Albanian gangs are turning to bitcoin to flood the streets with cocaine, according to UK authorities.
Increasingly Sophisticated Criminals
First reported at the beginning of August by The Times, UK authorities have increasingly noticed the use of bitcoin by Albanian gangs in connection to the selling of illicit substances.
Peter Goodman, chief constable of Derbyshire, said at the time that gang activity in the area has become increasingly more technological,
They are increasingly organized and spreading out from London. They are increasingly sophisticated in terms of how they are cashing out [from drug operations].
The most recent reports estimate the UK’s cocaine market to be worth around £5 billion, with the Albanian criminal network heavily implicated in the trade between Europe and Colombian drug cartels. Albanian street dealers, known colloquially as Hellbanianz, have turned to bitcoin and crypto-assets as a way to move money through their operation.
According to a report by ZDNet, drug-dealing criminals are exploiting the lack of regulation on cryptocurrency, particularly in the international sphere.
Michal J. Oghia, a Balkans-based internet governance consultant, told the outlet,
In the case of cryptocurrencies, they are simply an extension of the ongoing struggle between bad actors and cybersecurity and security authorities that are working to counter online threats.
Oghia added that gangs are leveraging the privacy afforded through crypto,
One of the biggest differences, though, is that – unlike issues regarding encryption or malware – cryptocurrency is used by organized crime and other nefarious actors in a way that combines illegal offline actions with a technology that was designed to maximize privacy, security, decentralization, and anonymity.
Oghia predicts that as more criminals turn to the use of crypto-assets, cyber forensics teams will become increasingly sophisticated in tracking transactions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo via Pixabay.com