Digital currencies are increasingly serving as a money laundering platform for "freelance criminal entrepreneurs operating on a crime-as-a-service business model", according to a new Europol report.
The EU's law enforcement agency said that the decline of traditional hierarchical criminal networks will be accompanied by the emergence of individual criminal entrepreneurs, who come together on a project basis.
The report, which identified the key driving factors affecting the EU's criminal landscape, predicted that the role of freelance crime organisers is expected to "become more prominent".
It added that individuals with computer expertise are very valuable to criminal organisations and that people with such skills are expected to advertise their services in exchange for payment in cryptocurrencies.
The report continued:
Despite acknowledging that digital currencies are generally designed for legitimate use, the analysis stated that their anonymity means that they are "heavily abused by criminals".
"As virtual currencies continue to evolve, it is likely that more niche currencies will develop, tailored towards illicit activity and providing greater security and true anonymity", it noted, adding that "the anonymity afforded to the buyer by the use of cryptocurrency may lower the entry barriers for members of the general public to become involved in the online purchase of illegal materials".
The publication of the report follows on from another study produced by Europol's EC3 cybercrime centre, which detailed that bitcoin was increasingly being used to pay for livestreams of child sex broadcasted over illicit internet sites.
Image via Shutterstock.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.
Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.