TOKYO — Police said Thursday 170 cases of suspected money laundering linked to cryptocurrency have been reported by currency exchange operators in Japan in the six months through Oct. 1.
The first such report by the National Police Agency was conducted after the law on prevention of transfer of criminal proceeds was revised in April, requiring cryptocurrency exchange operators to report transactions suspected of involving money laundering.
The exchange operators are believed to have reported cases that involved frequent questionable transactions. After analyzing the cases, the agency said it has provided information to relevant investigative authorities.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ethereum and ripple allow quick international transactions while keeping users anonymous. But because of varying restrictions in each country, it is difficult to track if used in crimes.
Cryptocurrency has been used as a means of concealing criminal transactions of illegal drugs and child pornography.
In Japan, 11 cryptocurrency exchange operators are registered based on the law on payment services. The number of users is expected to rise if these cryptocurrencies further raises their profiles.
“We want to take countermeasures by collaborating with relevant ministries and agencies as well as business operators,” an NPA official said.
Meanwhile, the agency report also examined suspected money laundering cases reported by banks and insurance companies in the three years to 2016.
The number of suspected cases totaled 1,178,112, of which 190,298 cases, or 16.2 percent, were linked with members of organized crime syndicates.
Police pressed charges in 1,077 cases, of which 230 cases, or 21.4 percent, showed clear involvement with gangsters.
The report also showed that 42 cases of suspected money laundering have been reported by jewelry and precious metal dealers between 2014 and 2016.
Gold smuggling cases that capitalized on tax system differences in Japan and other countries have been frequently seen recently and investigative authorities are beefing up their crackdowns.