A latest report by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the global leading interbank messaging firm, said that cryptocurrency is seldom used for money laundering activities compared to fiat or other traditional methods.
It has been reported that instead of the perception that crypto assets are a preferred haven for illegally acquired funds, criminals prefer to launder proceeds through mules, front companies, or cash businesses as well as investing it into crime.
However, in a report titled “Follow The Money,” SWIFT noted:
“Identified cases of laundering through cryptocurrencies remain relatively small compared to the volumes of cash laundered through traditional methods.”
Money laundering remains a huge problem for economies throughout the world.
According to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, around $800 billion to $2 trillion, or the equivalent of between 2% to 5% of global GDP, is laundered through cash channels each year. But crypto does not feature prominently.
Likewise, the money laundering report compiled in collaboration with financial research firm Bae Systems looks at how criminals spin money through the financial system to obscure its fraudulent origins and ownership before reintroducing it back into the legitimate economy.
SWIFT said that while virtual currency accounts for fewer cases, some of these are high-profile. In one of the featured cases, a cyber-crime group allegedly converted funds stolen through ATM cashouts into crypto.
The report said that the authors observed privacy-centered digital assets like Monero or Zcash could in the future become attractive to criminals.
“The raft of alternative cryptocurrencies that offer greater anonymity, as well as services like mixers and tumblers that help obscure the source of funds by blending potentially identifiable cryptocurrency funds with large amounts of other funds, could boost the appeal of cryptocurrency for nefarious purposes.”
Moreover, SWIFT explained that online-thieves might seek to use crypto as a means for obfuscating and laundering the funds stolen during a cyber-heist, before making various purchases in order to integrate the money.
Thus, the report said:
“In this instance, cyber-criminals might launder the stolen funds at a bitcoin farm, before using financial platforms to load prepaid cards with bitcoin.”