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.
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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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A massive cannabis farm raided by UK police turned out to be a bitcoin mine

Crypto mine WM
The bitcoin ‘mine’ uncovered during industrial unit raid in UK.

  • When UK police were getting ready to raid what they suspected was a cannabis farm, they discovered a crypto mine instead.
  • Police said the mine said was stealing thousands of pounds worth of electricity from the main supply.
  • “It’s certainly not what we were expecting,” the police said in a statement.
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When police in West Midlands, UK were getting ready to raid what they suspected was a cannabis farm on May 18, they instead discovered a cryptocurrency mine that was stealing thousands of pounds worth of electricity from the main supply.

“It’s certainly not what we were expecting,” Sandwell Police Sergeant Jennifer Griffin, said in a statement.

British police were alerted of numerous people visiting the location at different times of the day. Wiring and ventilation ducts that were visible and voluminous also raised concerns. Following these suspicions, the police flew a drone above the location, which picked up a considerable heat source from above.

“It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up,” Griffin said.

But upon entry, they discovered a bank of around 100 computer units as part of what’s understood to be a bitcoin mining operation. Griffin said this is believed to be the only second such crypto mine British police have encountered in the region.

Crypto mine single unit WM_0
The bitcoin ‘mine’ uncovered during industrial unit raid in UK.

“We’ve seized the equipment and will be looking into permanently seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act,” Griffin said. “No one was at the unit at the time of the warrant and no arrests have been made – but we’ll be making enquiries with the unit’s owner.”

Cryptocurrency mining has long been criticized due to its heavy energy use and environmental impact. Various research, including a study from Cambridge University, has shown that bitcoin mining around the world uses more energy each year than some entire nations.

“My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly extracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is,” Griffin said.

Western Power, the electricity distribution operator for the Midlands, revealed that thousands of pounds worth of energy had been stolen to power the mine, bypassing the normal electric supply.

More and more governing bodies have raised concerns about the massive energy consumption needed to mine cryptocurrencies.

On May 26, Iran has banned cryptocurrency mining over the summer ahead of an anticipated surge in electricity demand.

China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on May 19 doubled down on its crypto-mining ban by setting up a hotline for the general public to report suspected activity.

In New York, a bill introduced in the State Senate is seeking to halt bitcoin mining for three years until the state has assessed its impact on the environment.

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