Criminal use of Bitcoin is rising, SFO says

31 January 2017 9:54am

19th August 2016. Martin Coyle

Criminals are increasingly using Bitcoin to commit fraud and launder dirty money, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office has said, pledging to investigate serious offenses involving the virtual currency.

The SFO said it would probe “specific allegations” of complex or serious fraud linked to Bitcoin. The corruption-fighting office added that criminal use of the online currency had increased, but said it hadn’t conducted specific studies into the impact of Bitcoin-related crime.

The agency said it would consider the abuse of Bitcoin and other “new species” of fraud as part of its mandate to investigate fraud and corruption.

The comments came in response to a Freedom of Information request lodged by another organization. An SFO spokeswoman told MLex that its intelligence division focused on trends in financial crime, which could include Bitcoin use.

Last week, the European Banking Authority welcomed EU proposals to bring exchange platforms for virtual currencies under new rules designed to combat money laundering. The EBA said the move, contained in a revised money-laundering directive, would represent an important step toward mitigating the risks associated with online currencies.

The UK government concluded last year that criminals were using digital currencies to move criminal proceeds, particularly those involving sales of drugs and firearms. The government said that money-laundering risks associated with digital currencies were low, but added that this could change if usage became more prevalent in the country.

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