Cryptocurrency is now “the de facto currency of crime” as Gardaí struggle to cope with its use by street-level drug dealers

A Detective Garda has outlined that cryptocurrencies are now the “de facto currency of crime”.

he annual National Prosecutors Conference at the Convention Center in Dublin heard from Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) Detective Garda Alan Carbery on the force’s experience of seizing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from criminals.

He said parents should pay attention to the fact that their teenage children have Tor browsers downloaded on their phones or laptops.

This software, which can be used to mask someone’s IP address and access the dark web, could be “a red flag” that a person is ordering medication online.

He said drug users can avoid visiting run-down parts of cities or towns to order drugs by using such software to order their drugs on their phones.

Garda Carbery said street-level drug dealers were using Bitcoin ATMs across the country to process drug money and Gardaí were struggling to address this new trend.

He highlighted the case of Conor Freeman, a 19-year-old who was sentenced to nearly three years in prison in 2020 for his role in a cryptocurrency scam.

Garda Carbery said this was “good news” as Freeman is now studying cybersecurity at UCD and he believes he has been rehabilitated.

“He got involved, but he turned his life around and will pursue gainful employment after graduation,” Garda Carbery said.

The Gardaí disposed of €5.2 million worth of bitcoin seized by Mr Freeman.

They were able to return the money to victims of the scam, including an American internet start-up that was on the verge of closing before the Gardaí returned around €3 million fraudulently taken from it.

Meanwhile, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said Irish people are fortunate to live in a society where the public can “rightfully trust that the decisions of the prosecutor will be made entirely free of attempts at political interference”. .

Catherine Pierse, appointed to the role in 2021, spoke at the conference today, which brought together some 300 judges, barristers, gardaí and prosecutors.

Pierse was criticized online this summer after it was revealed the DPP had decided not to prosecute Leo Varadkar, the Tanaist, for leaking a draft contract with the Irish Medical Organization to a rival doctors’ group.

Paddy Cosgrave, the executive director of Web Summit, who helped break the story with Village magazine’s Michael Smith in 2019, tweeted in July that matters weren’t over and hinted that Pierse’s decision would face a judicial review could.

In her opening remarks, Pierse said: “Independence is not an abstract concept, but a real value that prosecutors must uphold – remain vigilant to the influence of outside comment or unconscious bias.

“As prosecutors, we need to focus on the evidence and the law.”

Ms Pierse said communication is a key element of the DPP’s role as prosecutors.

“To communicate effectively, we need to set clear expectations for our role,” she said.

“We do not represent victims, but we have an important role to play in providing them with information and assisting in the defense of their rights under the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017.

“We know that many victims find the decision not to pursue prosecution distressing, and some victims feel rejected and not believed.

“It’s important for us to communicate that a decision not to pursue prosecution does not mean a victim’s disbelief.”

She said the DPP’s Victims Liaison Unit has been working with victim support groups to improve the way it communicates non-prosecution decisions.

“These letters to victims must balance our duty to inform in a way that does not re-traumatize the individual, protect the privacy rights of others, and preserve the suspect’s presumption of innocence.”

Ms Pierse said she was acutely aware that there were backlogs in the system due to the pandemic and she realized the delays in hearing cases were having a negative impact on witnesses, victims and defendants.

She works with colleagues in the judiciary to ensure that the system provides greater security for users. Cryptocurrency is now “the de facto currency of crime” as Gardaí struggle to cope with its use by street-level drug dealers

Fry Electronics Team

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