Police in the United Kingdom [UK] has become the first law enforcement agency to seize and convert Bitcoin seized from criminals. On 19th July, the Surrey Police force became the first UK law enforcement force to seize illegal cryptocurrency and convert it into pounds and then retain them in a designated government location. Reports by the police force showed that over $1.7 million worth of Bitcoin was used by Sergejs Teresko, the main accused, to conceal his funds.
Teresko was arrested back in 2017 on counts of money laundering and drug offenses. With the court hearing concluding on the 19th, the judge has decided that Teresko has to forfeit all his cryptocurrency holdings.
Mat Durkin, the Detective Inspector in charge of the case stated:
“Cryptocurrency is used legitimately by a lot of people but it’s also used by criminals. We know that in dark marketplaces Bitcoin is the chosen medium of exchange. We were not going to accept that Bitcoin was out of the reach of law enforcement, it’s not and nor are other types of cryptocurrency.”
The police could get into Teresko’s Bitcoin wallet because of a digital key found in his apartment along with other spoils of his suspicious activities that included Rolex watches, gold bars and credit cards.
Reports from the police also show that there is a growing trend of drug money generated in the European countries being converted into Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. This is done by the criminals to escape fund tracking so that they can get away with illegal funds. Cryptocurrencies also give people the ability to mask their identity which makes it very difficult for law enforcement agencies to uncover the whereabouts of the perpetrators.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation is an organization that aims to bring down the crime rate in the European region. One of their reports shows that “about 3-4 percent of the £100bn in illicit proceeds in Europe is laundered through cryptocurrencies and the number is growing quickly.”
Tereskos was also charged with cannabis cultivation and the possession of articles used for fraudulent activities.
Durkin was also quoted as saying that:
“This case shows bitcoin is not completely anonymous. It is not above the capabilities of law enforcement; we have the technology and the ability to conduct criminal investigations to identify and prosecute offenders.”
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Author: Akash Anand
Image Credit: Unsplash