This week’s revelations from the much-awaited Pandora papers exposed the dubious secret financial practices of the world’s wealthy, while in the US a new cryptocurrency enforcement team was launched, and in Germany an early morning raid busted a money laundering ring with ties to militant groups in Turkey and Syria.
More on these stories below.
Pandora papers: tales of tax evasion, tax avoidance, and potential money laundering
Over the last week, many of the world’s rich and most powerful were thrust into the spotlight again as the Pandora papers – dubbed ‘the biggest ever leak of offshore data’ – initiated an exposé of their dubious and unethical secret financial practices.
Starting with a slow reveal last Sunday, news corporations around the world started leaking tales of how billionaires, including the leaders of the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Jordan, and Ukraine, have built up slush funds and snapped up offshore properties worth millions, concealing their identities and leading to speculations of tax evasion and even money laundering in some instances.
As the week passed, more was uncovered, prompting varied reaction worldwide. Some of the most notable highlights of the leaks include Britain’s continued role as a facilitator of global corruption, the astonishing role of South Dakota as a $367bn tax haven and the EU’s reaction, with its plans on new rules against tax avoidance.
For further, continued coverage, see The Guardian.
The US announces new crypto enforcement team
Earlier this week, US Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco announced the creation of a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) to tackle complex investigations and prosecutions of criminal misuses of cryptocurrency, with a focus on virtual currency exchanges and money laundering infrastructure actors.
The Deputy Attorney General said, “As the technology advances, so too must the Department evolve with it so that we’re poised to root out abuse on these platforms and ensure user confidence in these systems.”
The NCET will combine the expertise of the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and other sections in the division. The team will also assist in tracing and recovery of assets lost to fraud and extortion, including cryptocurrency payments to ransomware groups.
It will also be poised to provide important support for international, federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement authorities.
The Department of Justice’s statement said, “because cryptocurrency is used in a wide variety of criminal activity, from being the primary demand mechanism for ransomware payments, to money laundering and the operation of illegal or unregistered money services businesses, to being the preferred means of exchange of value on “dark markets” for illegal drugs, weapons, malware and other hacking tools, the NCET will foster the development of expertise in cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies across all aspects of the Department’s work”.
Read more at The Department of Justice.
German police raid ring suspected of laundering $162 million
Police carried out large-scale raids in 25 German cities on Wednesday, targeting 67 suspects and making 11 arrests as part of an investigation into a so-called hawala network in which individuals rather than banks act as brokers for money transfers.
Among the 11 arrested was a 39-year-old Syrian man who is accused of membership in Syria’s Nusra Front extremist group.
Duesseldorf police said that the money, which has been laundered since 2016, came from criminal activity such as armed robbery, organized fraud, drug trafficking, and extortion.
“According to initial estimates the volume of transactions in the period under investigation was about 140 million euros ($162 million),” police said in a statement.
It was reported that at least some of the laundered money was sent to Turkey and Syria, where it may have been used to fund militant groups.
For more on this story see AP News.