Increase in Successful Cybercrime Investigations with Direct Results in Burkina Faso


Cybercrime is a transnational crime, involving organised criminal groups and posing challenges in terms of local, national and international governance as well as in the investigation of the Darknet cryptomarket or the exploitation of cryptocurrencies. Globally, investigators specialized in cybercrimes continue to be challenged by the high speed of data exchange, the involvement of multiple providers, and the nuances necessary to apply traditional legal principles to this globalized crime.

Cybercrime is evolving and increasing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Comprehensive social distancing measures are now in place around the world. This has led to a significant increase in the use of online communication by public authorities, businesses and individuals alike. Many are unfamiliar with the use of online technology at this scale. This has presented a large, attractive and vulnerable target-set for cybercriminals to exploit. Combined with remote working and schooling, there are more internet users, who are less knowledgeable of threats and are likely to take more risks while online at home than they would at work or school.

Crimes such as online fraud, extortion and online child sexual abuse target individuals, while the use of ransomware compromises systems – including hospitals. Governments continue to be targeted by malware, and the increasing spread of misinformation and disinformation continues to confuse the public and undermine the scientific response to the pandemic. Other frauds include the offer of services such as unsound investment opportunities (including in cryptocurrencies) and incorrect medical advice and diagnosis.

In this context, during the week of 9-13 November 2020, UNODC’s Global Program against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism (GPML) and the Global Program on Cybercrime in West Africa held a joint online training on cryptocurrency investigations for the Secretariat of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and law enforcement officers from Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Benin, and Sierra Leone.

During the training, a participant from Burkina Faso Police asked for mentoring assistance with a live case (a bitcoin-facilitated fraud). UNODC provided him with specialist advice and guidance to substantiate the case. A few weeks later, the Burkinabe police officer reported that, thanks to UNODC’s training and work, the defendant in the investigation agreed to repay the damages to the victim – BTC 1.279 (which equals approximately $27,000 as of today).

The Burkinabe police officer also participated in the cybercrime trainings that UNODC’s Global Program on Cybercrime in West Africa provided for Burkina Faso in the past few months: cyber-patrolling (October 2020) and online introduction to cybercrime (November 2020). These trainings on cybercrime and cryptocurrency were requested by the Burkina Faso cyber police unit specifically due to an immediate need for these investigation skills.