British police have confiscated around $250 million worth of cryptocurrency as part of an ongoing money laundering investigation, London’s Metropolitan Police announced Tuesday, marking one of the largest crypto seizures in the world and breaking a record the force set last month.
London police seized millions in cryptocurrency, though it is unclear which tokens were taken.
The seizure, which follows a $160 million crypto haul the force made three weeks ago, is part of an ongoing investigation into international money laundering by the force’s Economic Crime Command.
It comes after a 39-year-old woman was arrested on “suspicion of money laundering offenses” on June 24 after the first cache was confiscated and the woman was subsequently released on bail, the force said.
The woman was interviewed again last weekend — this time under caution — after the latest discovery was made and has been bailed until late July.
Detective Constable Joe Ryan said the “seizure is another significant landmark in this investigation which will continue for months to come as we hone in on those at the centre of this suspected money laundering operation.”
The force did not disclose what cryptocurrencies had been confiscated.
Cryptocurrencies are traded digitally, relatively anonymous, have low barriers to entry, can be convenient to use and are international by nature, making them an attractive prospect to some criminals. While most crypto transactions are legitimate, the specter of financial crime has become a strong motivator for regulators around the world to bolster scrutiny of digital assets. With growing demand for cryptocurrency services, in part spurred on by a growth in value for many major assets and meme tokens during parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, many major financial institutions have moved into crypto markets, including JPMorgan, BNY Mellon, Morgan Stanley and BlackRock. Despite this, regulatory uncertainty hinders mainstream acceptance and leaves consumers relatively unprotected. Money laundering is a commonly-touted concern among regulators, as is tax fraud, terrorism, and drug trafficking. The digital assets are also the payment method of choice for ransomware hackers, which adds to calls for enhanced regulatory scrutiny.
While the “proceeds of crime are laundered in many different ways,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said, organized criminals are increasingly “using cryptocurrency to launder their dirty money.” However, McNulty added: “Cash still remains king in the criminal world.”