The general goal of cybercrime, as with traditional crime, is to generate a profit. Those proceeds may be searched for and confiscated.
The use of the Internet and advanced technologies allows organised crime groups to commit cyber offences from anywhere in the world. Proceeds may also be laundered online, and can be held in various forms on the internet such as Bitcoin. Furthermore, online proceeds of crime are detected through electronic evidence found on computers or storage devices. This type of evidence is volatile, often intangible and in another jurisdiction.
Investigations of cyber offences will therefore almost always have an international component, which presents significant challenges for authorities in the detection and confiscation of cybercrime proceeds.
What are the phases of confiscating proceeds of cybercrime?
The confiscation process can be divided into three phases:
- Investigative phase – financial investigation, where proceeds of crime are identified and located, and evidence collected. Property may be frozen to secure later confiscation ordered by the court.
- Judicial phase – the defendant is convicted (or found not guilty), and the decision on confiscation is made final.
- Disposal phase – the property is actually confiscated and disposed by the State in line with the local laws.
What types of property can be confiscated, and how are they detected?
Proceeds of crime are usually concealed by offenders as they constitute evidence. When proceeds of crime cannot be found, confiscation of property corresponding to the value of illegal proceeds is possible. Therefore criminal offenders usually also conceal their property. The types of property that may be confiscated include:
Data about cash money can be obtained through various information sources, interviews or a house search. In order to obtain data on a bank account, a court order is usually necessary.
Central records of the holders of securities are normally kept by the Clearing and Depository Company. The conditions to access such data depend on the national legislation.
- Vehicles – records normally kept under the responsible ministry
- Vessels and aircrafts – central records are usually kept
- Highly valuable property such as paintings – information can be obtained from the companies that insure the property
Data is obtained from the land register. If the land register does not consist of up to date central computer records, obtaining data can be more difficult.
Offenders may also have property abroad, and data can be attained from tax returns or profit and loss statements (companies).
Detecting and confiscating proceeds of crime from cyber offences presents many challenges for authorities, due to the technology involved and transnational nature of cybercrime. Various property types can be confiscated as proceeds of cybercrime offences, including property corresponding to the value of the illegal proceeds if the direct proceeds cannot be found.