EU Report: Digital Currency Use by Organized Criminals Is 'Rare'

A newly released report from the European Commission suggests there is relatively little virtual currency use among organized crime groups.

Jul 8, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:31 p.m. UTC

A newly released report from the European Commission suggests there is relatively little virtual currency use among organized crime groups.

Calling cases involving organized crime and the tech "quite rare", the report was sent in late June from the European Commission (the European Union's executive arm) to the bloc's legislature as well as its body of national leaders. It was made public on July 4.

The report's authors argued that technological limitations – a lack of expertise especially – is behind the apparent low usage rates.

They concluded:

"Few investigations have been conducted on virtual currencies which seem to be rarely used by criminal organizations. While they may have a high intent to use due to [virtual currencies] characteristics (anonymity in particular), the level of capability is lower due to high technology required."

The report also notes that some "may have some interest in using [virtual currencies] to finance terrorist activities," but it stops short of offering specific instances, pointing to law enforcement information-gathering efforts that have identified posts on social media. Technical shortcomings are again cited as a limiting factor.

Ultimately, the authors argue that the lack of an EU-wide legal framework creates vulnerabilities on the transaction monitoring front.

It notably argues for the creation of a database of users and associated wallet addresses – a possible route that has drawn criticism from advocates of the technology and privacy more generally.

"The Commission would issue a report to be accompanied, if necessary, by proposals, including, where appropriate, with respect to virtual currencies, empowerments to set-up and maintain a central database registering users' identities and wallet addresses accessible to FIUs, as well as self-declaration forms for the use of virtual currency users," it suggests.

European Commission image via Shutterstock

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