Every year, cross-border investigation into illicit money flows (IMFs) are hindered by fragmented e-evidence. The TRACE project addresses this issue by delivering a modular open-source framework for money-laundering investigations which can be tailored to meet law enforcement agencies’ needs.
TRACE solutions will empower law enforcement agencies to connect and visualise criminal networks, organisations, its people, and assets by being able to use AI and Knowledge Graph technology allowing the collection and analysis of structured and unstructured data (such as text, audio, video from different sources). As a result, they will be in a better position to track, disrupt and target illicit money flows more efficiently and produce reliable e-evidence which in turn will improve the possibility of bringing such offences to trial along with help to pave the way for recovering the proceeds of crime.
To implement this project, a bottom-up approach is necessary to gather the experiences and needs of investigators who are familiar with such cases. After all, only these experiences can serve as a basis for the development of a technical solution that can support investigators in the future.
As part of the implementation of the TRACE Project and to achieve the above objectives, the TRACE Consortium kick-started focus group discussions with LEAs in November and December 2021. LEA personnel across Europe participated in discussions on three thematic areas:
- Investigating illicit money flows
- Tech-solutions & investigator’s needs
- Good practice in information sharing
During discussions, the LEAs gave insights related these thematic areas.
Insights gathered during the focus groups include:
- Tax fraud, Bank fraud, Credit Card fraud, Insurance fraud, Money laundering, Terrorism, Human trafficking, Drug trafficking, and Arms trafficking, smuggling, cross-border VAT fraud, customs fraud, benefit fraud, computer fraud, cybercrime, and counterfeiting money are crimes that are typically associated with IMFs.
- Illicit money flows are often linked to (legal) business models such as real estate transactions, organised retail trade. Trading/purchase of rare earths or precious metals.
- Common methods of transferring assets in illicit money flows include cash couriers, cash deposit, crypto currencies, wire transfers, shell corporations, and combination of methods.
- In the case of tracking/combating illicit money flows, investigations may start as part of a traditional policing activities. In addition, illicit money flows may come to light because of a suspicious transaction / activity report submitted to the FIUs and/or as part of a public private partnership between LEAs and financial sector where they exist.
- Sources of information that are necessary in the prosecution of IMFs include witness reports/interviews, deep web, Dark web, national databases, international databases, documented previous cases/investigations, other domestic police units, international and regional police authorities, national non-police authorities, and public / private partnerships.
- In terms of tracking and combating IMFs across borders, the following forms of cooperation with international law and other domestic law enforcement authorities are essential: Informal information exchange, formal information exchange, joint investigations, as well as joint operational planning and execution.
- Specialised digital forensics or investigation software as well as trained personnel who can use these are particularly needed for cases where LEAs have to trace IMFs.
As organised crime networks operate across borders, use legal loopholes and advanced technology, it is notoriously difficult to detect, and trace hidden and illicit money flows. The TRACE project will introduce innovative data management solutions combined with AI analytics to enhance the capabilities of law enforcement agencies in tracing and recovering illicit money flows and generating court‐proof e‐evidence, assisting in the essential fight against cybercrime.
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