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China arrests over 1000 for using cryptocurrency to help launder proceeds of phone scams

As local search engines stop providing results on crypto-keywords

China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies has reached a new crescendo, with the nation’s Ministry of Public Security on Wednesday proclaiming it has arrested over 1000 people and shut down 170 gangs that provided crypto-linked money-laundering services.

The Ministry’s announcement says it detected, and dismantled, gangs that provided money-laundering services to criminal organisations.

Some of those organisations allegedly laundered ill-gotten gains from other ventures by building coin-mining farms.

Others are what China calls “two cards” scammers, who funnel their ill-gotten gains to acquire phone cards that are shipped outside China, then use call credit stored in the cards to make scam calls back into the Middle Kingdom. The proceeds of those scams are laundered using cryptocurrencies.

The Ministry therefore asserted that its actions protected China’s citizens, phone networks, and the stability of its financial system, and celebrated the raids by posting the image below to its Weibo account.

Cartoon from Chinese Ministry of Public Security

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s view of phone and crypto crooks.
Click to enlarge

China’s recent crackdown on cryptocurrency mining and usage is gathering pace. Western province Qinghai banned cryptocurrency mining within its borders, and CNBC’s Beijing bureau chief Eunice Yoon has also noticed that Chinese search engines now inform users they are not permitted to offer results for searches about cryptos.

China’s also cracked down on ‘net smut this week, closing websites that feature the stuff, cracking down on users that shared sexual material on social networks, and closing down a video sharing app whose name translates as “Eggplant”. The anti-smut effort was conducted to clean up the internet behind the Great Firewall. ®

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