Cash may be losing its lustre for the general public but it is still king for crooks looking to launder their ill-gotten gains, according to Europol.
Cybercrime is on the rise and bitcoin is in the news, but money laundering methods spotted by authorities remains "overwhelmingly traditional", Europol's report suggests.
In the EU, the use of cash is the main reason triggering suspicious transaction reports within the financial system, accounting for more than 30% of all reports. Meanwhile, Europol notes that despite cash use falling in the EU as people turn to electronic alternatives, the demand for EUR500 notes remains suspiciously high.
Crooks often still launder their profits through old-fashioned physical cash smuggling, with conservative estimates showing EUR1.5 billion in notes detected and/or seized by EU member state authorities each year.
Europol director Rob Wainwright says that the use of cash is a major barrier to criminal investigations and prosecutions, with crooked taking advantage of a fragmented regulatory approach across EU states.
"Stepping up efforts to increase international cooperation and information exchange, and establishing a more harmonised approach among EU Member States concerning cash movements within the EU, are crucial if we are to tackle these criminal activities," says Wainwright.