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Bitcoin and Blockchain: A Russian Money Laundering Bonanza? Nobody does the dark side of the internet better than the Russians. Moscow’s hackers have long been world leaders in cybercrime. So it’s no wonder Russian computer geniuses are heavily involved in the internet’s latest craze: virtual currency. Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, work on a technology known as blockchain, a decentralized network of synchronized online registries that track the ownership and value of each token. They can be used as virtual cash and traded like currency. Private companies can issue their own virtual currencies to finance specific ventures, similar to crowdfunding or bonds.
And their future value can also be traded, like options. Richard Titus, an investor of cybermoney. Virtual currencies are also a potential bonanza for money launderers, online blackmailers and cybercriminals—especially in Russia. Russians have been involved in cryptocurrencies since their inception in the mid-2000s.
Criminals used the first virtual currencies, such as e-gold, to commit cross-border credit card fraud. 4 billion is indicted by a U. The Kremlin has long been wary of cryptocurrencies, which are technically illegal in Russia—yet the government recently signaled it’s changing its stance. Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, told state-run news agency Ria Novosti in August. 100 billion, a long way off the estimated 10. There are other legitimate reasons Moscow is interested in cashing in on cryptocurrencies. The Kremlin is keen to attract the enormous cash flow being poured into blockchain projects around the world.
It also wants to open up Russia to the bitcoin mining industry, in which anyone can claim newly issued bitcoins—generated automatically by a preprogrammed, blockchain-based computer network—by solving extremely complex codes that unlock each new coin. 100 million annual market share for Russia. The Russian Central Bank is also exploring the use of cryptocurrency to help regulate the country’s notoriously corrupt banking system, with dubious financiers frequently making loans to fake companies, then closing down, leaving the government to return depositors’ money. Cryptocurrencies are traceable, which would allow closer oversight of where a bank’s money is going.
It’s the third reason for Russia’s interest in virtual currencies that has international law enforcement agencies worried: their use as money laundering tools. Unlike with cash, all cryptocurrency transactions are recorded. That makes them perfectly trackable, so it’s easy to monitor dealings between legitimate businesses. However, the problem is that ownership of virtual cash isn’t necessarily attributable to people or businesses.
One of the most high-profile Russian fans of cryptocurrencies is lawmaker and former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the fatal 2006 poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. Lugovoi is one of dozens of Russian officials and businessmen who are forbidden from traveling to or holding assets in Europe or the United States. Russians have certainly been prolific at creating new—and often bizarre—cryptocurrencies. April for a project to recover zirconium from industrial waste in Magnitogorsk, Russia. 2 million in two months by issuing his farm’s virtual currency. Known as the Kolion—named after Shlyapnikov’s village of Kolionovo and based on the agricultural production of his farm—the currency had doubled in value since it was launched in May.
Many of these virtual currencies look like gimmicks. But money launderers are poised to take advantage of Russia’s cryptocurrency revolution too. Blockchain currencies could make that type of laundering much easier. Moscow, who asked for anonymity because of his ongoing consulting work for government clients. It’s pretty easy to trace how money goes from bank to bank.
You know what online entity owned them at what time. But is behind that online identity? It’s a strange irony that both Russian criminals and the government should favor cryptocurrencies—one as a means of money laundering, the other as a way to trace government money. But blockchain technologies are flexible enough to do both. Treasury and the Russian Central Bank have announced plans to regulate the market, though it’s not clear how new rules would control virtual currency trading conducted outside their national jurisdictions. Blockchain technologies have other criminal applications too.