ABUJA – The United State of America has decried the use of cryptocurrency in the buying and selling of drugs and contrabands items across the world. U.S. said the development is becoming a major concern as it diminishes the importance and benefits of digital assets.
Speaking yesterday at the ongoing Cybersecurity Virtual Reporting Tour, scheduled for August 29 to September 16, and organized by Foreign Press Centres of the United States, with the theme: “A Shared Responsibility: Prioritising Public-Private Partnerships in Cybersecurity,” the Inaugural Director of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team at the U.S. Department of Justice, Eun Young Choi, said the growing use of digital assets in the global financial system has profound implications for investors, consumers, and businesses.
Choi, who spoke specifically on “The rise of cybercrime and Cryptocurrency,” said digital assets are now a priority for the Department of Justice (DoJ) in the United States, stressing that the department has been at the forefront of investigating crimes related to digital assets since even before the invention of Bitcoin, “which is, of course, the first cryptocurrency, and that began with the prosecutions of E-Gold and Liberty Reserve for their capability to facilitate money laundering. But since that time, we’ve seen a growth in the criminal use of digital assets both in terms of volume and scale.”
Finder.com claimed that 27 per cent of Nigerian Internet users own cryptocurrency, with adoption on the rise due to Peer-to-Peer transactions, this is despite the Central Bank of Nigeria restriction on digital currencies in the country.
Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in February 2021 directed banks not to allow crypto assets-related transactions in the banking sector. Choi, while explaining cryptocurrency said, “Looking at cryptocurrency businesses inherently as dangerous may not be the best way to look at it. All technologies can be abused. Cryptocurrency in the United States is not illegal.”
I think the question really is whether or not we’re ensuring that the public and investors understand the risks that are involved, in particular with regard to digital asset and cryptocurrency investments.”
She disclosed that the DoJ has seen cryptocurrencies being used in a larger volume and scale, especially through the darknet markets.
“It is worrisome that cryptocurrencies are being used as a medium of exchange for buying and selling drugs and other contraband. And as Bitcoin grew, so did the use of illegal online marketplaces that were often hosted anonymously on the darknet, which is the section of the Internet that aren’t indexed by search engines and are accessible through using the network in order to hide the true location of users,” she added.
Choi, who disclosed that the influence of cryptocurrency in the purchase of contrabands across the globe is huge, noted that she may not be able to single out a particular part of Africa as being more or less known for digital asset crime, said the DoJ and indeed the US is working with African law enforcement partners in order to ensure that there is capacity building and deal with the issues.
“And I think that there is a lot of mis-perceptions about how the technology works, and also a fear of missing out (FOMO), as it were – by the average investor about cryptocurrencies, because there has been historically relatively significant gains and investments that were made in cryptocurrency.”
She admitted that there has been rise across the globe in cybercrime activities as it relates to digital assets, stressing that many stemmed out of cross-border engagements.
According to her, all cybercrime investigations, including digital assets, are cross-border by nature, and so the mechanisms that “we use in order to preserve evidence abroad and collect that evidence involves a lot of hard work and ensuring that we have strong partnerships with other international partners and law enforcement in order to help facilitate the preservation and the collection of evidence abroad because that’s a large portion of it.
“And they’re also very fast-moving investigations, in part because, within the context of cybercrime, bad actors can hide their tracks pretty easily. They can encrypt or delete servers or other infrastructure evidence that would point to their responsibility with the click of a mouse or a keyboard.”
Choi, who said She stressed that cross-border collaboration, is critical because uneven and often inadequate regulation and supervision, coupled with a lack of compliance enforcement for digital asset trading platforms and other service providers, allow criminals to expose the U.S. and international financial systems to risk from jurisdictions where regulatory standards and enforcement are less robust.
Also that gaps in anti-money laundering and counter-financing-of-terrorism (AML/CFT) regulatory regimes across jurisdictions not only jeopardize the safety and stability of the international financial system, but also create opportunities for criminal actors to engage in “jurisdictional arbitrage” to take advantage of regulatory inconsistencies across jurisdictions, or in some cases, complete lack of regulation and supervision.