Brazilian Police authorities have launched a wide investigation that has seen it seize up to $33 million from several cases of money laundering involving cryptocurrency exchanges within its borders.

Although the investigation is still in progress, Brazilian Police found that criminals set 17 unscrupulous companies up to launder money through crypto exchanges. According to the report, the alleged criminals operating these companies planned to send the funds to offshore accounts.

Moreso, one of the cryptocurrency exchanges involved in the shady deals “unknowingly” helped the actors launder $1.93 million from six fictitious companies. Eight other companies received up to $2.9 million from the launderers. The criminals funnelled these illicit funds among themselves within a period spanning five months.

Brazilian authorities are leaving no stone unturned in going after dirty transactions, especially one being perpetuated with cryptocurrencies. For instance, they earlier this month concluded another crypto crime-busting operation codenamed Operation Daemon. During the operation, Brazilian Police rounded up and arrested one Cláudio Oliveira popularly known by his nickname - Bitcoin King. The investigation covered the alleged embezzlement of at least 1.5 billion Brazilian reals (about $300 million). At least over 7,000 victims who were investors in the Ponzi scheme were left with huge losses. Cláudio Oliveira ran the Bitcoin Banco Group, a custodian firm that promised extraordinary profits to anyone who trusted the company with their funds back then in 2019 but later went bust.

Although Operation Daemon spanned three years before winding down, Operation Exchange is still very much active with more revelations and possible crypto-asset seizure to take place in the coming months. Blockchain crime analytics firms like Chainalysis, Elliptic etc work with crime investigation and detection agencies like law enforcement to analyse blockchain transactions and possibly mask out illicit transactions.  

Regulators across the globe continue to look for ways to stem crypto crimes which many consider to be a threat to their national security. The United States for instance has had its corporations attacked by ransomware groups leading to their extortion with payments made in bitcoin. The colonial pipeline that led to gas shortage in the East Coast was one of such incidents where ransomware groups attacked an oil pipeline company forcing them to pay in bitcoin. However, the United States Justice Department successfully seized the BTC paid to these groups, with the help of crypto tracers.

In November last year, Brazilian Police working together with the United States Justice Department seized cryptocurrency worth $24 million in a major internet fraud investigation. Dubbed Operation Egypto, the Brazilian authorities estimated that more than $200 million was obtained through this scheme through which more than tens of thousands of Brazilians may have been defrauded. Crime kingpin Marcos Antonio Fagundes was charged with several criminal violations of Brazilian law, including, among other offenses, the operation of a financial institution without legal authorisation, fraudulent management of a financial institution, misappropriation, and money laundering, as well as securities law violations.’

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