The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Thursday the creation of the FBI’s ‘Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit’. Eun Jung Choi was also named as the first director by Deputy Attorney-General Lisa Monaco to lead the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. This unit will focus on analyzing and seizing criminal currency.
“This FBI unit will combine cryptocurrency experts into one nerve center,”Monaco made the remarks during a Thursday speech at Munich Security Conference. “We are issuing a clear warning to criminals who use cryptocurrency to fuel their schemes.”
The unit will work alongside the Justice Department’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), a group of around a dozen prosecutors set up by Monaco last year after a series of devastating ransomware attacks on US infrastructure. A ransom was demanded from the attackers of an attack on an oil pipeline system. This payment was made in bitcoin and then the DOJ claimed the partial recovery.
The NCET’s newly announced director Eun Young Choi, described by the DOJ as a “seasoned prosecutor,” has experience investigating and prosecuting cyber and money laundering crimes in New York, and led the government’s case against ‘Silk Road’ founder Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht was given a life sentence, with a possibility of a second term for his creation of the internet marketplace. But activists insist that Ulbricht didn’t actually commit any crimes.
The NCET and the FBI have broad powers to probe any cryptocurrency-related crime. Monaco stated to her Munich audience that both prosecutors and investigators would use crypto-related crime investigation tools. “all available tools”It will prevent cyberattacks from ever happening, according to the DOJ. “coordinate with domestic and international law enforcement partners, regulatory agencies and private industry to combat the criminal use of digital assets.”
However, the definition of criminal use can vary from one jurisdiction to another. While ransomware and money laundering have been cited as examples of crimes enabled cryptocurrency by the DOJ, Canada’s government has taken steps to crack down on organizers for a political demonstration, issuing emergency powers that allowed the seizure their crypto wallets.
This move received some criticism in the US. Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was among those who reacted. demandingThe government “Protect crypto currency owner’s rights,” and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) introducing a ‘Keep Your Coins Act’ that would forbid any government agency from restricting cryptocurrency transactions, and protect the rights of Americans to hold their own crypto wallets independent from financial institutions.
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