By Elizabeth Hearst
British authorities have seized cryptocurrency worth £115,000 in an investigation into fraudulent applications for a government Covid-19 payment.
A 35-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering after it was alleged that the cryptocurrency seized came from the proceeds of fraudulent applications for bounce back loans.
An investigation was launched by officers after they suspected the accused was in possession of a significantly large sum of Bitcoin.
The UK government launched its Bounce Back Loan scheme in May, which was introduced to assist small businesses through the Covid-19 pandemic. This scheme enables businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 from the Government with no fees or interest applicable for the first twelve months.
Authorities discovered that a number of “mule” bank accounts were used to transfer the funds received as a result of the scheme. The money was then transferred from these “mule” accounts to a cryptocurrency wallet associated with the suspect.
Officers from the Met and Suffolk Police searched a hope in Ipswich last Wednesday. The suspect was found close to the address and was arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering, but was later released under investigation.
Met officers then applied to a London magistrates’ court for the detention of £115,000 in cryptocurrency present in the suspect’s account.
Met Detective Sergeant Ian Barrettfrom from the proactive money laundering department labelled the act as “appalling” and said: “For people to take advantage of Government support available to those who really need it in these unprecedented times is appalling.
“I would like to assure the public that the Met remain committed to working with institutions in the regulated financial sector and law enforcement partners to tackle organised financial crime and bring these serious criminals to justice.”