The IRS seized $ 3.5 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in 2021, a figure that represented 93% of all assets seized in the agency’s criminal investigations.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States, the federal agency in charge of tax collection and compliance with tax laws, has published a report that details the degree to which cryptocurrencies are involved in the cases investigated by that institution.
According to the report, which was picked up by the news agency Decrypt, 93% of all seizures made by the IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) team involve digital currencies such as Bitcoin.
In the past year, the IRS criminal unit seized billions of dollars in Bitcoin and other digital currencies related to cases involving a number of criminal activities, such as wire fraud, money laundering, distribution of illegal narcotics, and tax fraud. That includes $ 1 billion stolen from Silk road, an illicit online Bitcoin market that closed in 2013.
As such, the research team seized cryptocurrencies worth a total of $ 3.5 billion during fiscal 2021.
Cybercrime Specialized Team
The CI division is in charge of compliance and the investigation of financial crimes related to tax noncompliance in the United States. The office investigates crimes such as money laundering, currency violations, tax-related identity theft fraud, and terrorist financing; crimes that in some cases may involve digital assets.
“We are world leaders in our ability to track virtual currency in financial investigations while still working on our core law enforcement mission areas“Commented Jim Lee, division chief IRS on the report.
The federal agency assured in its report that, in the face of the latest technological advances in financial matters, the CI has committed to staying at the forefront through “significant investments in training our employees in the latest tactics and techniques to succeed in a digital financial world “.
As part of this effort, the group has built a dedicated cybercrime program: the CyberCrime Unit (CCU). The crime area “almost always involve the use of cryptocurrencies to facilitate criminal activity“, according to the report.
Cryptocurrency related IRS cases
The IRS document addresses some of the largest digital asset-related seizures in the organization’s history, several of them findings from the past year. An example from 2021 was the case of the Russian-Swedish citizen Roman Sterlingov, who was arrested on charges related to an alleged “operation money laundering service longer duration in the dark web“.
Sterlingov had operated a mixing service called Bitcoin Fog since 2011, the investigation found. During the time of your operation, Bitcoin Fog moved more than 1.2 million BTC, which, at the time, was valued at approximately $ 335 million.
“Most of this cryptocurrency came from the darknet markets and was linked to illegal narcotics, computer fraud, and identity theft and abuse activities.The IRS said.
Another case that found resolution this year was that of Roger Nils-Jones Karlsson, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for money laundering, securities fraud and wire fraud. “Karlsson ran an investment fraud scheme from 2011 until his arrest in Thailand in June 2019. Karlsson induced victims to buy shares in the scheme called ‘Eastern Metal Securities’ using cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and other online payment platforms.“Detailed the IRS.
On the other hand, the IRS indicated that one of its victories in the field of criminal investigations with cryptocurrencies occurred this year, after the first sentence of a case of Bitcoin with a fiscal component. The case was the sentence of 9 years in federal prison to a former employee of Microsoft who defrauded the company out of more than $ 10 million worth of BTC using a cryptocurrency mixer to hide taxable income.
Agency expects Bitcoin seizures to continue
Based on the report’s findings, the IRS has been working hard to combat a large number of cryptocurrency-related crimes, and does not plan to stop for now. In a call with the journalists he cited Bloomberg, the head of CI indicated that he expects the trend of seizures of Bitcoin continue in the future as the unit continues to investigate criminal cases involving these assets.
I expect the trend of crypto seizures to continue as we move into fiscal 2022. We are seeing crypto involved in a number of our crimes as we move forward.
Government agencies in the United States are paying increasing attention to crimes that take advantage of digital currencies. This year, the administration of President Joe Biden announced that it plans to “expand cryptocurrency analysis”As part of a strategy to fight ransomware attacks.
More recently, the passage of the infrastructure law gave the IRS more ability to monitor cryptocurrency transactions. That law require cryptocurrency brokers to track and report transactions to the IRS in an effort to give tax authorities more visibility on virtual currency transactions. Although the regulation has been quite controversial due to the broad language of the term ‘brokers’, which could include miners, node operators and other parties that do not actually facilitate transactions and therefore could not file tax reports in accordance with the law.
Hannah Estefanía Pérez’s version / DailyBitcoin
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