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Germany & Austria Fund a Bitcoin Financial Crime Research Project

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:48 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:48 PM

A bilateral research initiative sees Germany and Austria funding the project which is focused on organized financial crime specifically committed with virtual currencies.

The project, titled ‘BITCRIME’  will see funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT).

The project will see a total of €2.4 million (approx. $2.75 million) and will span a total of 25 months.

Citing the growth of the use of virtual currencies which are independent of central banks or other authorities, the project’s homepage states that virtual currencies are hence “attractive” to those partaking in organized financial crime. The “challenge” also sees prevention and prosecution strategies as “lacking”.

An excerpt from the project’s goal reads:

The joint project will assess the subject [of virtual currencies] and its threat profile in order to develop innovative and workable approaches toward regulating virtual currencies in a way that is compatible with their fundamental nature. The project will strive to develop actionable, internationally applicable and interoperable solutions for Europe and beyond.

New Approaches for Tackling Bitcoin-based Crime

Notably, the project makes the distinction that all Bitcoin transactions are public on the blockchain, which thereby “allows for the development of new approaches”, which is ostensibly where the project will focus on.

The project sees a number of partners from Germany and Austria and is divided between two subprojects between the countries.

The German Subproject

The German subproject will focus on the development of “technical and organizational approaches” to foster effective criminal investigation. Regulatory approaches that will safeguard legitimate users of Bitcoin and virtual currencies while preventing crime will also be prioritized.

Interestingly, a test environment will be developed to simulate a virtual currency wherein researchers will study common characteristics of illegal transactions in an effort to identify them in the real world. The research and knowledge gained from the effort will then be demonstrated and tested in a proof-of-concept environment.

Altogether, the German side of the bilateral project will see the majority of the funding, at €1.8 million.

The Austrian subproject

Over in Austria, the approach will see a focus on the analysis of patterns in criminal financial transactions. Research will also canvass “adjacent ecosystems” that will keep an eye on social media and platforms like the Darknet.

The goal is to identify and de-anonymize criminals, as a result of the sweeping effort that combines information research from transactional, social media and Darknet analysis, the project revealed.

The Austrian subproject will see a volume of €635,000 in funding.

The project comes at a time when the European Parliament has proposed a task force for virtual currencies. A recent vote in the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee of the European Parliament is also pushing for the Anti-Money Laundering Directive to include digital currency exchanges under its purview.

Featured image from Shutterstock.