According to a statement by Europol, police in Austria and Spain seized €4.5 million in Bitcoin and IOTA as part of a bust of a transnational criminal organization that manufactured and trafficked LSD and laundered the proceeds of crime. The story is a little weird.
How the police seized the digital currencies is unknown but according to the official news release, the math doesn’t quite add up. Europol stated that €5.5 million worth of Bitcoin was seized and €137,000 worth of IOTA was seized, which is more than the €4.5 million total that Europol says was seized. It also is unclear how digital currency was seized — from an exchange; from cold storage; from an app; was there a mareva injunction?
It appears that perhaps the TCO also dealt in fentanyl because the statement says that drugs acquired from China that are causing an opiod crisis in the US were seized in Spain and sold on the dark net. So that means fentanyl yet there is no mention fentanyl, which is odd. The accompanying video from the bust, below, clearly shows fentanyl pills (the blue ones).
According to the statement, the TCO operated on the dark net since 2012, accepting PayPal, using banks and also accepting Bitcoin since then. The investigation was launched in 2015, which means that it took Europol years to trace on the Blockchain, which seems unlikely. Tracing does not take years on the Blockchain, nor does ascertaining the identity of transactors.
As part of the bust, the police seized 10 luxury vehicles, €1.6 million in an Austrian bank account and arrested eight people.
The bust seems to be a bit of anti-Bitcoin hype because in reality, €12 million was seized; less than 1/3 of which was in digital currencies, which makes it not much of a story about the seizure of Bitcoin from a TCO. It seems to be more of a story about how banks unwittingly banked a TCO trafficking globally in fentanyl, including shipping to the US, since 2012.
In contrast to the Europol statement, this report says that the Spanish police are alleging a Granny ran the global trafficking operation and was not only a Bitcoin and IOTA money laundering expert, but an expert in running a business on the dark net.