Detectives make UK's largest ever seizure of Bitcoin

13 July 2021, 08:23

The cryptocurrency is increasingly being used in money laundering activity
The cryptocurrency is increasingly being used in money laundering activity. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Detectives investigating international money laundering have seized nearly £180 million of Bitcoin, breaking the record for the UK’s largest cryptocurrency seizure.

The seizure, and the previous record of £114 million seized on June 24, were made by detectives from the Met’s Economic Crime Command on the back of intelligence received about the transfer of criminal assets, and form part of an ongoing investigation into international money laundering.

Detective Constable Joe Ryan said the seizure was a “significant landmark” in the investigation, saying: “Less than a month ago we successfully seized £114million in cryptocurrency.

“Our investigation since then has been complex and wide-ranging.

Read more: 'Irresponsible': Senior doctors condemn PM's 19 July lockdown easing

Read more: Flash flooding sparks disruption across London amid torrential downpours

“We have worked hard to trace this money and identify the criminality it may be linked to.

“Today’s seizure is another significant landmark in this investigation which will continue for months to come as we hone in on those at the centre of this suspected money laundering operation.”

A 39-year-old woman was interviewed under caution in relation to the near £180 million, which was seized on Saturday July 10, and subsequently bailed to a date in late July.

The same woman was arrested on June 24 on suspicion of money laundering offences, and then released on bail.

The investigation continues.

One bitcoin – a cryptocurrency – is currently worth around £23,500, having fallen from a peak in April of £47,126.48.

It means that three months ago the sum confiscated may have been worth nearly double what it is now.

The Met says it is seeing a rise in the use of cryptocurrency in money laundering, something that was “unchartered territory” a few years ago.

Read more: Dozens killed as fire sweeps through Covid ward in Iraq

Read more: Sage member calls for government to explain benefits of mask wearing to public

“Proceeds of crime are laundered in many different ways,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty.

“While cash still remains king in the criminal word, as digital platforms develop we’re increasingly seeing organised criminals using cryptocurrency to launder their dirty money.

“Whilst some years ago this was fairly unchartered territory, we now have highly trained officers and specialist units working hard in this space to remain one step ahead of those using it for illicit gain.

“The detectives on this case have worked tirelessly and meticulously to trace millions of pounds worth of cryptocurrency suspected of being linked to criminality and now being laundered to hide the trail.

“Those linked to this money are clearly working hard to hide it. Our investigation will stop at nothing to disrupt the transfer and identify those involved.”