50 notes into their digital evan rose bitcoin terminals. The extent to which Britain’s fast-growing network of Bitcoin cash machines is being exploited by drug gangs can be revealed today.
Up to four in five of those using the new ATMs are suspected drug dealers, one said. It can then be transferred across borders and withdrawn in any currency, and is hard to trace. 1,200 a month, or commission on each deposit. A fast-growing web of Bitcoin ATMs, owned by a range of operators, has sprung up across the UK from Penzance to Glasgow. There are now 98, with locations including a cannabis shop in Croydon, a vaping store in Tunbridge Wells, a fish and chip shop in Brighton and a food store in Derby.
The machines, connected to a Bitcoin exchange, are also used by speculators investing in the cryptocurrency, which has increased in value more than tenfold in a year. It’s easy money for us. 200 a month just to have it sitting in the shop. We have had one since May and we get all sorts. Boys wearing hoodies, kids aged 17 or 18. I don’t know if they are criminals, they don’t like me to see what they are doing.
Staff at Loading Bar in Dalston, East London, estimate that at least 60 per cent who use its Bitcoin ATM, installed six months ago, are drug dealers. At first it was about 80 per cent,’ said a male employee who did not want to be named. 250 in a single transaction has to register using their fingerprints and two forms of ID. Detectives from Scotland Yard’s elite Organised Crime Command say Bitcoin is one of the biggest emerging obstacles to tackling major gangs. The UK is several steps behind the criminals and playing catch-up. Scare stories about the use of Bitcoin on the Dark Web have been common since its inception. Why has is taken so long for the authorities to decide to act?
Bitcoin emerged in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. It is unregulated, hard to trace and exists only in cyberspace in the form of a numerical code. It can be exchanged anonymously with anyone in the world at the click of a mouse. But as it is not tied to any assets in the real world and the value is driven purely by demand, experts fear the Bitcoin bubble will burst. Cannabis shop manager Tom Barber is happy to close his doors when customers ask for privacy to deposit huge bundles of cash into his Bitcoin ATM. It’s been great for business,’ he said.
We get ten to 20 people using the ATM a day. We have had everyone from businessmen trying to hide from the taxman, to college students, to immigrants sending money home. 500 limit per transaction on the machine, but the number of transactions you can do a day is limitless. You don’t get to hear what the money is for, but it would not surprise me if drug dealers were using it.
There was one drug dealer I heard that was about to get caught so he put everything he had into Bitcoin. When he came out of prison, the value had gone up so much he bought a house. 100,000 deposited at his vape store’s Bitcoin ATM in the past three months. He said 90 per cent of users are either business people or curious investors. His machine is provided by Alpha Vend, which pays him 30 per cent of the commission it makes on every deposit.