Specialist detectives from London’s Metropolitan Police have seized cryptocurrency assets worth over £114 million, as part of a wider investigation into money laundering offences.
The operation conducted by officers of the Met’s Economic Crime Command is the largest seizure of cryptocurrency in the UK, and also thought to be one of the largest internationally.
Launched on the back of police intelligence regarding the transfer of criminal assets, the investigation is continuing, according to the Met.
“Every single part of the Met is working to reduce violence on the streets of London as an absolute priority, this includes our financial investigators,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty.
“There is an inherent link between money and violence. Violence is used to extort, blackmail, burgle, control and exploit. It’s used to protect criminal profits and maintain control of territories.”
Detective Constable Joe Ryan also said: “Criminals need to legitimise their money otherwise it risks being seized by law enforcement.
“The proceeds of crime are almost always laundered to hide the origin, but by disrupting the flow of funds before they are reinvested, we can make London an incredibly difficult place for criminals to operate.”
The potential for cryptocurrency to be used as a means of laundering money and financing criminal or terrorist operations has been routinely cited as a reason for greater regulation of the sector by both law enforcement and financial authorities.
Last month, West Midlands Police raided what was believed to be an illegal cannabis farm, but upon arriving at the location discovered a cryptocurrency mining operation, which investigators believe was aiming to steal significant amounts of money from the National Grid.
Adding further comment on the London seizure, McNulty remarked: “Cash remains king, but as technology and online platforms develop, some are moving to more sophisticated methods of laundering their profits. But, we have highly trained officers and specialist units working day and night to remain one step ahead.
“These officers not only work to disrupt and seize funds being transferred digitally, they continue to deprive criminals of hard cash. In the financial year 2020/21, we have seized more than £47 million from the hands of criminals.
“This cash can no longer be reinvested in crime, it cannot be used to buy and peddle drugs and weapons, and cannot be used to entice and exploit young and vulnerable people into criminality.”