Eight bitcoin distribution centers, the first generation of cryptocurrencies, located in different cities in France have been placed under seal as part of an investigation for aggravated money laundering, we learned, Sunday, December 20, from a police source. .
During a coordinated operation in Lille, Marseille, Cannes, Nice, Grenoble, Rouen and Paris, more than 191,000 € were seized but no arrest has taken place at this stage. The Lille judicial police are at the origin of this vast investigation, now entrusted to the central direction of the judicial police, which will work in conjunction with the national court responsible for the fight against organized crime.
A currency very popular with investors
Beyond “purely regulatory” offenses alleged against the distributing company – whose name has not been revealed – the police suspect an “illicit origin of funds” after a customs check at the Franco-Belgian border where Company employees were intercepted with “just over € 40,000 of questionable origin. ”
Born after the financial crisis of 2008, bitcoin remains a very controversial cryptocurrency. From its inception, it was criticized for being used above all on the “dark net”, this hidden face of the Internet, to launder dirty money and conceal illicit purchases of drugs or weapons.
But over time, a few brands in large cities have started accepting bitcoins, and online payments giant Paypal even offers its US users to use it as electronic money.
Bitcoin is attracting certain investors, institutional or private, who until then shunned it for its extreme volatility and who are now looking for it for its high speculative value. Backed by no asset, this intangible currency, whose movements are deemed impossible to trace, has offered for a few months prospects of gain rarely achieved.
Under the radar of supervisors
Since the beginning of the year, bitcoin has multiplied its value by three, reaching a peak on Wednesday, December 16, since one unit was exchanged for more than 20,000 dollars (16,300 €).
But this success is not enough to establish the respectability of this currency unlike any other. In its report, published Thursday, December 10, on the risks of money laundering and the financing of terrorism, Tracfin, the specialized service of the Ministry of the Economy, warned against these electronic currencies which still too often pass under the radar of supervisors and interviewers.
At least up to a point: In 2019, Tracfin helped dismantle a terrorist financing network that fed jihadist fighters using prepaid bitcoin vouchers. The new case seems to be more, this time, of an organized gang scam.