Four more people have been arrested in the ongoing investigation into the JPEX cryptocurrency exchange, bringing the total number of arrests to 18.
The latest arrests occurred in the prefectures of Hokkaido, Hyogo, and Okinawa. The individuals, all of whom are in their twenties and thirties, are suspected to be part of a criminal group that used the exchange to launder money.
Authorities allege that the group was using the exchange to process funds for the purposes of fraud, money laundering, and other illicit activities. The group is believed to have received large sums of money from various sources, such as internet fraud schemes and drug sales, which they then deposited into JPEX’s accounts.
The group then allegedly used the exchange to buy and sell cryptocurrency, which it converted into cash. This cash was then withdrawn from JPEX and used to purchase luxury items, such as cars and art works.
According to Japanese media outlets, the group was able to launder the money without alerting financial regulators due to the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency transactions.
The investigation is being coordinated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, which has set up a special investigative unit to follow up on leads related to the JPEX case. The unit is composed of officers from intelligence, cybercrime, and financial investigation divisions.
The 18 arrested persons are facing charges of criminal conspiracy, money laundering, and other violations of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act. If convicted, they could spend several years in prison.
The investigation has already unearthed dozens of suspicious transactions, with millions of dollars having been laundered through JPEX’s accounts. Authorities are now strengthening their efforts to ensure that such activities are not able to be carried out in the future.