They will also be virtual but the damage to the economy and the fight against money laundering, organized crime and international terrorism are real.
In 2014, the Financial Action Task Force Group
(Gafi-Fatf), the independent intergovernmental body that develops and promotes policies aimed at protecting the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the proliferation of weapons, has not used half measures on bitcoin.
“Virtual currencies and bitcoins in particular are the wave of the future for payment systems – reads the report – and provide a new and powerful tool for criminals, terrorists, financiers and tax evaders, allowing them to circulate and store funds illegal, out of the reach of the law “.
Launched in 2009, bitcoin was the first decentralized convertible virtual currency, that is – as recalled by General Stefano Screpanti, head of the III Operations Department of the General Command of the Gdf on April 27, 2016 before the Finance Commission of the Chamber – not issued from a central bank or public authority and the first “crypto currency”.
Bitcoins are in fact units of account composed of unique strings of numbers and letters that make up units of money and have value only because individual users are willing to pay for them. Bitcoin Cash addresses, which therefore function as current accounts, have no customer names or other identification and the system has no server or centralized service. And, as General Screpanti recalled again in the hearing of 27 April 2016, “the operators offering this service are not among the recipients of the anti-money laundering legislation as they are therefore not required to comply with the obligations of customer due diligence, registration of data and suspicious transaction reports’.
The billions swallowed up by the black hole of money transfers
The same concept, just a few days earlier (on April 19, 2016) and in the same forum, had been expressed by Claudio Clemente, director of the Financial Information Unit (Uif) of the Bank of Italy.
Operators and users are, in short, totally anonymous and investigators and investigators do not have a “target” to hit.
Bitcoins are digitally traded between users and can be exchanged (purchased or cashed) in dollars, euros and other current or virtual currencies.
Anyone can download software from a website to send, receive and store bitcoins and track transactions. Users can also get bitcoin addresses, which function as checking accounts, in an online wallet service.
Fatf Gafi has calculated that by 2140 21 million bitcoins will be registered (but each unit can be divided into small parts) and already in April 2014 he had calculated more than 12.5 million bitcoins, for a value of over 5.5 billion dollars.
Those money transfers that feed the coffers of Islamic terrorism
The alarm of international organizations
In October 2015, with a new report on the risks of terrorist financing, Fatf Gafi returned to dealing with bitcoins and raised the level of attention by reporting a school case.
On August 28, 2015, Ali Shukri Amin, from Virginia (USA), was sentenced to 11 years in prison for conspiring to provide Isis material, support and resources through the use of the Internet. Amin pleaded guilty on June 11, 2015 and admitted using twitter to provide advice and support to Isis and its supporters. Amin, through twitter, provided instructions on how to use bitcoin to mask the provision of funds for Isis and helped supporters who wanted to go to Syria to fight.
On the occasion, Fatf Gafi stressed that judicial authorities around the world are concerned about the use of virtual currencies by terrorist organizations. The world has seen the use of websites affiliated with terrorist organizations to promote the use of bitcoins and chats between extremists on virtual currencies grow dramatically – the report recalls. Fatf Gafi recalls the case of a blog linked to Isis which proposed using bitcoin to finance extremists.
Cases to attention
It was not the first case that Fatf Gafi brought to the attention of world public opinion. In September 2013, the US Department of Justice unearthed an investigation into Ross Ulbricht, owner and operator of “silk road”, a cleverly concealed website designed to allow users to purchase and illegally and anonymously selling drugs, weapons, stolen identities and other illegal goods and services, engaging in drug trafficking, hacking and money laundering, beyond any investigative control. Ulbricht was sentenced to life imprisonment but his lawyer filed an appeal on 8 January 2016.
The Justice Department seized the website and about 173,991
bitcoin, worth over $ 33.6 million. The survey estimated a global turnover, since its creation in 2011, of 1.2 billion dollars through the use of more than 9.5 million bitcoins. Commissions ranged from 8 to 15% of the total sale price.
On November 7, 2014, with a new operation called “Silk road 2”, the FBI proceeded to the closure of another cleverly concealed site, with which the manager had tried to retrace the exploits of the previous one.