Representatives from 16 countries in Latin America and Europe met in the workshop of the police networks (UELLA and CibEL @) and prosecutors (CiberRed and the work group against money laundering) to discuss money laundering and cybercrime: Cryptocurrencies and Organised Transnational Crime (CTO), promoted by EL PAcCTO, on 5 October in the city of Quito, Ecuador. In the activity, which lasted three days, several working meetings were held between the contact points of the networks, with sessions common to the Networks and work done separately.
One of the objectives was to jointly address the problem of cryptocurrencies, raise awareness , provide experiences and possible tools to confront the phenomenon of the criminal use of cryptocurrencies, as well as identify the work priorities for each of the networks.
The person in charge of inaugurating the activity was José María Medina Navarro, head of the Cooperation Section of the Delegation of the European Union in Ecuador. Medina highlighted that cybercrime “is a form of crime that has been growing at a worrying rate for several years”, and that with the pandemic, it has developed even more. He also highlighted that “several countries that participated in drawing up IDEAL (Instrument of Documentation and Evaluation of the Threat in Latin America) for the activity,” have established this issue as a priority threat for the countries of the region.
The inauguration was also attended by General Manuel Amelio Iñiguez Soto Mayor, Director General of Investigations of the National Police of Ecuador, who appealed to the importance of jointly strengthening [efforts to deal with] the problems and issues in order to fight more effectively against transborder organised crime, “Specifically on the issues of cybercrime and money laundering.” He added that negative globalisation causes worldwide problems,” referring to drug trafficking, human trafficking, deforestation and other serious crimes. He concluded by thanking the EL PAcCTO programme and the European Union for conducting this type of work in the region.
For his part, Guido Quezada, from the Attorney General’s Office (FGE) expressed the need for all actors to meet to design strategies to combat organised crime, and stressed that “all the efforts we make every day are undoubtedly aimed at destroying this organised crime”.
Cryptocurrency and CTO issues in the European Union and Latin America
During the first day, Miguel Hurtado, from EUROPOL’s European Cybercrime Coordination Centre (EC3) , shared the problems they have with cryptocurrencies, such as the payment of illegal services, and the large operations that have been carried out to dismantle organised groups. He explained the difficulties that exist due to the lack of personnel with technical knowledge and pointed out that it is difficult to train experts with technical knowledge to deal with in-depth analyses on cryptocurrencies.
Alberto Redondo, head of the Technological Crimes Group, Judicial Police Technical Unit (UTPJ) Guardia Civil, Spain, and representative for the Cibel@ Network, explained the current situation regarding the use of cryptocurrencies in Spain. He emphasised that “9% of the population is already a user of, or has had a direct relationship with cryptocurrencies, forced into the field of cybercrime, or due to their daily use,” he also explained the existing modalities and legal services for spending, mining and buying cryptocurrencies.
In the session entitled “issues concerning cryptocurrencies and organised transnational crime in Latin America”, the Portuguese prosecutor, Pedro Verdelho, Coordinator of the CiberRed (Network of Ibero-American Prosecutors for Cybercrime issues), pointed out the multiple problems that prosecutors face in the investigation and prosecution of these offences, including those related to their detection, the establishment of measures to preserve the evidence, or jurisdiction conflicts. Verdelho emphasised the importance of intensifying the relationship between the region’s prosecutors and public ministries in the field of cybercrime.
Meanwhile, Luís Orellana, of the Chilean Investigative Police, and Executive Secretary of the CibEL@ Network, sponsored by EL PAcCTO, pointed out, as one of the main challenges to be addressed, the lack of knowledge on the part of civil society about everything related to cryptocurrencies and, especially, in the policing field, the lack of experience in investigative techniques or software for tracing cybercrimes.
Both representatives of the prosecution and police pointed out the difficulty of making progress in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes, as many more specialists in investigative techniques in these matters are required.
Also taking part were Javier Pastor, Bit2me sales director; Cláudia Pina, Examining Magistrate of Portugal, assigned to Eurojust; Jorge Lúcio, from the Executive Secretariat of the UELLA Network and (Judicial Police of Portugal); Guido Ferrari, head of GAFILAT (Latin American Financial Group) Cooperation Projects and for the AIAMP Anti-Money Laundering Working Group, Isis Soto from the Panama Attorney General’s Office.
Joint work sessions to address identified problems
During the working sessions, there were discussions on how to activate and operationalise police cooperation networks on cybercrime and money laundering to improve the efficiency of the fight against these two types of crime and generate a work dynamic between the two networks around the problem of cryptocurrencies with an initial approach (raising of awareness and beginning of specialisation) to the matter.
EL PAcCTO has attempted to establish a space for dialogue and collaborative work between the members of the participating Networks to identify specific cases and begin to prepare their operations bilaterally or between several interested countries.
Opening a reflection on the mainstreaming of the fight against cybercrime and money laundering in all investigations related to transnational organised crime is part of the work that is expected to be achieved after the meetings. In addition, cooperation is expected with the networks of prosecutors specialised in both issues in the region, the CiberRed and the AIAMP Anti-Money Laundering Working Group.
Specialised networks promoted by EL PAcCTO
Two specialised networks of investigators, one on money laundering, the UELLA Network (Uniting Europe and Latin America against Money Laundering) and the other on cybercrime the CibEL@ Network (Fight against Cybercrime Europe Latin America) were promoted by the EL PAcCTO, in order to fight more effectively against transnational organised crime in Latin America. A joint effort is expected with both networks and their full operation through the implementation of exchanges between their members and the beginning of work based on specific cases, in addition to improving the effectiveness of police cooperation and facilitating exchanges between investigators working on the same subject in different countries
These networks bring together volunteer countries from both Latin America and the European Union, and benefit from support from EUROPOL, in particular through the cooperation and exchange platforms inserted in the policy cycle on security, the EMPACTs (European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats).