Connecting the Dots: Misuse of New Payment Methods, Virtual Assets, and Social Media in Money Laundering and Financing Terrorism

Tunis, Republic of Tunisia – 4 December 2023

“The total market cap of all crypto assets has reached $1.1 trillion by the end of Q3 2023![1]

A staggering figure that may have attracted investors to maximize their wealth by using crypto assets or currency. It has been similarly attractive to organized criminal groups and terrorist organizations to use it to channel and fund their crimes. Noting this nature of cryptocurrency and assets, UNODC, in partnership with the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), EU Global Facility (EUGF) and the Tunisian Financial Analysis Committee (CTAF) has organized a Regional Conference on “AML/CFT and New Technologies: New Payment Methods, Virtual Assets, and Social Media” in Tunis, Tunisia.

Many people remain unfamiliar with the concept of having a virtual or digital form of currency or asset with a value that is not physically tangible and only exists in the digital sphere. In simple terms, cryptocurrency is a representation of value that can be digitally traded and exchanged by a community of users.[2] In return, crypto assets refer to any digital representation of an item or asset, such as a painting, with a value that can be digitally traded, transferred, or used for payment.

Cryptocurrency/assets are not issued or guaranteed by any jurisdictions, such as a government or a central bank, and can only function through the given validity of its community of users. The virtual/digital character of cryptocurrency/asset makes payments faster, easier, and cheaper. However, they are largely unregulated, which poses the risk of them being used by criminals and terrorists.[3] Furthermore, there is a risk that cryptocurrency/asset itself can become the subject of theft. A blockchain analytics firm has reported a record $3.8 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen from various services in 2022.[4]  

The regional conference provided a platform for cooperation to address such a risk with more than 100 representatives from central banks, financial intelligence units (FIUs), law enforcement agencies (LEAs), sectoral bodies tasked with supervision and monitoring of cryptocurrency/asset, and other relevant entities and agencies related to countering money laundering and financing terrorism. The conference aimed at strengthening participants’ awareness of the FATF standards concerning new payment technologies, of crypto wallets and blockchain analysis, money laundering and financing terrorism risks arising from new payment methods, and how social media can be misused for financing terrorism purposes.

The discussions focused on technical and legislative assistance, risk assessments and management, social media and Metaverse challenges and opportunities (such as darknet marketplaces and nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to fund terrorism), financial crime prevention, and guideline development to identify, investigate, prosecute, seize, confiscate, and manage seized cryptocurrency/asset. Practical case studies from the region, such as on blockchain tracing techniques using open and free tools, were also examined to visualize such information.

The conference led to the development of a set of adopted recommendations, which highlighted the need for public-private partnership for information and best practices exchange, regulation versus prohibition of the use of cryptocurrency/asset, and compliance policies for social media companies. The impact of the conference will further crystallize in the application of the vital knowledge gained by the attendees.

[1] Ciphertrace-Crypto-crimes-AML-Q3-22-Report_FINAL.pdf

[2] Virtual currencies – Key Definitions and Potential AML/CFT Risks (

[3] Virtual Assets (

[4] 2022 Biggest Year Ever For Crypto Hacking - Chainalysis