SWIFT: Cryptocurrencies are less popular for money laundering

  • Cryptocurrencies are less often involved in money laundering schemes.
  • At this, virtual assets are most preferred when large volumes are transferred.
  • Hackers often use third-party services to conceal traces.

Nevertheless, cryptocurrency assets are most preferable for laundering large amounts of money, SWIFT notes.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) notes that there is no preferential use of cryptocurrencies for money laundering.

This conclusion was made in the report “Follow the Money” released recently.

According to the document, the number of cases when cryptocurrency assets were used for money laundering is small.

Bypassing sanctions

According to SWIFT, cybercriminals continue to prioritize “traditional methods of money laundering”.

Nevertheless, cryptocurrency schemes are by far ahead of traditional ones when it comes to converting large amounts of money.

SWIFT noted the attackers like to use such services as Bitcoin mixers and tumblers, which help to hide the source of funds by mixing transactions with large amounts of other funds.

Cryptocurrencies are very popular in areas limited by severe sanctions.

Diversification of stolen funds

In particular, SWIFT referred to the hacker group Lazarus Group, which is supposed to have close ties with the leadership of North Korea.

The hacker group used East Asian middlemen to launder funds after breaking into cryptocurrency exchanges, using methods similar to those described for bank robberies.

SWIFT also indicated the alleged scheme by which the Lazarus Group was able to launder the stolen cryptocurrencies:

  • Having stolen cryptocurrencies, Lazarus Group transfers funds to several exchanges to diversify the risks of confiscation;
  • East Asian intermediaries working on behalf of the Lazarus Group and the regime receive a portion of the stolen funds;
  • East Asian intermediaries transfer cryptocurrencies to their own addresses to further hide the origin of funds;
  • Then, the same intermediaries transfer part of the received funds through new bank accounts that are linked to their accounts on crypto-exchanges, which allows converting cryptocurrencies into fiat;
  • Other stolen funds can be converted into bitcoin on prepaid gift cards that can be used on other exchanges to buy additional bitcoins.

Cryptocurrencies are most popular in countries with difficult access to banking services and high demand for money transfers. For instance, the countries of Latin America belong to this list. Most often, cryptocurrencies are used to pay for prohibited goods, including pirated software and computer viruses.

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