The agencies have worked together for years, but now their joint efforts are official as they plan to ramp up activity.
A diverse group of United States enforcement agencies has made official its cooperation on crimes related to the darknet and digital currency with the announcement of the Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force on June 20. The new organization will target “cryptocurrency-enabled crimes” such as drug trafficking, money laundering, theft of personal information and child exploitation.
Representatives of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Arizona, the Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Postal Inspection Service signed a memorandum of understanding on the new task force last week.
The agencies have been working together since 2017 and have seen a rise in the use of cryptocurrency in that time. According to a statement:
“The Darknet Marketplace and Digital Currency Crimes Task Force’s mission is to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that exploit the appearance of anonymity on the darknet or use digital currency to facilitate criminal activities.”
Law enforcement worldwide has been forming specialized units for crypto-related enforcement. Interpol created a crypto crimes unit late last year. Police in Canadian cities have begun forming local task forces. The new task force will have an international reach, as the HSI has 93 overseas locations in 56 countries.
Working with businesses and industries that manage the very financial systems terrorists and criminal organizations seek to exploit, Homeland Security Investigations seized nearly $4 BILLION in cryptocurrency from illicit activities last year. #fraud #police #AML #finance pic.twitter.com/VbGz3bj2ny
— Homeland Security Investigations (@HSI_HQ) June 16, 2023
In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation formed a Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit in February that will work with the Justice Department National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. The Securities and Exchange Commission nearly doubled its Cyber Unit last year as well.
Law enforcement has a lot to work with. Chainalysis estimated last year that over 4,000 crypto whales hold illegally obtained funds, and crypto phishing attacks increased by 40% that year. However, there is also evidence that law enforcement efforts are paying off.