Europol Arrests Gang After Laundering ˆ1 Billion Worth of Bitcoin
The Spanish police authority announced the arrest of ‘Denis K.’, the suspected leader of a cyber-crime gang who allegedly stole up to 1 billion Euros from banks all around the country, according to Europol.
Ukranian-Russian Cybercriminals Caught After Laundering ˆ1 billion Worth of BTC
As modus operandi, the gang made up of Russian and Ukranian nationals would gain control of banks’ network and servers by targeting bank employees with emails infecting their computers. Once inside the servers, the gang altered account balances and instructed automatic teller machines to issue cash.
The group also set up a Bitcoin farm as a means of laundering money, according to the authorities. After cooperation between police forces in the United States, Asia (Taiwan), and Europe (Romania and Belarus), as well as private cybersecurity companies, the suspected leader of the cybercriminal group was arrested in Alicante, a port city with approximately 750,000 residents.
The Ukranian-Russian criminal organization has been active since 2013, with members in 40 countries and carrying out attacks on 100 financial institutions, said Europol. The Interior Ministry of Spain, led by Mr. Juan Ignacio Zoido, said three other members of his organization were arrested.
The Interior Ministry of Spain added that the Alicante police seized ˆ500,000 worth of jewels, two luxury cars during the raid, and two homes valued at approximately ˆ1 million. The authorities have also frozen bank accounts associated with the suspects.
“With that level of access, the nefarious individuals authorize fraudulent bank transfers, raise the balances of mule accounts or command affected ATMs to spit out the money for them,”
said the statement from Europol, noting that the gang used the Russian mafia to coordinate the work of the ‘mules’ they used to extract money from cash points that they attacked. They switched to the Moldovan mafia from 2016 onwards.
The cybercriminal operation was able to accumulate about 15,000 Bitcoins as the money was converted into the cryptocurrency at exchange houses in Russia and Ukraine to be later transferred to their accounts.
‘Denis K.’, the alleged gang leader, would load prepaid cards with Bitcoin through financial platforms in Gibraltar and the UK, and then spend them in Spain on the aforementioned goods, such as cars and homes.
Crime is a topic often discussed within the cryptocurrency community as the money laundering tradition may be shifting from fiat currencies to digital assets. Recently, a Turkish gang has extorted 450 Bitcoins from a wealthy businessman. In February, four men linked to a Taiwanese gang were arrested by police for having allegedly stolen $100,000 worth of Bitcoin.