In Brazil, militias in Rio de Janeiro are increasingly adopting cryptocurrencies as a method for laundering money from criminal activities, according to information from the state’s Civil Police. This movement represents an effort to modernize the financial operations of organized crime, using digital technology to replace traditional methods of moving illicit resources.
The Civil Police reported to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that the militias began to see cryptocurrencies as an alternative to illegal dollar remittances, adopting a system dubbed “crypto-cable”. This term is a reference to the “cable dollar”, a money transfer technique that avoids government involvement, and is often carried out by money changers. Cryptocurrencies offer even more discretion in this process, as they allow cross-border transactions with just a phone and internet access.
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Despite this growing use by militias, it is estimated that less than 1% of all cryptocurrency transactions in the world are derived from criminal activities. This data suggests that, although the illicit use of cryptocurrencies is present, it constitutes a minimal fraction of the total volume of transactions in the crypto market.
Illicit transactions represent less than 1% of total crypto volume
One case highlighted by the report involves Cléber Oliveira da Silva, accused of moving R$93 million in money laundering for Luís Antônio da Silva Braga, known as Zinho and considered one of the biggest militiamen in Rio de Janeiro. Zinho’s defense denied his involvement with the money, while Oliveira da Silva’s defense preferred not to comment.
Another example cited is that of Danilo Dias Lima, nicknamed Tandera, Zinho’s rival. According to the Public Ministry, Tandera operated through an intermediary, Marcelo Morais dos Santos, who opened companies to manage funds from extortion. Between September 2022 and March 2023, they made remittances of R$168 million in bitcoins.
These cases illustrate the growing role of cryptocurrencies in the financial operations of criminal groups, highlighting the need for more robust surveillance and regulation in this sector. Still, it is important to highlight that the majority of crypto transactions in the world remain unrelated to illicit activities. This reflects the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies for legitimate purposes.
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