Virtual world no hiding place for West Yorkshire criminals as police reveal cryptocurrency seizures

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Criminals have been warned that the virtual world offers no hiding place for their ill-gotten gains as new data revealed West Yorkshire Police has begun seizing cryptocurrency including Bitcoins.
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A cryptocurrency is a digital currency, which is an alternative form of payment created using encryption algorithms.

It is nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend due to the technology.

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Byline: Dominic Lipinski
Copyright: PA Wire/PA ImagesByline: Dominic Lipinski
Copyright: PA Wire/PA Images
Byline: Dominic Lipinski Copyright: PA Wire/PA Images

Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, West Yorkshire Police confirmed that they had seized cryptocurrency including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Kusama in the past two years.

It is believed that a seizure of cryptocurrency made in 2020 was the first time that police in the county had taken any virtual currency away from criminals.

The total amount of cryptocurrency seized has not been declared but the force has confirmed that none of the sums were later returned.

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Leanne Walker, of the force's Economic Crime Unit, said: “West Yorkshire Police is committed to targeting the proceeds of criminal activity and will endeavour to seize assets of all kinds when doing so.

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“The seizures of cryptocurrency by West Yorkshire Police demonstrates that we have the capability and determination to go after these assets”.

In response to the FOI request, the force said Section 84 of the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) gives a definition as to what is classed as property under the act, which includes “things in action and other intangible or incorporeal property".

"Cryptocurrencies therefore fall into this definition, giving the powers under the Act to treat Cryptocurrency as property", the force said.

"Sections 47A through to S47R of the act give powers of search and seizure, in which Cryptocurrency can be seized, including initial detention and further detention powers prior to a restraint order being obtained.

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"Restrained assets are held until any potential conviction and subsequent confiscation order made, which is done post-conviction.

"Should a criminal case not be successful, assets may be returned to the owner. In addition, the defendant may wish to raise funds for the confiscation order via other assets at their disposal, in which case the cryptocurrency can also be returned."

It is widely recognised that criminals use cryptocurrency to take advantage of the perceived anonymity of digital assets for illicit purposes.

Cryptocurrency transactions can also be for vast amounts.

Explaining the reasoning behind not releasing the specific amounts of each cryptocurrency seizure, the force said: "It is accepted that there has been information previously released into the public domain that confirms the amount of cryptocurrency seized under law enforcement purposes.

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"However, a motivated actor with the right tools can use this information, using methods that map out exactly where the funds may have originated from, confirming that they have been seized and that criminality had been identified.

"Therefore there exists a risk of forewarning criminals which in turn could jeopardise investigations if there are outstanding suspects or funds that have yet to be seized or restrained.

"Providing information to the wider public about the volume of assets stored and where they are stored increases the risk of cyber-attacks, insider threat and other hostile actions by those who may wish to infiltrate either the supplier or law enforcement.

"The size of the assets that have been seized is significant and West Yorkshire Police takes the security of these assets extremely seriously."

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