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Interpol sets up specialized unit to crack down on illegal digital asset activities

The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has created a dedicated unit to curtail virtual asset crime globally after a series of attacks rocked the industry.

Interpol disclosed at a press conference in the build-up to its 90th general assembly slated for October 19-21 in Delhi, India. The meeting will be attended by high-ranking police chiefs from its 195 member countries, with virtual currency policing being a central theme in the discussions.

“Huge developments in technology, internet of everything and digitalization – because of cryptocurrency – pose a challenge to law enforcement, because very often, they (agencies) are not properly trained and properly equipped from the beginning,” said Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s Secretary General.

The decentralized nature of digital assets and their ability to circumvent existing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) rules and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations have been a source of headache for law enforcement agencies globally. Furthermore, the use of decentralized exchanges and mixers has compounded the problems for security outfits in their attempts to track down bad actors.

Praveen Sinha, Special Director of India’s Central Bureau of Investigations, noted that the way around the debacle currently faced by Interpol is through “international cooperation, coordination, trust, and real-time sharing of information.” To this end, a dedicated task force made up of member nations will be constituted to police the virtual assets industry from a global perspective.

Interpol has previously dabbled into the ecosystem in the hunt for digital asset fugitives with the issuance of a “red notice” against Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon. Interpol was also involved in the massive manhunt for Ignatova Rajatova, founder of OneCoin that swindled billions of dollars out of investors between 2015 and 2017.

The international policing agency also struck a partnership with cybersecurity firm Trend Micro to stifle the activities of hackers in Southeast Asia and undertook research with S2W Lab to track virtual asset activity on the dark web.

Other jurisdictions are setting up specialized outfits to regulate virtual currencies

Regulators around the world are coming to the realization that dedicated teams may be key to understanding and controlling the digital assets industry. For example, the United States The Department of Justice (DOJ) set up a new team known as the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) and appointed Eun Young Choi as its first director.

“The NCET will serve as the focal point for the department’s effort to tackle the growth of crime involving these technologies,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.

To understand the terrain, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it will be increasing the size of the newly named Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit to 50 dedicated positions, which SEC Chair Gary Gensler says equip the Commission to “police wrongdoing in the crypto markets.”

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