An accidental discovery
The report, which was published on April 23, claims that the State Department of Drug Trafficking (Denarc) in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul came upon a house where cryptocurrencies were being mined as they were on the trail of a suspected drug trafficker.
Given that Bitcoin mining isn’t particularly popular in the region, the police went into the house, and a cursory search revealed 25 solitary Bitcoin mining rigs, which ran round the clock and were powered by “sophisticated” software and hardware, all estimated to be worth about R$ 250,000 (about $63,000).
A “not so legal” business
The police eventually found the supposed resident of the house; a man who claimed that he had rented the entire building and was operating the Bitcoin mining business as his personal investment. While his operation wasn’t illegal, the man was eventually charged with the illicit use of electricity, with the police claiming that he had stolen the electric power being used to run the mining rigs round the clock.
The report also revealed that upon further search, the police found a pistol with an erased serial number and a motorcycle whose number plates were cloned. Suspecting that man could have been a lookout for a drug trafficking and money laundering organization, the police took the man into custody. All of his hardware was also seized, as police suspected that they were smuggled from China. Another news report on the matter claimed that the arrested man has quite an extensive criminal history, including but not limited to drug trafficking practices and murdering a military police officer.
No more Mr. Nice Guy
If the investigation does turn out to provide proof of crypto money laundering, it could have consequences for Brazil’s stand on cryptocurrencies. In October 2019, the Department of Federal Revenue of Brazil (RFB), the country’s tax administrator, published a draft document requiring crypto-based companies in the country to provide monthly reports on their operations. While this draft in itself didn’t signify public approval of cryptocurrencies, it did show proof that the Brazilian government recognized and accepted the operation of crypto firms in its territory.
Proof that the country has been harboring crypto money launderers could, at the very least, provide a reason for authorities to tighten regulations against its crypto sector.
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