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Europol’s 6th Global Conference on Criminal Finance & Cryptocurrencies

Updated: Feb 24

Our co-founder & CEO Aidan Larkin is delighted to have been invited back to the stage at Europol’s 6th Global Conference on Criminal Finances and Cryptocurrencies. He’ll be discussing the ways that law enforcement can improve their asset recovery processes to obtain better results for the victims of crypto-related crimes. Aidan will be taking the stage alone at 3pm before being joined by Jannes Herman de Jong, a policy advisor from the European Parliament, for a panel discussion on the seizure of crypto assets. This panel will be moderated by Federico Paesano, a senior financial investigation specialist from the Basel Institute on Governance. This free annual cryptocurrency conference hosted by the Basel Institute on Governance, Interpol and Europol will gather experts, investigators and law enforcement representatives from around the world to discuss the latest trends, challenges and developments in the world of virtual assets. It aims to increase the knowledge and expertise of the financial crime prevention community as a whole on investigations involving virtual assets. ‍Last year’s virtual conference made a number of recommendations intended to guide the approach of law enforcement, judicial authorities and companies in the private sector when dealing with complex digital assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs. These recommendations were:

International Cooperation

Thanks to virtual assets, criminals no longer have to pay attention to traditional geographic borders when choosing where to carry out their illicit activities. Blockchain technology and the internet have made it possible for crimes to be committed on the other side of the world at the drop of a hat and law enforcement is struggling to keep up. The agencies that are working to prevent financial crime worldwide need to prioritise improving their communication if they hope to combat this exponentially growing problem. As more organisations share their knowledge, experience and best practices, international standards can be implemented which will significantly improve the outcomes of investigations, prosecutions and asset recovery operations.

Virtual Asset Recovery

Due to their complicated nature, virtual assets are often treated differently than physical assets when it comes to recovery. However, it’s been proven that traditional methods for seizing tangible assets can still be used reliably to recover complex digital assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs. By approaching crypto assets in the same way as conventional ones, law enforcement will make it harder for criminals to hold onto their ill-gotten gains and likely deter others from following in their footsteps.

Private-Public Cooperation

With more and more criminals turning to the blockchain to fund their illegal activities, it’s inevitable that the reputation of digital currencies as a whole will suffer in the public eye. Legitimate businesses and crypto exchanges can avoid getting caught in the crossfire by preemptively supporting the efforts of law enforcement and other government agencies to identify criminals on their platforms. This kind of close collaboration can only happen if the historical barriers between the public and private sectors are abandoned in favour of working together to improve the effectiveness of global asset management.

Implementing Harmonised Regulations

Virtual assets are often very hard to categorise using traditional methods, leaving the industry with very little regulation as the legislation is unable to keep up the pace. This lack of supervision makes it very vulnerable to use in financial crimes like fraud and money laundering. Regulatory standards need to be coordinated worldwide so that these criminals are unable to exploit any weaknesses in the system by moving to countries that lack the infrastructure, knowledge or ability to fight them.

Improving Techniques and Technologies

It won’t come as a surprise that the technology sector advances much faster rate than most. Thanks to the internet, entire industries that didn’t exist before can dominate the cultural landscape in a matter of months, making monitoring them for criminal activity challenging. Traditional investigation tools and techniques need to be adapted alongside the development of new technologies so that financial crime prevention is not left behind.

Building Capacity

Since the virtual asset industry is moving forward at an incredible pace, it’s imperative that financial crime prevention agencies place a focus on strengthening the capabilities of their investigators. Agencies can do this by providing comprehensive and up-to-date training on an ongoing basis and updating their hiring practices to attract a wide range of experienced staff.

Multidisciplinary Approach

Tackling crypto-related crime often requires a very high level of technical expertise in IT, cybercrime and financial investigation. For law enforcement, this means there is an extra need for inter-agency cooperation between different teams. This problem can often be solved by creating new multidisciplinary units focusing solely on crypto-related crimes. This allows experts from various backgrounds, agencies and jurisdictions to use their collective knowledge and experience to fully investigate cases from multiple angles.

This year’s hybrid event takes place over two days at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague in Belgium. It’ll be interesting to see what recommendations arise from this year's event. You can find out more about the event and register for tickets on the Europol website.

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