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National Crime Agency says crypto assets are increasingly being used by criminals

The NCA seized $33 million in crypto from April 2021 to March 2022.

National Crime Agency / Image by: Wikimedia Commons

Fri, 29 Jul 2022, 15:41 pm UTC

Criminals are increasingly using crypto assets in their illegal activities. This was revealed by the UK’s National Crime Agency in a recently released report, which also stated that the law enforcement agency seized more than $30 million worth of digital currencies from 2021 to 2022.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) published its annual report this week that revealed the agency seized property worth £59.79 million between April 1, 2021, and March 30, 2022, according to CityAM. These assets include vehicles, cash, crypto, and other valuables.

What’s interesting is that the amount of crypto seized accounts for almost half of the total of £59.79 million of assets. The agency reported that £26.894 million ($32.75 million) in cryptocurrency was among the property seized, Bitcoin.com reported. For comparison, NCA did not seize any crypto the previous year (April 2020 to March 2021).

This led the agency to conclude that criminals are now increasingly turning to crypto assets in their operations. "With no change in the volume of illicit funds from crimes such as drugs and fraud, tried-and-trusted methods of money laundering continued,” the report said. “Criminals increasingly exploited financial technology and crypto assets.”

Meanwhile, Morgan Heavener, a partner at consultancy Accuracy, believes that crypto’s appeal is partly due to inadequate regulatory controls in most jurisdictions, which make it easier to move crypto funds worldwide. “The NCA has been forced to move swiftly to try and stem the use of these cryptocurrencies in financial crimes,” he said. “The lack of regulatory oversight around cryptocurrencies makes them attractive for criminals seeking to move funds around the world.”

However, the fact that the NCA has now seized crypto means that the agency is catching up fast. “The NCA’s seizure of £27m of crypto assets in 2021-22 shows that the UK’s criminal and regulatory authorities are developing a deeper understanding of crypto-assets and an appetite to take enforcement action where appropriate,” said Michael Munk, Managing Associate in Linklaters’ Dispute Resolution team. “This is consistent with the global trend where, after years of playing catch-up, law enforcement agencies are showing an increased aptitude for tracing and seizing stolen or laundered crypto-assets.”

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