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Report: Japan's Yakuza laundered $270M through crypto exchange

By
Elizabeth Shim
Japan has been calling for greater regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE
Japan has been calling for greater regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE

May 14 (UPI) -- Some divisions of Japan's crime rings are turning to virtual currency exchanges to launder money and the Yakuza has transferred more than $270 million of their funds overseas, according to a local press report.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported Monday the Yakuza has been taking advantage of cryptocurrencies to convert profits from criminal activity.

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Quoting a "Chinese male broker" who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity, the Mainichi reported Japanese gangs agreed to meet with him once a month.

Through the deal, the Yakuza was able to launder nearly $300 million, starting in 2016.

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The unit of the Yakuza known as the "Deposit Box" first made contact with their Chinese intermediary in the spring of 2016 in order to ask the contact to launder the money earned through voice phishing and drug trafficking, according to the report.

The contact agreed to transfer the funds into bitcoin and Ethereum, another virtual currency.

The funds were further divided into five or six exchange accounts, including Russia's Yobit and Britain's HitBTC.

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The money became increasingly difficult to trace by Japanese financial authorities.

The transactions were costly and the broker asked for about $4.6 million for system maintenance.

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In April, Japan's Financial Services Agency requested cryptocurrency exchanges to give up the trade of Monero, Zcash and Cash, according to Forbes' contributor Jake Adelstein.

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The European Union had stated "cryptocurrencies such as Monero, Ethereum and Zcash are gaining popularity within the digital underground."

Japan began calling for "administrative measures" on virtual currency exchange Coincheck in January.

In April 2017 Tokyo passed a law recognizing bitcoin as legal tender.

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