Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Australia’s federal law enforcement agency has highlighted the criminal use of cryptocurrency as an “emerging threat” in the country but says it’s a continuous challenge to keep up the pace with criminals. 

A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) told Cointelegraph that there has been an “increase in the number of offenders using cryptocurrencies to facilitate illicit business and attempting to conceal the ownership of assets,” noting:

“The criminal use of cryptocurrency is an emerging threat for law enforcement.”

However, they admitted the biggest challenge for law enforcement is to “continually evolve” their “tools, techniques and legal frameworks” to keep pace with criminals, particularly as mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency increases.

Last month, the AFP established a new cryptocurrency unit focused on monitoring crypto-related transactions.

However, the spokesperson said that despite the previous establishment of crypto-focused units, “criminals are continuing to find opportunities to avoid law enforcement and exploit the public.”

Misplaced focus? 

One Australian private investigator believes the AFP is yet to focus on the “prolific and profitable” crypto crime yet — online investment fraud.

IFW Global executive chairman Ken Gamble told Cointelegraph that most of the AFP’s focus recently has been on crypto money laundering relating to drug trafficking, cyber intrusion, ransomware, email compromise and hacking, but not “large-scale online investment fraud.”

Scamwatch data between January and July this year found that Australians had lost 242.5 million Australian dollars ($152.6 million) to scammers in 2022 already, with the majority of funds lost to investment scams, including romance baiting scams, classic Ponzi schemes and cryptocurrency scams.

The figure is already 36% higher than the that of the whole of 2021.

The investigator also believes that some law enforcement departments are still not fully equipped to handle crypto crime cases adding that “law enforcement agencies need better training and education on how cryptocurrency works.”

A report from analytics firm Chainalysis in July found that 74% of public agencies felt under-equipped to investigate cryptocurrency-related crime, with respondents indicating that many agencies did not use specialized blockchain analytical tools.

“There is a shortage of professional and certified cryptocurrency tracers rapidly involving the criminal industry,” said Gamble.

Related: Put your hands up! Interpol storms into the metaverse

This may be soon to change, with a number of international and national authorities announcing the establishment of crypto-crime-focused units this year.

Meanwhile, Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) recently set up a special team in Singapore to help the government fight crimes involving virtual assets.

Interpol secretary Jürgen Stock stated at Interpol’s general assembly in India on the need for further training in crypto for law enforcement, saying cryptocurrency “poses a challenge,” as agencies are “not properly trained and properly equipped from the beginning.”