The Italian Mafia is using Bitcoin and Monero to conceal its crimes, including big-money deals with South American cocaine runners, according to the country’s anti-organized crime squad.
As reported by German newspaper Zeit, Italy’s Direzione Investigativa Antimafia’s (DIA) semi-annual report detailed how centuries-old Mafia families have woken to opportunities presented by the dark web and cryptocurrencies.
The DIA specifically referenced the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta syndicate, a group heavily involved in the cocaine trade. It reportedly uses crypto to deal with heavy-hitting Colombian cartels.
But the ‘Ndrangheta, labelled “the world’s most powerful Mafia group,” is not alone in its newly-found taste for crypto.
According to Zeit, an anonymous DIA commissioner told German press agency DPA that “all criminal organizations, including those of the Mafia-type, have an interest in using these instruments for their business.”
The official explained crypto allows for fast transactions and “offers a kind of anonymity,” which has the Mafia convinced of its criminal utility.
Back in 2017, Italian senator Lucrezia Ricchiuti accused the ‘Ndrangheta of leveraging Bitcoin to expand its gambling empire.
Not just the Mafia
According to Zeit, Italian authorities swooped on over 20 members of Nigerian gang Black Ax in April of this year. Police suspected the crew of buying knock-off credit cards with Bitcoin.
And in 2019, Tuscan cops picked up four Ukrainians for allegedly accepting Bitcoin for drugs bought on the dark web.
Germany has also seen a sharp rise in numbers of organized gangs using cryptocurrency in their illicit activities.
According to the General Customs Directorate in Bonn:
“The use of cryptocurrencies for online payment in the context of criminal offenses in the area of responsibility of the customs administration has increased significantly.”
And in most cases, the criminals’ cryptos of choice were also Bitcoin and Monero.
Tracing Monero is a thing now, says CipherTrace
It’s worth noting that while the Mafia is gravitating towards anonymity-focused Monero, blockchain analytics unit Ciphertrace unveiled a suite of “next-level” tools earlier this month to help governments track Monero transactions.
Ciphertrace claims its new software can follow fund flows “backwards from the transaction of interest to its source,” (our emphasis).
Not to mention, authorities are now generally accustomed to tracking illicit Bitcoin, thanks to the ransomware wave that washed across the US earlier this year.
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