Cryptocurrency Investigations: An empirical study of the modern Organised Crime Group and their reach inside public services

Research Institution / Organisation

University of South Wales

In Collaboration With

Law Enforcement, Government Departments and EuroPol will be participating in research survey

Principal Researcher

Carla Aguiar

Level of Research

Masters

Project Start Date

June 2021

Research Context

 

Explore cryptocurrency investigation methods to identify and trace Organised Crime Group(OCG) activities within public services.

1. Methodical research of cryptocurrency investigations utilising training and existing networks. This research will form part of the development of a questionnaire and preparation for interviews. Themes will include:

 

  • Cryptocurrency Investigation methods – utilising open-source investigation methods and commercial products.

  • Examination of the privacy aspect of cryptocurrency including the set-up and organisation of unknown exchanges for organised crime purposes.

  • OCGs use of cryptocurrency to penetrate public services for money laundering. UK based examination with a focus on the EU and brief examples from global case studies.

  • Evaluation of future Modus Operandi's involving cryptocurrency and how regulation could affect this activity. Examination of the seizure of cryptocurrency in public service settings.

 

2. Creation and delivery of a web-enabled questionnaire for completion by serving law enforcement and government agencies, investigating cryptocurrency in the serious and organised crime arena.

The thesis will explore a network of contacts to understand the experiences of investigating cryptocurrency, cyber security issues facing public services and effects of these activities.

The main purpose is to identify trends/patterns of OCGs to commit acts of fraud, and the transference of this into cryptocurrency for money laundering and illicit activities (Dyson, 2018). The aim is to identify the impact on public sector services. Specific focuses will involve the exploitation of the UK Welfare system by OCGs, and the penetration of support services provided by the UK government and their response to COVID-19.

Research Methodology

 

Qualitative research

Conducted through a web-enabled questionnaire utilising established networks within law enforcement, government agencies including EuroPol. Cryptocurrency investigations are topical and relatively new to the digital fraud arena. Cryptocurrency investigations are dynamic and investigation methods are gaining traction (Furneaux, 2018).

Research questions proposed selection, as follows:

 

  • Exploring cryptocurrency investigation methods utilised by law enforcement and government departments. (Blenkin, 2020)

  • What are the typical methods utilised by OCGs to penetrate public sector services? How are OCG's utilising cryptocurrency to facilitate fraud?

  • Examination of unknown cryptocurrency exchanges and the use of these to move fraudulently obtained funds.

  • Why are unknown cryptocurrency exchanges utilised? Privacy? Anonymity? State-actors? Funding terrorism activities?

  • How to effectively seize cryptocurrency for prosecution without harming the investigation?

  • What are the recommendations to UK government departments to protect digital services from OCG penetration?

 

The survey can be accessed here.

Date due for completion

October 2021
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