Hong Kong police arrest four over alleged $155 million Tether money laundering scheme

Bitcoin symbol atm
Regulators are paying close attention to the crypto world.

  • Hong Kong authorities arrested four men over an alleged $155 million money laundering scheme, according to reports.
  • The men, aged between 24 and 33, had made transactions in Tether on a trading platform, officials said.
  • Cryptocurrencies have long been used in crime, as they can provide anonymity and be hard to trace.
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Hong Kong customs authorities have arrested four people in connection with a suspected $155 million money laundering scheme using the cryptocurrency Tether.

According to reports in Bloomberg and local media, four men aged between 24 and 33 were arrested in an operation called “Coin Breaker.”

Hong Kong customs officials told the media that the men had opened various bank accounts and then made transactions in Tether – the biggest stablecoin – through a crypto exchange, outlets reported. The transactions involved HK$1.2 billion of cryptocurrency, worth roughly $155 million.

The officials said it was the first time they had detected a suspected money laundering scheme that used digital currency. They did not name the crypto trading platform involved. Insider has contacted the Hong Kong customs office.

Read more: Your ultimate crypto reading list: 27 books that experts say everyone should read to better understand digital currencies and invest in them profitably

Cryptocurrencies have long been used in crime, thanks to the fact that they can be used anonymously and are hard to trace.

On Friday, the US District Court in Seattle said a 33-year old identity thief who used bitcoin to avoid detection was sentenced to three years in prison.

And on Tuesday, London’s Metropolitan Police said it had seized $249 million worth of cryptocurrency in a suspected money laundering case.

Top lawmakers have repeatedly raised concerns about crypto crime. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in January suggested “curtailing” cryptocurrencies saying: “Many are used – at least in a transaction sense – mainly for illicit financing.”

In Hong Kong, as in the UK, crypto companies have to register with the financial watchdog for anti-money laundering purposes.

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UK police seize $250 million in cryptocurrency tied to an international money-laundering operation

A hand holds a bitcoin toward the sky in this photo representation of the cryptocurrency.
Suspected criminals have been using cryptocurrency in money-laundering operations.

  • UK police seize £180 million in cryptocurrency, Metropolitan Police said Tuesday.
  • The team of detectives who seized the funds just weeks ago took hold of a then-record £114 million in crypto.
  • A 39-year old woman was arrested on suspicion of money-laundering offenses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Police in the UK following a criminal investigation took hold of about £180 million in cryptocurrency, with the seizure topping a record amount made just weeks before by law enforcement.

Metropolitan Police on Tuesday said detectives with its Economic Crime Command received intelligence about the transfer of criminal assets, leading to the July 10 discovery of nearly £180 million ($249 million) worth of cryptocurrency. The Met didn’t specify the type of cryptocurrency that was seized. The detectives have been focusing on an ongoing investigation into a suspected international money laundering.

A 39-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of money laundering offenses on June 24, the Met said, adding that she was released on bail.

The same team of detectives on June 24 seized £114 million in cryptocurrency – then a record amount – as part of their probes.

“Proceeds of crime are laundered in many different ways. While cash still remains king in the criminal world, as digital platforms develop we’re increasingly seeing organized criminals using cryptocurrency to launder their dirty money,” said Graham McNulty, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, in a statement.

Police said the investigation has been complex and wide-ranging and will continue for months to identify the people at the center of the money-laundering ring.

Meanwhile, in the US, a “prolific identity thief” who fraudulently used credit cards, pocketed $500,000, and bought bitcoin has been sentenced to three years in prison, according to the federal court in Seattle.

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