Former drug cartel member arrested over $6M digital currency money laundering

Spanish police arrested a man they alleged was a former member of the infamous Colombian Cali Cartel. The police claimed the suspect has been using cryptocurrencies to launder money for drug traffickers across Europe.

The suspect, whose name the police withheld, was nabbed in Malaga, Spain. As per the police report, Spanish authorities have been investigating him since 2018 when he moved to Spain from the Netherlands. Partnering with Dutch authorities and the Spanish Tax Agency, the police tracked him to a luxury home he had purchased in Marbella, in the Malaga province.

The police alleged that the individual was a drug trafficker for the once notorious Cali Cartel, which was based in southern Colombia. Some reports estimate that the Cali Cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market and was directly responsible for the growth of the cocaine market in Europe.

In 1995, most of the heads of the cartel were arrested, bringing an end to a $7 billion-a-year criminal enterprise. However, the recently-arrested suspect continued in his drug trafficking ways. Later on, he branched out to laundering the proceeds of crime for drug traffickers.

This was when he got into cryptocurrencies, using them to launder money for several criminals, the police allege. He reportedly founded a digital currency company that served as a front for his money laundering activities. The police believe he has laundered over €6 million ($7.1 million) in drug and crime proceeds through digital currencies.

The Spanish authorities managed to seize €85,000 in cash from the suspect’s residence. They also seized three luxury watches, with two of them valued at €17,000 and €8,000 respectively. Over 15 credit cards, digital currencies, various documentation, several computers and mobile phones, a bank account and three vehicles were also seized.

The Dutch police also managed to seize $170,000 in digital currencies, several computers and numerous documents from his residence in the Netherlands.

The association of digital currencies with the drug trafficking industry has been ongoing for years. While Bitcoin SV has continued to set itself apart by being regulatory compliant, dark coins like Monero, BCH and even BTC have been repeatedly used by criminals around the world. Recently, it emerged that drug cartels were even using Tether to bribe U.S. state government officials.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—from BitMEX to Binance, Bitcoin.com, Blockstream, ShapeShift 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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