After a comprehensive investigation of the Belgian Judicial Police, two brothers were arrested in Brussels for allegedly running a money laundering operation involving cryptocurrencies.
On July 31, the Belgian news publication De Tijd reported that the Belgian Judicial Police conducted a series of searches, which resulted in the arrest of two people. According to the police – who conducted a comprehensive investigation into money laundering, which involved bitcoins – the two suspects allegedly operated a cryptocurrency money laundering service. Law enforcement authorities performed house searched on nine addresses in Brussels, Jette, Sint-Jans Molenbeek, Laeken and Evere.
During the police raids in Jette and Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, investigators arrested the two brothers suspected of conducting multiple transactions, in which bitcoins were exchanged for cash or vice versa. The identity of the brothers was not disclosed by authorities due to privacy reasons. According to the police, the suspects were not only active in Belgium but also in the Netherlands and Germany.
The judicial police had launched an investigation after they discovered multiple suspicious transactions at the currency exchange localbitcoins.com. Localbitcoins allows users to create accounts, which they can use to buy or sell BTC. Law enforcement authorities noticed that a certain account, called “Zhao Dong 1982”, appeared to be active in Belgium and in the border region in the Netherlands and Germany, investigators stated.
Zhao Dong 1982 only allowed the exchange of copious amounts of money – a minimum 5,000 euros – to his clients. Those who sought to trade with the two suspects were advised to reach them via secure applications, such as Telegram. During secret agreements in parking lots, hotels and fast food chains, customers sent BTC to the suspects in exchange for cash. It was reported that the brothers used a much lower exchange rate than the current market price for the bitcoins.
According to the police, such an illegal online service is not at all as anonymous as service providers and their customers may think.
During the house searches, law enforcement authorities found 90,500 euros in cash hidden under a spare wheel in a garage in Evere. A total of 100,000 euros in cash were seized during the raids. In addition to all that, investigators seized 300,000 euros on the bank accounts of the suspects. Police officers also confiscated the computer equipment of the duo.
During the investigation, the Dutch police in Maastricht conducted a search on the home of a suspected customer of the two brothers. At the same time, law enforcement authorities arrested another person who is suspected of money laundering.
“Sellers and buyers on illegal marketplaces often feel invulnerable to police and justice, especially if the trade takes place in bitcoins and the exchange of these dirty bitcoins seems is out of sight of police and justice,” the Belgian Judicial Police wrote in a statement.
A police spokesman added that it is not the first or last case of money laundering involving cryptocurrencies. According to him, the number of such cases is on the rise.