The Criminal Assets Bureau has seen a growing trend of criminals using crypto-currencies to transfer ill-gotten assets and to facilitate international fraud.
CAB’s 2018 annual report has revealed it made a number of seizures of various forms of encrypted digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum last year.
It said of the three investigations of this kind, two have resulted in the forfeiture of amounts of ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘Ethereum’ following High Court proceedings, while the third is ongoing, and CAB has said its seizure of Ethereum is the first of its kind by any law enforcement agency worldwide.
The case involving Ethereum saw CAB go to the High Court to have the cryptocurrency declared as the proceeds of crime, which “broke new ground” according to Ms Justice Carmel Stewart.
The holder of the cryptocurrency had opposed CAB’s application on the grounds that his rights had been allegedly breached by an investigation into his holding of the Ethereum, but this was dismissed.
The 2,013.96 Ether, was, as of July 28, 2016, worth approximately €24,852.
“The Bureau is committed to maintaining its position as a globally recognised investigative agency in this area through its knowledge of its use by criminals worldwide and its ability to deny and deprive criminals of its benefits,” the 2018 CAB annual report read.
It said Bureau Officers have attended conferences and training sessions around the world as part of CAB’s efforts to increase its abilities investigate, seize, retain and dispose of crypto‐currencies, and has in turn provided training and given presentations to bodies including the Department of Justice and the Central Bank.
The 2018 Annual Report reveals that in excess of €5.6m was returned to the Exchequer as a result of CAB actions over the course of the year.
Of this, €2.272m was returned under Proceeds of Crime legislation, €3.097m was collected under Revenue legislation and €323,000 was recovered in Social Welfare overpayments.
The Bureau brought 30 new proceeds of crime proceedings before the High Court last year, the highest number of new cases commenced in a single year since its establishment.
The value of assets frozen in 2018 under section 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 was €8.393m. Taxes and interest demanded was valued at €14.99m.
CAB was investigating 973 criminals at the end of last year.
The greatest concentration of these were in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) west, where 177 were under investigation.
This was followed by the DMR south division (110) and DMR north (80).
The areas outside of Dublin with the most targets were Limerick (72 targets), Wexford and Meath(40), and Kildare (38).
Cork North and Mayo had the lowest with four each.