The anonymity of bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, has made it a darling of criminals and the so-called dark web.
The Italian mafia has used bitcoin to launder money for its illicit activities, for instance, and the notorious WannaCry hackers extorted over $140,000 worth of the cryptocurrency from their malware victims.
And the reported kidnapping of a 20-year old mother might provide the latest example of bitcoin being used for nefarious purposes.
Chloe Ayling, a British glamour model, says she was tricked into going to Italy last month for a photo shoot set up by Polish gang members, as reported by Business Insider’s Kieran Corcoran. Those criminals, according to Ayling, kidnapped her when she arrived in Milan in order to auction her off on the dark web as a sex-slave. Ayling told police her captors ultimately let her go after they discovered from her Instagram profile she was a new mother, according to Corriere Della Sera, Italy’s second largest newspaper.
Ayling told Corriere Della Sera that her abductors could have sold her for at least $300,000 in bitcoin. Here’s what she said over the weekend:
I shouldn’t have been caught, as their boss had seen some of my Instagram photos where it was clear that I’m a mom with a child, and that’s against the organization, which operates on the deep web dealing with various crimes, from drug dealing to hits; auctions for kidnapped girls apparently start at $300,000 worth of bitcoin.
Authorities arrested one person, Lukasz Herba, a Polish man who lives in the UK, in Italy in connection to the kidnapping case, according to the Daily Mail, a UK newspaper. Authorities in Britain, Italy, and Poland are investigating further.
Since transactions on bitcoin’s blockchain network are decentralized and anonymous, the cryptocurrency provides an attractive option for criminals looking to conduct business outside of the watchful eye of government officials.