is alleged to have accepted criminally-sourced funds from banks located in Lithuania and Estonia.

The giant confirmed that it’s aware of the report on Tuesday October 16th:

We are aware of the report, and at Nordea we work closely with the relevant authorities in the countries in which we operate, including the Nordic Financial Intelligence Units.

According to Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT, some 365 individual accounts at the bank have allegedly received payments from shell companies amounting to 150 million euros. What is more, the media, which claims to have access to the report, outlines that part of those payments came from the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.

Danske Bank

Bitcoinist reported earlier in October that Denmark’s Danske Bank found itself at the center of a tremendous Russian money laundering scandal, alleging that it has illegitimately processed some $235 billion.

And Yet, Cryptocurrencies Present a Threat?

Danske Bank reportedly laundered more money than the entire cryptocurrency market capitalization alone. That’s one bank at one location.

According to the report mentioned above, Nordea is also at the center of yet another 150 million money laundering scandal. This is the same bank which banned all of its 31,000 employees from trading Bitcoin 00 because of its “high risks.”

Back in February, another major Dutch bank – Rabobank, was also fined for accepting at least $369 million in illegal proceeds from drug trafficking and other activity from the period between 2009 and 2012.

Rabobank also warned against the risks of Bitcoin. Quickly after that, the bank took a major U-turn and announced that it plans to offer a cryptocurrency wallet.

Coincheck NEM laundered

The obvious conclusions aside, it’s important to note that multiple international governmental institutions have already spoken up on the risks of cryptocurrencies associated with illicit activities.

A report from the Financial Services and Treasury of Hong Kong on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment revealed that cryptocurrencies are widely left out of organized crime.

The National Crime Agency of the UK, in its National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing report of 2017 also outlined that the risks of cryptocurrencies used for money laundering is “relatively low.”

What do you think of the recent allegations against Nordea? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Říj 01

Danske Bank’s $235B Money Laundering Tops Entire Cryptocurrency Market Cap

Danske Bank, the Danish lender at the center of a giant Russian money laundering scandal, illegitimately processed more cash than the entire cryptocurrency market cap combined.

One Bank, $235 Billion

The astonishing figure, noted on social media by Morgan Creek Digital founder and partner Anthony Pompliano this weekend, comes as the true extent of the banking sector’s latest revelation remains unknown.

Danske laundered a reported $235 billion through just one of its branches in Estonia over an eight-year period, according to claims.

This week, the bank appointed an interim CEO in the form of its current Danish operations head Jesper Nielsen after abruptly firing extant boss Thomas Borgen.

Commenting on Twitter, Pompliano appeared to suggest the episode should give renewed faith to cryptocurrency investors subdued by criticism of the industry or sustained low prices.

“REMINDER: A single bank location at one bank laundered more money than the entire market cap of cryptocurrencies,” he wrote. “Long Bitcoin, Short the Bankers.”

At press time, the combined cryptocurrency market cap totaled $223 billion, slightly down on previous levels seen over the past few days.

Pots And Kettles

Danske had meanwhile taken a highly hawkish stance on cryptocurrency. Before the laundering scandal broke, a dedicated statement implored customers not to invest in the industry at all.

“…Most importantly, the lack of transparency and regulatory control have made cryptocurrencies a target for criminal purposes and we know that they on several occasions have been involved in criminal transactions like money laundering or extortion,” the statement reads, striking a now grimly ironic tone.

As a financial institution, we have an obligation to assist in the fight against financial crime and money laundering. At the current stage, cryptocurrencies do not offer the sufficient level of transparency in order for us to live up to our obligations within anti money laundering regulation.

The hypocrisy of the bank’s views is nothing new. Rabobank, the Dutch lender which found itself at the center of a money-laundering scandal involving its operations on California, had gone as far as to refuse accounts to Bitcoin businesses. This, it said, was down to “compliance risks.”

What do you think about Danske Bank’s money laundering? Let us know in the comments below! 

Images courtesy of Twitter/@APompliano.

Čvc 24

London Police Proactive Against Alleged Cryptocurrency Money Laundering

After a warning from European law enforcement agency Europol earlier this year that billions of pounds are being laundered through cryptocurrencies, City of London officials have decided to take matters into their own hands. 

Transactions made in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are notoriously complicated to trace due to the fact that users can generally generate unlimited numbers of wallets without providing any identifying information. Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies seem to have no trouble tracking down cybercriminals dealing in cryptocurrencies — as evidenced by the recent indictment of Russian intelligence officers who used Bitcoin to fund their interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Earlier this year, Europol officials arrested 11 individuals and identified 137 others allegedly involved in a large-scale network for laundering drug money with cryptocurrencies as a part of its Tulipan Blanca operation. The agency warned that there is currently three to four billion pounds ($4.1 to $5.5 billion) worth of digital currencies being laundered in Europe alone, though little evidence was provided to back this claim.

In contrast, the Hong Kong Financial Services and Treasury (FSTB) admitted in its “Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment” report that it sees no evidence of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies being used to launder money or fund terror organizations whatsoever.

Still, accusations of crime in the cryptocurrency world persist.

The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Sam Woods — who is candidly wary of cryptocurrencies — wrote letters to the executives of financial institutions claiming (without evidence) that digital currencies “appear vulnerable to fraud and manipulation, as well as money-laundering and terrorist financing risks.”

London Police Getting Proactive

To stay ahead of the future generation of cybercriminals, the City of London Police Department is implementing a new cryptocurrency fraud course at their Economic Crime Academy beginning this fall, according to The Telegraph. A City of London Police spokesperson commented:

On successful completion of this course, participants will understand how to detect, seize and investigate the use of cryptocurrencies in an investigative context… It will be the first of its kind and has been developed in response to feedback from police officers nationally who felt there wasn’t enough training available in this area.

While Bitcoin cannot be blamed for financial transgressions any more than SMS can be blamed for infidelity, a select bunch of computer literate criminals has taken a liking to the new technology and it is to the advantage of law enforcement agencies and financial authorities around the world to keep their staff educated on the latest blockchain trends — whether they are being used to clean dirty money or not.

What do you think of the new programs to educate officials about digital money laundering? Will they be useful, or will the technology evolve quicker than they can adapt? Let us know in the comments below! 

Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Bitcoinist archives.

Čvn 05

‘Big Four’ Australian Bank Beats Bitcoin… in Money Laundering

· June 4, 2018 · 9:00 pm

One of Australia’s “big four” banks, Commonwealth Bank (CBA), has agreed to pay Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) AUS$700M ($530M USD) in settlements for breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

During a period of 3 years, CBA had failed to report 53,506 bank transactions, improperly monitored 778,370 accounts for money laundering red flags, and filed 149 suspicious matter reports late. The scandal resulted in the departure of Chief Executive Ian Narev.

CBA denies knowingly breaching AML laws, arguing that a single coding error had led to the failure to report the 53,506 transactions. However, they did admit responsibility for a lack of proper due diligence.

“Our agreement today is a clear acknowledgment of our failures and is an important step towards moving the bank forward. On behalf of Commonwealth Bank, I apologise to the community for letting them down,” said CBA current chief executive, Matt Comyn.

Illegal transactions: Fiat vs. Crypto

This news is particularly ironic considering the accusations by the mainstream media (and Bill Gates) that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are being used primarily for money laundering and funding terrorism.

Studies conducted by Colombia University Economics professor Edgar Feige have already disproven these claims, citing that almost 50% of the world’s hard currency is utilized to make Illicit transactions like drug and arms trafficking.

A recent panel held by the US Senate Judiciary on modernizing anti-money laundering laws also found that only a small percentage of illicit activity spending is done through cryptocurrency.

The fact remains that cash is offline, and therefore more difficult to trace. Digital cash is recorded on a centralized database, where institutions with their own agendas can easily hide these transactions from the authorities.

By contrast, the immutability of transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain actually makes it harder to move money around without a trace.

A recent study by Qatar University and Hamad Bin Khalifa University revealed that unmasking the users behind these transactions often requires nothing more than a wallet address and a Google search. Qatar University researcher, Husam Al Jawaheri, explained:

The retroactive operation security of Bitcoin is low. When things are recorded in the blockchain, you can go back in history and reveal this information, to break the anonymity of users.

The best drug traffickers can hope for at the moment is using coins like Monero to mask their transactions, however, even Monero has its vulnerabilities.

CBA Implementing Blockchain?

Just 2 years ago, the now-ousted CBA executive Ian Narev acknowledged blockchain’s potential to be “transformational” for customers and in reducing costs, while perhaps not also recognizing its capabilities as an immutable ledger for the Bank itself.

It’s safe to say that a CBA ledger built on the blockchain would’ve made it much more difficult to conceal 53,506 transactions, saving AUSTRAC a lot of time and money investigating the breach.

To date, CBA has spent more than $400 million on anti-money laundering compliance measures.

Do you think the bank would consider using Blockchain technology to improve compliance with AML and counter-terrorism financing laws? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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Bře 20

4 Ways Criminals Are Trying to Cash out Their Bitcoin

· March 20, 2018 · 2:30 pm

Due to the increased spotlight on cryptocurrency, criminals are finding it more difficult to cash out their Bitcoin for fiat, but they are finding ways to do so.

A common media portrayal is that of a criminal who plies their trade on the Dark Web and amassing a fortune in Bitcoin. It is true that the daddy of cryptocurrency can be used for all manner of illicit transactions, but an interesting phenomenon is now occurring. While some criminals have amassed a veritable fortune in bitcoins, they are finding it increasingly difficult to cash out the cryptocurrency to fiat. However, they are finding some ingenious ways to do so.


A Hard Knock Life

A recent report by Vice highlights this issue that criminals are having. People who conduct illicit business on the Dark Web, such as selling stolen information or malware, are making some serious money, but they are facing obstacles in converting that digital wealth into actual fiat currency.

The main reason for this problem is that cryptocurrency is the victim of its own success. The massive surge in value towards the end of 2017 shone a very bright spotlight upon the cryptocurrency sphere, catching the attention of law enforcement and regulatory bodies.

The increasing acceptance of cryptocurrency has led to more regulations being put into place, such as exchanges requiring verifiable information from its users. Law enforcement has also become more adept at infiltrating the seedy underbelly of the crypto sphere, not to mention keeping a sharp eye on large-scale transactions.

Some Savvy Criminals

This increased scrutiny has led criminals to try to cash out their Bitcoin. Swiss bankers have reported being contacted and offered a 10% payment if they could facilitate large-scale transfers; offers that they have, so far, rejected.


However, criminals can be an ingenious lot at times. A few methods for cashing out their bitcoins were revealed to Vice. One such method is using Western Union. An online drug dealer says he uses services that will automatically transfer cryptocurrency to accounts belonging to Western Union. Then he uses another person to pick up the fiat.

Probably the safest way to cash out is to sell the Bitcoin to a trusted person in the real world. A malware seller tells Vice that he regularly sells cryptocurrency to a local person a few times per week, who then leaves a bag of cash on their porch a few hours after the crypto is transferred. Another method is to work with a company that charges pre-paid debit cards with cryptocurrency. Criminals note that the card issuer does not know what is being used to charge the card as another company handles that. If the card requires some documents, fake ones can be procured on the Dark Web.

Law enforcement notes that another viable option for criminals is to use a bank in Eastern Europe. Regulations dealing with cryptocurrency are much more lax in that particular region. In fact, Europe is currently known as a weak link when it comes to money-laundering and cryptocurrency. Even now, such enforcement is not high on the EU list of priorities, which is something that cybercriminals are very aware of. In addition, criminals are now moving away from Bitcoin and into other cryptocurrencies that are far more private.

Do you think criminals will always find a way to cash out their cryptocurrencies? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Pexels, Pixabay, and Bitcoinist archives.

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Čvc 26

Russian National Arrested in Greece with Ties to Money Laundering, BTC-e, Mt. Gox Theft

· July 26, 2017 · 4:30 pm

Alexander Vinnik, 38, has been arrested in Greece on a U.S. warrant. While he is suspected of running one of the largest online money laundering operations, additional reports are emerging naming him as the mastermind behind the Mt. Gox heist that sent Bitcoin spiraling out of control in 2013.

The Man Behind the BTC-e Exchange

For almost seven years, BTC-e has operated as one of the oldest digital currency exchanges in the world. During that entire time, the people behind the company have been completely anonymous.

Until today.

The alleged mastermind behind a multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme and, according to sources close to the exchange, a key person behind BTC-e has been unmasked as Alexander Vinnik, a Russian national who was arrested today in Greece. Vinnik is wanted in the United States on suspicion of money laundering at least $4 billion USD through bitcoin transactions.

Vinnik is currently being held in custody by Greek authorities pending a U.S. extradition request.

Greek police have stated:

An internationally sought ‘mastermind’ of a crime organization has been arrested. Since 2011 the 38-year-old has been running a criminal organization which administers one of the most important websites of electronic crime in the world.

With Vinnik’s extradition, the U.S. investigation will go into full swing. This is the latest in a series of U.S. efforts to curb cybercrime worldwide. Last week, a multi-national coordinated raid involving the U.S. and several other countries resulted in the takedown of the Darknet site known as Alphabay.

BTC-e have long been known for their lax regulations user identity verification and their uncooperative nature when it comes to anti-money laundering organizations. Perhaps coincidentally, the exchange has conspicuously been offline since last Thursday, with the website currently citing “unscheduled maintenance” as the cause of the interruption of service.

A feed of tweets from the BTC-e is on the site as well to keep users informed.

Ties to the Mt. Gox Bitcoin Hack

Vinnik was also found to be in control of a sizable number of Bitcoins that could possibly be traced back to the hack of the Mt. Gox exchange back in 2013. A group of security experts known as WizSec published a blog post earlier today detailing how the hack took place. The group maintains that Vinnik has been their prime suspect in their years-long investigation into the Bitcoin theft and that the same conclusions about his involvement were made independently by other teams working to uncover what really happened.

WizSec explains:

In September 2011, the MtGox hot wallet private keys were stolen, in a case of a simple copied wallet.dat file. This gave the hacker access to a sizable number of bitcoins immediately, but also were able to spend the incoming trickle of bitcoins deposited to any of the addresses contained. […] By mid-2013 when the funds spendable from the compromised keys had slowed to a near halt, the thief had taken out about 630,000 BTC from MtGox.

Mt. Gox Where is Our Money

Not only can the Mt. Gox coins be traced to Vinnik, but other less known heists can be traced to him as well.

According to WizSec:

Coins stolen from Bitcoinica, Bitfloor and several other thefts from back in 2011 and 2012 were all laundered through the same wallets.

Vinnik has denied all accusations against him in a Greek court of law. More information on this story will surely be released in the coming days, so make sure to stay tuned.

Do you think that Vinnik will be extradited to the States? Or will other countries try and lay their claim to prosecute? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to check back at Bitcoinist.com for more information on this story as it unfolds.

Images courtesy of Japan Times, Reuters/Alexandros Avramidis, Shutterstock

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Říj 22

Bitcoin ATM Industry Reacts to ‘Money Mules,’ Changing Markets

Source: bitcoin

Bitcoin Money Laundering

Recently, EasyBit announced the installation of 6 Bitcoin ATMs in 4 states across the US. The company expressed confidence in the future success of these machines, even dismissing news that “money mules” had used Bitcoin ATMs to launder money as a service to other criminals.

Also read: ShapeShift Removes Support for Ethereum Following Forking Mishap

The money mule accusations  are the latest in a long and growing list of alleged crimes that have been facilitated by Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Since the mainstream discovery of the Silk Road marketplace, mainstream media and anti-Bitcoin pundits have tried to connect Bitcoin use to drug trafficking, kidnapping, terrorism financing and myriad other crimes.

EasyBit, however, doesn’t seem phased by these claims, continuing their business of installing Bitcoin ATMs in new locations, hoping to stimulate a bitcoin economy in new markets.

Bitcoinist got the chance to ask Michael Dupree, founder and CEO of EasyBit, a few questions about his company and what he thinks about recent developments in the Bitcoin and finance worlds.

Bitcoin ATM Industry Evolving and Growing With the Bitcoin Market

Why did you choose these 6 locations? Do these places have established bitcoin markets, or are you looking to create new markets in these areas?

Michael Dupree, founder and CEO of EasyBit

We are always looking to expand our marketplaces and provide Bitcoin ATMs services to a larger number of customers. Currently we are contemplating a growing market that, even though it is growing fast, is still quite new so most of the locations are “under development.”  

What do you think about the news regarding “money mules” using bitcoin ATMs to launder stolen money? Is it going to hurt the reputation of bitcoin ATMs or Bitcoin in general?

Criminal activities related with Bitcoin are almost as old as Bitcoin itself, same thing we can say about credit cards, cash or any other type of exchange. They are good in general, and do not undermine the benefits that the technology provides to the society.

In Easybit we follow a strict procedure of Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundry (AML) as well as all government regulations, and we are also constantly working on improving the processes in order to avoid any illegal use of the ATMs.

Are there any precautions bitcoin ATM manufacturers and administrators can take to prevent money laundering?

Having a good compliance process that can identify your customers properly, for example through the use of systems like Blockscore and SSN, as well as working closely with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is the best way to dissuade any kind of unwanted use of the ATMs.

You mentioned that the installation of a bitcoin ATM seems to be followed by increased adoption in the area. Can you elaborate on that? Do you have any data to back that up?

A map of EasyBit’s Bitcoin ATM locations in the US

Even though Bitcoin was created 7 years ago, it is a completely new technology if we compare it to around 60 years of credit cards and more than 200 years of paper currency, so it is understandable that it is not yet widely known. It is estimated that only 1 in 5000 people in the world know or have heard about it, which means that curiosity is obviously a major factor when speaking about adoption.

When we put an ATM in a bar or a restaurant, a lot of people that may have never heard about cryptocurrencies suddenly find out that they can have their money stored in their phones, so they give it a try.

After that, many of our new customers realize the other benefits of using bitcoins and become regular users.

We haven’t heard much about bitcoin ATMs lately, what is your argument for their continued relevance or usefulness, especially when people can use services like LocalBitcoins?

LocalBitcoins is an excellent service but it is more susceptible to scams than using an ATM. Also some customers feels more comfortable using the machines for cash transactions.

What’s going to happen to bitcoin ATMs if these visions of a “cashless society” come true?

Nothing last forever and we are well aware that the market is dynamic and continuously evolving, so if the society turns to a cashless structure we, as all ATM companies, will have to adapt to that change providing new types of services. What we are sure about is that it is a thrilling opportunity to live in this moment of big social, political and economic changes and we want to be here for the long term.

Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to chat with us. Bitcoinist will continue following the Bitcoin ATM industry and will report on how they react and adapt to further changes in the bitcoin economy.

Do you think Bitcoin ATMs still serve a purpose? Let us know in the comments below.

Images courtesy of Business Insider, EasyBit.

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Bitcoin ATM Industry Reacts to ‘Money Mules,’ Changing Markets

Srp 14

Chinese Court Awards Damages Against OKCoin, Says It Operates Illegally

Source: bitcoin

Chinese Yuan

A Chinese civil court has awarded damages against the parent company of popular bitcoin exchange OKCoin, saying the business is improperly registered and facilitates criminal money-laundering.

Also read: Network Engineer Tries to Thwart UK Bill That Plans to Expand Surveillance State

It is the first major court ruling against a bitcoin exchange in China, which could have ramifications for other Bitcoin businesses in the country.

The decision was actually published online in China on July 29, but did not become widely-known until today. It pertains only to OKCoin’s China-based entity OKCoin.cn, and not its Singapore-registered international exchange OKCoin.com, which is a separate business.

The case is reportedly an appeal stemming from a 2014 case that OKCoin’s parent company Lekuda also lost. The defendant, Huachen Commercial and Trading Co. Ltd., claimed a criminal had defrauded it of 12 million RMB ($1.8 million USD) and then laundered the money by buying bitcoin, which was then withdrawn to an account in Macau.

The initial ruling awarded 80 percent of the damages the defendant company had sought, but the appeal reduced this to 40 percent.

OKCoin ID Reviews Not Strict Enough

In the ruling details, the court criticized OKCoin for not strictly reviewing its users’ real identities, meaning criminals could easily use the exchange to launder proceeds from their illicit activities.

The criminal in this case had set up a number of accounts on OKCoin using fraudulent identity documents purchased online.

Operating Outside the Scope of its License

The ruling also suggested OKCoin was operating illegally, since its operating license doesn’t cover its bitcoin exchange business.

It would be difficult to comply fully under these conditions, since there is no existing legislation to regulate Bitcoin businesses in China, and no license to obtain even if it were sought.

The judgment said OKCoin “should register at the administration of Industry and Commerce and get a business license.”*

“Lekuda’s registered business scope only includes these areas: technology development, transfer of technology, technical services, technical marketing, consulting and investment management. Trading Bitcoin for profit-making purposes is beyond the range permitted by the administrative authorities.”

Bitcoin in China a Gray Area

Since the Chinese government has a history of placing restrictions on Bitcoin companies’ operations, many in the country will no doubt be watching and treading carefully in the near future.

Authorities first tried to forbid bitcoin exchanges from performing direct transfers in and out of banks in early 2014, and requested the five major exchanges at the time sign a statement warning their customers of the risks of speculating on bitcoin price.

Since then, however, Bitcoin businesses have found ways to continue operations as usual within the gray legal area. Chinese bitcoin exchanges are among the world’s most active and widely used, mainly due to zero-fee structures.

*English translations of judgment via Reddit.

Do you think the ruling is likely to lead to another crackdown on Bitcoin business in China? Are Chinese exchanges more likely to be more thorough with ID procedures in future?


Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, OKCoin.

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Chinese Court Awards Damages Against OKCoin, Says It Operates Illegally

Bře 30

Charlie Shrem Went To Jail One Year Ago Today

Source: bitcoin

Charlie Shrem Went To Jail One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, former BitInstant CEO and early Bitcoin proponent Charlie Shrem began serving his two-year prison sentence. The former CEO of BitInstant, a popular Bitcoin exchange in the early days of Bitcoin, was arrested at JFK airport in January 2014. He was just 24 year old.

Also Read: Synthetic Cannabis Proliferates On The Dark Web

$1 Million In Laundered Bitcoins

Later convicted of abetting more than $1 million in bitcoin sales to Silk Road users, and also cited as a Silk Road user himself, Shrem faced a detailed case against him. He was charged alongside Robert Faiella, who was known as BTCKing on the Silk Road.

“Hiding behind their computers, both defendants are charged with knowingly contributing to and facilitating anonymous drug sales, earning substantial profits along the way,” DEA agent James Hunt stated.

When arrested, Shrem was the Vice Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, which proved a big scandal for the beleaguered and rebranding Foundation. BitInstant, backed by the Winklevoss twins, was offline at the time.

Shrem, who worked as both Chief Executive Officer and Compliance Officer, was charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business (as was Faiella); failing to file suspicious activity reports, thusly in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act.

“As alleged, Robert Faiella and Charlie Shrem schemed to sell over $1 million in Bitcoins to criminals bent on trafficking narcotics on the dark web drug site, Silk Road.” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated. “Truly innovative business models don’t need to resort to old-fashioned law-breaking, and when Bitcoins, like any traditional currency, are laundered and used to fuel criminal activity, law enforcement has no choice but to act. We will aggressively pursue those who would coopt new forms of currency for illicit purposes.”

IRS Special-Agent-in-Charge Toni Weirauch said: “The government has been successful in swiftly identifying those responsible for the design and operation of the ‘Silk Road’ website, as well as those who helped ‘Silk Road’ customers conduct their illegal transactions by facilitating the conversion of their dollars into Bitcoins. This is yet another example of the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force’s proficiency in applying financial investigative resources to the fight against illegal drugs.”

The complaint stated that Shrem knew Faiella’s business was on the Silk Road, and knew what the Silk Road was, and had even been a user. Shrem, never shy, often spoke of alcohol and marijuana use: “I won’t hire you unless I drink with you or smoke weed with you—that’s a 100 percent fact,” Shrem once told a reporter for Vocativ.

Charlie Shrem: Bitcoin’s First Felon

The charge of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum sentence 20 year prison sentence, including the count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, a maximum five year prison sentence. Shrem also was charged with the willful failure to file a suspicious activity report, a maximum sentence of five years in prison; overall, he faced thirty years in prison. He received two years, a term he was “content” with and considered a “relatively short sentence.”

On March 25, 2015, five days before reporting to prison, Shrem published a blog called “So, I’m going to prison. Reflection from Bitcoins’ first felon.” He wrote:

“On March 30th, I’ll be self surrendering to Lewisburg Federal Prison Camp in Pennsylvania. It’s been a long hard fight, from getting arrested at JFK airport while landing home, to solitary confinement and being under house arrest the for the past 14 months. When the government indicted me and requested 30 years, I kept my head up with the help of friends, family, and the Bitcoin community. While some distanced themselves, most stood by and fought. I owe my life to those people. Of course I don’t look for sympathy, I did the crime and I will do the time. They say those who stand by you in the bad times, deserve to be with you in the good times. Good times are coming and I look forward to it. I also want to thank those select few in the SDNY District Court and NYSPT for treating me with dignity and respect.”

Its could very well be Shrem is released before his full two years is up, if he’s been on good behavior, which I am sure he has been. Shrem’s arrest came at a time when the War on Drugs is seemingly dwindling. The ambiguity of laundered funds, however, touches a nerve with the American public as it can be associated with terrorism, and likely would make most juries skirmish.

What Shrem plans on doing once he’s out of prison has yet to be seen. The Winklevoss twins, who had invested in BitInstant, publicly separated themselves from Shrem after the arrest. When he comes out, he will be entering into a Bitcoin industry that is much transformed from just one year ago, namely as a result of the entrance of some of the world’s largest financial institutions and technology multinationals into the space.

What do you think about Charlie Shrem’s prison sentence? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of 

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Charlie Shrem Went To Jail One Year Ago Today