According to a commissioner of the Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate (DIA – Direzione Investigativa Antimafia), all criminal organizations are interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general.
That is reported by the German press citing an interview with the Deutschen Presse-Agentur (DPA) by an expert from the DIA of the Italian anti-mafia police who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.
The reasons for the criminal organizations’ love for Bitcoin
The Italian expert said:
“All criminal organizations, including those of the mafia-type, have an interest in using these tools for their own business.”
Unfortunately, the interview is not public, so it is impossible to know any other relevant details disclosed by the Italian expert. Still, it must be said that the DIA knows criminal organizations very well since it is a government agency created thirty years ago specifically to fight the mafia.
The German press also reports that the commissioner revealed that the mafia entered the financial sector precisely because of technological developments as well as speed, safety, and anonymity of cryptocurrency transactions, i.e., all beneficial advantages for illegal business.
However, the numbers of this use have not been made public, so it is not possible to get an idea of how much the criminal activities under observation by the DIA are actually using cryptocurrencies for their business.
The interview was not strictly about the use of cryptocurrencies in criminal environments, but about the size of the monitored criminal activities, so much so that the commissioner revealed that, for example, the “Ndrangheta earns from 300 to 350 million euros per week with drug trafficking”. However, he did not report what portion of this money is transferred into cryptocurrencies.
Cybercrime and cryptocurrencies
Previous studies found that criminal organizations were interested in cryptocurrencies specifically for drug trafficking, cybercrime, and money laundering.
But, despite the anonymity, Italian police have already managed to arrest several criminals who had used cryptocurrencies, partly because law enforcement agencies have strengthened their units investigating the Internet in recent years.
The use of Monero for more anonymity
Criminal organizations in Germany also use cryptocurrencies. The General Directorate of Customs in Bonn revealed that they are used for online payments related to cross-border transport crimes and that in most cases, bitcoin (BTC) and Monero (XMR) are used.
Cryptocurrencies are used to completely anonymize the processes of ordering and shipping illicit products or services, allowing criminals to hide their identity or location. That is why XMR, in particular, is widely used.
However, according to the co-founder of the Blockchain Research Lab, Ingo Fiedler, only the largest and most powerful organizations are really able to obfuscate their operations by eliminating all digital traces because to achieve this, you need real specialists whose costs are often prohibitive for smaller organizations.
You also need to distinguish between different cryptocurrencies because they offer different levels of anonymity.
For example, Bitcoin on-chain transactions do not offer a high level of anonymity, while those in Monero do. However, it is also true that off-chain transactions in BTC offer a very high level of obscurity. However, these are usually small amounts, and they still leave some traces on the blockchain (at the opening and closing of Lightning Network channels).
Some sort of help for criminals could come from Monero’s atomic swaps that allow you to swap BTC into XMR, and vice versa, without having to rely on a middleman. For example, swapping BTC to XMR and then making a completely anonymous payment in XMR could cause all traces to be lost, even if the receiver of the XMR were to swap it back into BTC.
As it is easy to understand, to safely carry out such operations, when they involve large sums of money, it is useful to get help from experts, if not even necessary. For this reason, hardly the minor criminal organizations can carry out such operations.