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Cryptocurrencies and darknet investigations training course

Vientiane, Lao PDR (12 September 2019)
-Today representatives from various departments in the Lao government finished a three-day training course on Cryptocurrencies and Darknet Investigation hosted by UNODC with the support of the Government of Japan. Over the course of the training, participants learned in detail how cryptocurrencies work, how they can be abused by criminals, and how to incorporate cryptocurrency and darknet investigations into their work. The training was attended by representatives from the Lao Computer Emergency Response Team (LaoCERT), the People's Supreme Court, the Office of the Supreme Public Prosecutor, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLIO), the Information Technology Department and several branches of Lao law enforcement. By working together in this workshop, officials from across the Lao government have developed relationships that will enable inter-agency cooperation as they work to address the challenges and opportunities presented by cryptocurrencies.

The pseudonymous nature of cryptocurrencies presents a unique challenge for law enforcement officers working to trace global financial flows or detect the proceeds of crime. As cryptocurrencies are more widely adopted, authorities need to be prepared to manage their use in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the financial system. According to a UNODC expert leading the workshop, "in a few years the challenge will be the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. More countries want to have their own stable coin, and consortiums will create cryptos. This could create challenges for law enforcement." Awareness of this new technology-the challenges and opportunities it presents-will enable Lao officials to prepare for the mainstream use of cryptocurrencies and create the necessary regulations to manage their use and exchange.

Officials also learned how to conduct darknet investigations. With the spread of mobile networks and the Internet in the Mekong Region, organized crime is using a variety of platforms-including the darknet-to facilitate illicit activity. By monitoring darknet marketplaces and forums, law enforcement will be able to detect and disrupt criminal activity in the real world.

Over the course of the three-day training, Lao officials learned about emerging challenges, and the ways to respond to them. Experts introduced the history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, explaining how blockchain technology can be harnessed to facilitate legitimate transactions with proper regulation. Participants put their knowledge to the test by setting up wallets, transferring small sums between each other, and trying to seize bitcoins using each other's private keys. By practicing these techniques and using new technology, Lao officials will be able to use information gathered from a variety of platforms in their investigations.

This workshop was one of several positive steps taken to address the challenge presented by darknet use and cryptocurrencies. Several working groups across the Lao government are working to develop regulations to manage the use of Bitcoin in Lao PDR, though new regulations have yet to be adopted. One participant from AMLIO stated that; "The training is very helpful, we can learn how cryptocurrencies works, and in future better regulate its use". Continuing to work with Lao officials to develop their capacity to regulate new technology is essential for ensuring Lao PDR is able to prevent their future misuse by organized crime.