QQAAZZ Crypto Crime Ring Busted by Europol

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  • QQAAZZ, a global money laundering network, has been busted by Europol
  • QQAAZZ used Bitcoin mixing services among other methods to launder stolen money
  • Europol that crypto privacy services were a “top threat” last week

QQAAZZ, a global criminal enterprise that used cryptocurrency to launder stolen money, has been busted by Europol. In an “unprecedented international law enforcement operation”, 20 individuals were arrested for their role in QQAAZZ, a criminal network that attempted to launder tens of millions of dollars’ worth of illegally obtained funds on behalf of the world’s foremost cybercriminals.

Bitcoin Mining Equipment Seized

The Europol investigation saw 16 countries from as far afield as Latvia and Australia working together to bring down QQAAZZ, including a coordinated strike last week that saw some 40 addresses in Latvia, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain search, with criminal proceedings started in four of those countries.

Bitcoin mining hardware was seized during the Bulgarian search, although Europol has not stated whether this was in being utilized or was instead being prepared for resale.

QQAAZZ Utilized Mixing Services

QQAAZZ is thought to have started in 2016, essentially acting as a laundromat for cybercriminals. They would receive the ill-gotten gains and ‘clean’ it through QQAAZZ-controlled bank accounts and cryptocurrency mixing services in order to obscure the origin. After taking a 50% fee, the clean money would then be sent back to the cybercriminals.

Europol released a report last week which revealed that privacy coins and related services, such as Bitcoin mixing services, were the “top threat” that faced law enforcement agencies. This has been borne out by the fact that QQAAZZ used mixing services, although the fact that Europol was able to identify the use of such services could suggest that they are closer to identifying such use than ever before.

Despite the seeming prevalence of cryptocurrencies in illegal activities, the same Europol report said that only 1.1% of Bitcoin use relates to criminal activity.