In April 2019, Mexican police arrested suspected human trafficker Ignacio Santoyo in a plush area of the Caribbean resort of Playa del Carmen after linking him to a prostitution racket extending across Latin America.
Yet it was not the 2,000 women Santoyo is alleged to have blackmailed and sexually exploited that ultimately led to his capture, but the bitcoin he is suspected of using to help launder the proceeds of his operations, officials said.
The cryptocurrency is emerging as a new front in Latin America’s struggle against gangs battling for control of vast criminal markets for sex, drugs, guns and people, according to law enforcement authorities.
“There’s a transition to committing crimes in cyberspace, like acquiring cryptocurrencies to launder money … and the pandemic is accelerating it,” said Santiago Nieto, head of the Mexican finance ministry’s financial intelligence unit (UIF).
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