Financial investigations often reach beyond domestic borders; therefore, competent authorities must have a timely focus on formal and informal international cooperation efforts and ensure they are maintained for the duration of the case. Establishing early contact aids practitioners in understanding the foreign legal system and potential challenges in obtaining additional leads and informing a common strategy. It also allows the foreign jurisdiction to prepare for its role in providing co-operation. Considering the trans-border nature of the Internet, which serves as an exclusive platform for the operation of virtual currencies, international cooperation will be an essential element of financial investigations into virtual currency-related offenses. To this end, both formal and informal cooperation modalities must be employed efficiently and, most importantly, in an expeditious manner due to the volatility of electronic evidence and traces of crime proceeds.
Financial investigators can avail themselves of a multitude of cooperation modalities, such as:
- Cooperation through dedicated international cooperation networks targeting proceeds of crime, such as the Camden Asset Recovery Interagency Network (CARIN), the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), which is a partnership between the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), or more specialized networks for asset recovery, such as the Global Focal Point Network on Asset Recovery, a joint project of the StAR Initiative and Interpol focusing on proceeds of corruption;
- Use police-to-police cooperation modalities, especially 24/7 contact points under the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, G8 Network of High Tech Crime Units national contacts or Interpol contact points, who can provide both intelligence or execute data preservation and other investigative requests directly, without the need for lengthy mutual legal assistance procedures;
- Make contact with FIUs in foreign jurisdictions, requesting access to STRs or other intelligence information or analysis through the national FIU utilizing the Egmont Secure Web46 or other bilateral modalities; and
- Engage informal procedures with a central authority (Prosecutor’s Office) for transmitting mutual legal assistance requests to a foreign jurisdiction. With the last option, without going into unnecessary detail on the legally complex mutual legal assistance practicalities, additional difficulty with utilizing mutual legal assistance requests for the seizure of centralized or decentralized virtual currencies is the lack of legal regulation for such currencies (already discussed in this Manual leaving their status in the financial system of the requested state open to interpretation. It has to be kept in mind that mutual legal assistance is a highly formalized process that relies on exact definitions and clear procedures and is often prejudiced by the lack of understanding or willingness of the requested state to deal with the issues that may be alien to its legal system.