1 of 2 | Police in northern China arrested 63 people over the weekend, accused of laundering nearly $1.7 billion worth of Chinese Yuan using cryptocurrency. Photo courtesy of Public Security Bureau of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Police in northern China arrested 63 people accused of laundering nearly $1.7 billion worth of Chinese yuan using cryptocurrency.
The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau announced the arrests on Saturday, seizing around $4.5 million in Chinese currency in the process.
Those arrested have ties to a money laundering gang, which started operating in May 2021, according to police.
This comes amid a growing crackdown from Beijing on China's crypto market, which ranks fourth worldwide, despite an official ban on trading.
Police accused the gang of collecting illicit proceeds from online pyramid schemes, fraud and gambling among other sources. Those involved then converted the cash into Tether, a stablecoin on par with the U.S. dollar.
The money was eventually converted back into Chinese yuan, through several different cryptocurrencies.
Police say the participants used the messaging app Telegram, which is banned in China, to recruit international participants and help launder the money back into Chinese currency.
More than 200 police officers were involved in the operation in the northern region of the country. A pair of suspects were also traced to Bangkok, Thailand and extradited to China, according to police.
Investigators were first tipped off in July, after identifying a bank account with regular monthly deposits of around $1.4 million or 10 million yuan.
China has been trying to root out cryptocurrency from its financial markets for more than a year. In June 2021, Beijing publicized a multi-billion-dollar shutdown of the crypto trading industry.
Despite the official ban, the country still has a large underground community.
Chinese authorities arrested over 1,100 people in 2021 in relation to crypto-related money laundering.