Instances of money laundering involving cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Core (BTC) has exploded in 2018, up over 10,000% on the year, according to the Japan Times, quoting reports from law enforcement.
The National Police Agency reported a total of 7,000 cases of suspected money laundering involving cryptocurrency on the year, up from just 669 cases in the previous period.
While the 669 cases relates to the year from April 2017, when reporting suspicious activity around cryptocurrencies became a mandatory obligation for crypto exchanges in the country, the agency said the figures showed a stark rise in this type of crypto crime.
Police went on to say criminals were using cryptocurrencies like BTC to buy drugs, weapons and other illegal materials, taking advantage of the near anonymity offered by the legacy coin.
Within the 7,000 or so reported transactions, a number included users sharing ID documents with other exchange users, as well as accounts logging in from overseas that were registered to Japanese addresses.
The rise of crypto money laundering in Japan coincides with similar patterns identified elsewhere, with BTC still the cryptocurrency of choice for illegal transactions.
As a response to the explosion in the number of cases referred to the authorities, the National Police Agency said it would be taking steps to more aggressively combat money laundering in future.
These will include artificial intelligence technology, which is to be used to monitor transactions and identify suspicious patterns commonly associated with drugs transactions and money laundering, as well as the recruitment of a new squad of data analysts to pour over blockchain records.
The figures are the latest example of criminality within Japan’s cryptocurrency sector, which has been disproportionately hit by hacks and thefts in recent years.
The high profile hacks of Coincheck and Mt. Gox have lost almost $1 billion in client assets, with many investors still struggling to recoup their money years after the event.
With the prevalence of thefts and hacks, Japanese lawmakers introduced a raft of new measures to deter criminality and protect those affected.
Now similar steps are planned to tackle crypto money laundering, it remains to be seen whether the authorities can wrestle back control of cryptocurrencies from the criminal element.
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