As cryptocurrencies, and most specifically Bitcoin, grow in prominence and usage, governments and authorities around the world become more concerned about the rules of that use. That is why the regulation of these assets has been such a controversial topic in several locations.
In this case, Spanish law enforcement agencies identify Bitcoin (BTC) ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) as potentially problematic spots for money laundering laws, specifically to the European Union’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. The piece of news was reported by Bloomberg this week.
A 9 Million Euros Transaction
According to the publication made by the specialized site, the police in Spain busted a local group of criminals that took advantage of Bitcoin ATMs to perform a 9 million euros (approximately $10 million) transaction to people connected to drug traffic in Colombia and other nations.
The site uses representatives of the Guardia Civil, one of Spain’s law enforcement agencies, as sources, which preferred to stay anonymous. They explain that the band hired to machines from trading sites and proceeded to install them in an office located in the nation’s capital city, Madrid.
To perform their shady acts, the gang misguided people into thinking the office was actually a center for remittances and crypto trading services. Instead, the criminals took advantage of the situation and the physical settings to transfer funds from bank accounts to trading ecosystems to obtain cryptocurrencies (via QR codes or numerical codes,) which were sent to the drug dealers previously mentioned.
Two BTC ATMs, 20 Online Wallets and Four Cold Wallets Confiscated
The law enforcement organization seized two BTC ATMs, 20 online wallets, and four could wallets in the raid. As Bloomberg observes, prosecutors are in the process of proving that there was a correlation between the confiscated digital goods and the machines in question.
Bitcoin ATMs are quickly growing in popularity, as they represent a smoother transition to people unfamiliarized with crypto exchanges that want to acquire digital assets. They are relatively new, but despite their youth, they are already spread around the world.
In fact, at the moment of writing this piece, there are over 5,400 machines already installed in dozens of locations, most of which were deployed over the last year, per Coin ATM Radar’s data. Eighty-nine of those devices are in Spanish soil. Owners of crypto ATMs do not have to respect any strict AML laws, but that may be about to change in the EU.
As Bloomberg reports, in a separated case, Spanish Supreme Court ruled that Bitcoins are not legal electronic money but are assets, “and that any repayment of the fraud would need to happen in euros. The Civil Guard officials said the ruling was welcome because it starts to define Bitcoin.”
This is not the first case of its kind, and the situation has already prompted other locations to search for possible solutions to alleviate the risk of using ATMs as means for money laundering. For instance, Vancouver, a Canadian city, was considering banning these machines for similar concerns.
By Andres Chavez