A notorious money launderer, cleaning the dirty money of the world’s foremost criminals, has been arrested on 31 May in Athens in Greece. His arrest follows a long investigation from the Dutch Police (Politie) into the activities of this underground banker operating in the Netherlands. The man is suspected of leading a criminal organisation which laundered millions of euros on a monthly basis for criminals.
This arrest was supported within the framework of the Operational Taskforce TOKEN set up at Europol to target the networks facilitating underground banking worldwide.
Threat of Underground Banking Networks
The intelligence development carried out by Europol after the recent takedown of three encrypted communication tools used by criminals – Encrochat, Sky ECC and ANOM – revealed the importance of these underground bankers the criminal landscape, mostly operating under the radar of law enforcement until then.
The underground movement of criminal money is crucial to organised crime operations. It involves large sums of cash being transferred, traded or transferred into cryptocurrency within a network of underground bankers and controllers. This money is typically related to the drug trade and is used to invest in new drug shipments, pay for previous shipments or transfer it to other countries for spending.
The network of underground bankers can facilitate payment all over the world. It is not required that the money travels physically across borders. An underground banker is a key figure and vital link in organised crime and assists in the laundering of profits generated from criminal activity. Underground banking is financing organised crime networks worldwide on a daily basis.
Europol and International Cooperation
Due to the international nature of criminal underground banking, the Dutch Police works closely with Europol to tackle and disrupt the phenomena.
In early 2022, Europol established an Operational Taskforce to target specifically the networks facilitating underground banking worldwide. The operational taskforce consists of law enforcement personnel from the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, along with specialists and analysts from Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre.
Further results are to be expected as the work of the Operational Taskforce TOKEN continues.