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Brazilian police seize $33M in digital currency money laundering probe

Authorities in Brazil have seized over $33 million in a digital currency money laundering investigation involving more than a dozen fictitious companies. The police have been probing the money laundering ring for some time now and claim that even the digital currency exchanges were in on the crime.

Brazilian civil police announced the seizure of R172 million ($33.3 million) in an official statement, from two individuals and 17 legal entities. According to the police, the seizure was the successful conclusion to Operation Exchange, covering six warrants in Diadema, Sao Paulo.

The police obtained the court orders and warrants following investigations related to brokerages that facilitated the purchase and sale of digital currencies to fictitious companies that served as a backdoor to the financial system. Preliminary investigations showed that the bogus companies would transact large amounts among themselves to give the show of legitimacy. They would then transfer the funds to the brokers and exchanges and swap it for digital currencies.

One of the exchanges has a history of dealing almost exclusively with the bogus companies, the police alleged. In a five-month period, the exchange traded $1.93 million in digital currencies with at least six fictitious companies. Its books also show that eight other companies acquired $2.9 million in digital currencies at the time.

The police said the involved exchanges knowingly facilitating money laundering, claiming that the platforms were reaping huge profits from the trade.

“It is believed that the investigated brokerages, which do not carry out a minimum verification of the legitimacy of the institutions with whom they trade, nor the origin of the transacted values, use the black market to obtain profit and give a lawful aspect to the money received, operating consciously in favor of a criminal organization aimed at laundering money through cryptocurrencies,” according to the police statement.

Brazil has a history of the use of digital currencies in criminal activities, with quite a number being thwarted by authorities. They have ranged from similar digital currency-related money laundering to outright investment scams and drug trafficking ties.

In their biggest case yet, the police arrested Claudio Oliveira, better known as the ‘Bitcoin King’ for allegedly embezzling $300 million from digital currency investors. Oliveira was the founder of the Bitcoin Banco Group, a company that police accused of embezzlement, bankruptcy crimes, money laundering and more.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—from BitMEX to BinanceBitcoin.comBlockstreamShapeShiftCoinbaseRipple and
Ethereum—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

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