10:25 AM 12/8/2017 – Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know
Jerusalem has been the home of the Jews for 3,000 years to deny it is Israel’s capital is Fake History
I study liars. Ive never seen one like President Trump.
Bitcoin soars above $17,000, boosting worries and a worldwide frenzy
This Frosty The Snowman Wears A Donald Trump Hat And Hates Snowflakes
The Early Edition: December 8, 2017
The Evolving Stalemate Between Russia and the West
Steve Bannon officially discloses source of $2 million in personal debt – Center for Public Integrity
Steve Bannon Failed to Disclose That He’s $2 Million in Debt: Report – AlterNet
The Daily Vertical: Let The Power Games Begin
Rachel Maddow Explains Mystery Around Arrests of High-Level Russian Intelligence Officers
Rachel Maddow Explains Mystery Around Arrests of High-Level Russian Intelligence Officers – AlterNet
Bitcoins – Google Search
Bitcoins – Google Search
Criminals are cashing in on Bitcoins for illegal activity from buying drugs, hiring hitmen and forging passports on the Dark Web
Donald Trump Is Making It Hard For Santa Claus To Fulfill Melania’s Christmas List
Criminals are cashing in on Bitcoins for illegal activity from buying drugs, hiring hitmen and forging passports on … – The Sun
Hannity: Trump-Russia Probe ‘A House Of Cards Beginning to Crash Down’ – Fox News Insider
Jake Tapper: Trump Attacks FBI Only When His Side Is Threatened
Donald Trump: The huge Israel announcement has overshadowed the Russia turmoil at home – ABC Online
Poll Shows Trump’s Support Dropping Among White Evangelicals
Why the Kremlin is suddenly admitting that it rigged the election in Donald Trumps favor
Colbert Brings Down The House By Using Trumps Words Against Don Jr.
Russian Colonel General Identified as Key MH17 Figure – bellingcat
Can the president obstruct justice?


Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know

mikenova shared this story from FOX News.

Questions about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election have plagued the Trump administration.

Jerusalem has been the home of the Jews for 3,000 years to deny it is Israel’s capital is Fake History

mikenova shared this story from FOX News.

Fake news is a problem, but fake history is worse.

I study liars. Ive never seen one like President Trump.

mikenova shared this story .

Bitcoin soars above $17,000, boosting worries and a worldwide frenzy

mikenova shared this story .

This Frosty The Snowman Wears A Donald Trump Hat And Hates Snowflakes

mikenova shared this story from Donald Trump.

“The Late Show” version is not a jolly, happy soul.

The Early Edition: December 8, 2017

mikenova shared this story from Just Security.

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.


Clashes broke out between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers yesterday in a number of West Bank cities and near the Gaza Strip following President Trumps decision to announce that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the U.S. would begin moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, over 100 people were injured and larger demonstrations are expected today after Friday prayers, Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash report at the Washington Post.

The Palestinian Hamas militant group have called for a Day of Rage today in protest of Trumps decision, Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem could be a flashpoint and there have also been concerns that Trumps decision could disrupt the reconciliation efforts between the Palestinian Fatah Party, who control the West Bank, and Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip. Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi report at Reuters.

The State Department have ordered tight security restrictions for U.S. diplomatic staff and their families in preparation for violent protests at U.S. missions across the Middle East, confrontations took place yesterday in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and at the border between Israel and Gaza, and there were demonstrations across the region. Peter Beaumont reports at the Guardian.

We support the call for a new Palestinian intifada (uprising) and escalating the resistance, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militant group, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a speech yesterday. Reutersreports.

A senior Palestinian official said that Vice President Mike Pence would not be welcome in the Palestinian territories during his visit to Israel later this month the trip is expected to include a stop at the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, Al Jazeera reports.

Pence still intends to meet with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian leaders and any decision to pull out of the meeting would be counterproductive, a White House official said in response to comments by the senior Palestinian official. The BBC reports.

Trump and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have managed to destroy hope in the two-state solution, the secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) Saed Erekat said yesterdayadding that Palestinians have no option but to focus on equal rights rather than the pursuit of a Palestinian state. Erekats comments may not translate into a change in Palestinian policy, however he has said he planned to push for a shift in strategy within the Palestinian National Council, Mark Landler, David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner report at the New York Times.

The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.) called on militants to close ranks to be ready to support Palestinians and appealed to Muslims to help with money and weapons, Reutersreports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed serious concerns over Trumps announcement on recognizing Jerusalem as Israels capital and to move the U.S. Embassy, the Kremlin said in a statement yesterday following a phone call between the two leaders. Reuters reports.

Netanyahu is headed to Brussels as part of an effort to rally European cooperation for curbing Irans influence in Lebanon and Syria and along the Israeli-Syrian border, according to Israels Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs. While Netanyahu may have been bolstered by Trumps announcement on Jerusalem, it may also have made it harder to enlist European support because of their objection to the move, Laurence Norman observes at the Wall Street Journal.

Muslims in Asia have protested against Trumps decision, including in Indonesia and Malaysia, Kanupriya Kapoor and Joseph Sipalan report at Reuters.

Any changes to the status of the city without the consent of the Palestinians jeopardizes any prospect for peace, former President Jimmy Carter said yesterday in a statement, warning that Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital exacerbates tensions. Rebecca Savransky reports at the Hill.

Almost all former U.S. ambassadors to Israel disagree with Trumps change in policy, a typical view among the diplomats being that the presidents announcement has isolated the U.S. and undermined its position as a broker in the peace process. Sewell Chan reports at the New York Times.

President Trumps decision was symbolic, but has very real, negative consequences for the Israel-Palestine peace process, for the region, and has implications for the U.S.s relationships with key Arab and Muslim allies; it raises the possibility of an enhanced Israeli military occupation and increased settlement in occupied Palestinian territories. Warhad Khalid writes at CNN.

Palestinians, Arabs and the rest of the world will interpret Trumps decision as a major provocation and the president should reconsider this decision immediately as he has undermined international law, conventions and norms, given Israel the green light to continue expanding its settlements, and has potentially emboldened messianic Jewish extremists that could easily ignite a major religious conflagration in the Middle East and beyond. P.L.O. executive member and Palestinian lawmaker, Hanan Ashrawi, writes at the New York Times.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital is not a disaster if the president and the White House are able to keep message discipline, crucially by maintaining the distinction between acknowledging Jerusalem as Israels capital and recognition that the boundaries of the city are yet to be resolved through negotiations. Dennis Ross and David Makovsky write at Foreign Policy.


The British publicist Rob Goldstone sent emails to a Russian participant after the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian individuals, with one of the emails saying that a story about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee (D.N.C.) server was eerily weird considering what they had discussed at Trump Tower. Jim Sciutto, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report at CNN.

The executive of the Russian equivalent to Facebook emailed Donald Trump Jr. and Trump campaign social media director Dan Scavino during the 2016 presidential campaign offering help to promote the Trump campaign among Russian Americans and Russians, the revelations demonstrate a new point of direct contact between influential Russian individuals and Trump campaign officials. Rosalind S. Helderman, Anton Troianovski and Tom Hamburger report at the Washington Post.

An op-ed by the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on his work in Ukraine was not intended for a U.S. audience or to influence the forthcoming case against Manafort, his lawyer, Kevin Downing said yesterday, making the comments after special counsel Robert Muellers team which is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia accused Manafort of violating a court gag order by ghost-writing the article with a long-time Russian colleague of Manaforts. Darren Samuelsohn reports at POLITICO and the article published about Manaforts consulting activities in Ukraine, published under the name of Oleg Voloshin, is available at the Kyiv Post.

Voloshin confirmed that the longtime Manafort colleague referred to by prosecutors was Konstantin Kilimnik, he said that allegations by Muellers team that Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence were shocking. Spencer S. Hsu reports at the Washington Post.

The F.B.I. Director Christopher A. Wray defended his agency during questioning by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, following revelations of alleged bias from top F.B.I. agent Peter Strzok, who was a senior member of Muellers team but removed in July from the investigation. Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima report at the Washington Post.

Wray seemingly confirmed that the F.B.I. had applied for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (F.I.S.A.) as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Ken Dilanian reports at NBC News.

The judge presiding over the case of Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn has recused himself, it remains unclear why Judge Rudolph Contreras took the decision not to hear the case which concerns a guilty plea by Flynn that he made a false statement to F.B.I. agents about his communications with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.


We will never accept Russias occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday in a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, adding that Russia was arming and supporting antigovernment forces in Eastern Ukraine. Gardiner Harris reports at the New York Times.

Tillerson said that U.S. would find it hard to look past or to reconcile Russias invasion of Ukraine, saying that the issue stands as the single most difficult obstacle to us re-normalizing a relationship with Russia. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

Russia is prepared to discuss the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (I.N.F.) treaty with the U.S., a statement by Russias foreign ministry said today, the treaty helped end the Cold War and banned all Soviet Union and American short and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles. Reuters reports.


North Korea is open to direct talks with the U.S., the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, who added that he had conveyed the message to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when they met in Vienna yesterday. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Lavrov accused the U.S. of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and said the U.S. military maneuvers and aggressive rhetoric were unacceptable, according to a statement by the Russian foreign ministry describing the meeting with Tillerson. Reuters reports.


Intense conflict over six days in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa killed 230 people and injured over 400, according to the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, who noted that an intense calm had returned to Sanaa in the last day or so. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

The White House stated that it believed Saudi Arabia were taking actions to open a port in Yemen after Trump called on the blockade to be lifted, Reuters reports.


The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Syria yesterday reproached Russia and Iran for failing to support civilians seeking to evacuate from the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the Syrian capital of Damascus, the BBC reports.

The U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that he would assess the behavior of President Bashar al-Assads delegation and the opposition to see if they have tried to sabotage the peace process being held in Geneva. Tom Miles reports at Reuters.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition coalition forces carried out 33 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 1 and December 3. [Central Command]


Lebanons Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for international support for Lebanon at a summit in France today, following a political crisis that was triggered by Hariris unexpected resignation on Nov. 4, which was later rescinded, before the summit, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed the U.S. backing for Lebanons sovereignty, stability and independence. Josh Lederman and Philip Issa reports at the AP.

The summit in France is expected to send a message to Saudi Arabia and Iran to stop interfering in Lebanon, John Irish reports at Reuters, explaining the significance of Lebanon to the Saudi-Iran rivalry and the bizarre circumstances since Hariris Nov. 4 announcement.


An Argentine federal judge is seeking to arrest the former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchener, accusing her of covering-up the alleged involvement of senior Iranian officials in a 1994 bomb against a Jewish center in Beunos Aires. The BBC reports.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry has sought to remove Libya from Trumps travel ban, the ministry said in a statement yesterday, Reuters reporting.

The Evolving Stalemate Between Russia and the West

mikenova shared this story .

At the beginning of 2017, it appeared as if the strained relationship between Russia and the West was about to undergo a substantial shift. U.S. President Donald Trump, who had campaigned on a platform of improving relations with Russia, was about to be inaugurated. Upcoming elections in the core European Union states of France and Germany offered the possibility that Euroskeptic parties would rise to power, leading to a major change in those countries’ positions, including on maintaining sanctions against Russia. Furthermore, it appeared as if solidarity within NATO, as well as support for Western-leaning states like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, was in danger of weakening substantially.

But as 2018 approaches, it’s clear that instead of waning, Western pressure against Russia has intensified. In the United States, lawmakers wrested the power to withdraw U.S. sanctions against Russia away from the president, partially as a result of the numerous investigations launched into the extent of Russian interference in U.S. elections. Trump essentially was forced to cede his power to unilaterally lift the penalties in July, and Congress subsequently enacted a stronger sanctions regime against Moscow.

In France, the National Front, a Euroskeptic party, and its pro-Russian presidential candidate Marine Le Pen reached the second round of the country’s presidential election, but Le Pen lost to centrist Emmanuel Macron in the decisive vote. Russia certainly had tried to influence the result in favor of Le Pen, but the exposure of the cyberwarfare and information campaigns it had used to try to influence the outcome of U.S. elections and the revelation that the Kremlin was employing the same techniques in Europe, blunted their effectiveness. The same held true during the German general elections in September, where despite Russian efforts, the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany party did not gain substantial traction, even though it did outperform expectations. After the dust of the European elections settled, the European Union maintained its cohesiveness, and its members voted unanimously to extend sanctions against Russia through the end of 2017.

In the meantime, neither the European Union nor NATO has backed away from the countries on the European/Russian borderland. The United States and the European bloc have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, and NATO has followed through with the deployment of semipermanent battalions to Poland and the Baltic states. On its side of the border, Russia has built up its forces as well, and while there has been no major confrontation between Russia and NATO, their military standoff has maintained the intensity of past years.

What’s Ahead in 2018?

Several key issues will shape the direction of ties between Russia and the West in 2018. One is the conflict between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian government in Ukraine’s east, which is entering its fourth year. Following an escalation of violence along the frontlines in the separatist Donbas region shortly after Trump’s inauguration, military activity has decreased in intensity in recent months. The conflict has now taken on the “semi-frozen” nature typical of those in other Russian-backed breakaway territories in the former Soviet space. In the meantime, diplomatic activity between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian separatist conflict picked up after a suggestion by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September that a U.N. peacekeeping force be deployed to Eastern Ukraine.

Putin’s proposal and associated diplomatic efforts have raised the question of whether the end of the Ukrainian conflict could be in sight in 2018. But given the gap between Russia and the West over the nature and parameters of a potential U.N. mission in Donbas, prolonged negotiations are likely before any agreement could be struck. Russia, on one hand, has suggested the deployment of a limited force purely to protect observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on the line of contact between Ukrainian security forces and the separatists. But Ukraine and the United States have both called for a deployment to span all of Donbas, including along the border between the separatist territory and Russia. That option essentially would represent a complete abandonment of Russia’s strategic position in Donbas, given that Moscow is thought to funnel troops and weapons to support the rebels over the border. While Russia can use the peacekeeping proposal to show its willingness to negotiate over the conflict in an effort to stave off additional Western pressure, it does not mean that Russia will capitulate to the Ukrainian-U.S. position. What’s more, Russia could drive an escalation of fighting if it suited its needs.

Depending on what ongoing U.S. investigations over Russian election meddling reveal, the United States could escalate its sanctions regime against Russia. And although Trump does not support it, key members of his administration are openly considering sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine. If the United States decides to take either of those actions, Moscow could choose to respond by escalating the conflict in Eastern Ukraine — or responding elsewhere in an asymmetric fashion.

A longtime driver of tensions between Russia and the West has been the ongoing military buildup by both sides along the European borderlands, which shows no signs of slowing. Russia is expected to permanently deploy Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems to its Kaliningrad enclave on a permanent basis at the beginning of 2018, while NATO will set up new Atlantic and logistics commands, as well as increase coordination efforts on Black Sea patrols and cyberdefense capabilities. The continued buildups could add pressure that would interfere with the resumption of already stalled arms control talks between the United States and Russia.

Steve Bannon officially discloses source of $2 million in personal debt – Center for Public Integrity

mikenova shared this story from Cambridge Analytica – Google News.

Center for Public Integrity
Steve Bannon officially discloses source of $2 million in personal debt
Center for Public Integrity
Fired Trump lieutenant’s reveal follows investigation by Center for Public Integrity.
We now know who Steve Bannon owes $2 million – Raw StoryRaw Story

all 2 news articles »

Steve Bannon Failed to Disclose That He’s $2 Million in Debt: Report – AlterNet

mikenova shared this story from Cambridge Analytica – Google News.

Steve Bannon Failed to Disclose That He’s $2 Million in Debt: Report
In a revised filing on Tuesday, former White House adviser and current Breitbart executive Steve Bannon admitted to owing $2 million that he failed to disclose on his government employee financial filings. As the Center for Public Integrity reports 

The Daily Vertical: Let The Power Games Begin

mikenova shared this story from rferlonline’s YouTube Videos.

From: rferlonline
Duration: 01:56

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.
Originally published at – https://www.rferl.org/a/daily-vertical-let-power-games-begin/28905016.html

Rachel Maddow Explains Mystery Around Arrests of High-Level Russian Intelligence Officers

mikenova shared this story from AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed.

Over the summer, MSNBC reporter Richard Engle went to Russia to investigate a number of 2016 arrests by the government, including one high-ranking intelligence colonel for the FBS. Engle spoke with an attorney representing one person and was threatened live on camera that even asking the questions he was broaching were dangerous.

Rachel Maddow said that her research staff has been monitoring those arrested. The internal department within Russia’s spy agency, the FSB, called it’s cyber-terrorism division the Information Security Department. She recalled that the United States intelligence agencies described the Russian hack involving two different hacker groups: fancy bear and cozy bear. The Information Security Department was the “cozy bear” in the intelligence information.

At the meeting last year with high-ranking FSB officers, men rushed in and put a black bag over the head of the deputy chief of the Information Security Department.

“And he hasn’t been seen since,” Maddow said. His deputy was also arrested that day along with a senior person with Kaspersky Labs, who was charged with treason. She noted that The New York Times described these arrests as the “highest profile arrests of the FSB since the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

“As we’re all watching from the United States, the progress of this American investigation into what Russia did and whether they had help from the [Donald] Trump campaign,” Maddow continued. “We’re watching that investigation indict the Trump campaign chairman and get a guilty plea from the national security advisor. We’re watching the incredibly dramatic investigations, those arrests at that FSB meeting a year ago, those are the closest things we’ve seen to any kind of parallel action happening on the Russian side. Right?”

She noted that the Russians are not likely to be investigating the hack on the United States or any possibly collusion or conspiracy with the Trump campaign. However, they might want to cover it up.

A new outlet in Russia called “The Bell,” published a report that the reason for the black bag being thrown over the man’s head was that he knew Karate and they were concerned he would resist arrest.

“As Americans, the thing we’re most interested in is whether or not those arrests tell us something or prove to us anything about what Russia did in our election,” Maddow said. “In January, The New York Times reported it was possible Russia might have made those arrests to try to stop the flow of information out of Russia about what the Russian government did to hack the U.S. election.”

They cited two U.S. officials saying, “human sources in Russia did play a crucial role in proving to U.S. investigators who was responsible for the DNC hacking.”

“Well now, from the Russia side, ‘The Bell’ is reporting, based on conversations with acquaintances of the men arrested, that the reason they were arrested is because they were the Russian sources who helped U.S. intelligence services get evidence last year,” Maddow said.

Maddow’s research team hired a Russian translator to review the article and explain that “The Bell” reported, “confirmed that the arrest of Sergey Mikhailov and his comrades is connected with the U.S. elections.”

She explained that this website is a new site that has sprung up out of the blue and that her team is trying to seek out confirmation for the story.

“But if, in fact, the news reports are correct and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has locked up his own people who he believes told U.S. investigators about what Russia did in the election last year, including a colonel at the FSB, one of the top cyber spies, if this reporting from Russia bears out, it would prove one important thing for us and raise an important question for us,” she continued.

She explained that it would prove the Russian government is “full of bull-pucky” when they told President Donald Trump that they had nothing to do with the attacks.

“If they hadn’t actually attacked the election they wouldn’t have to lock up people who told the U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had attacked our election,” Maddow explained. “You only lock somebody up if they gave out real information, right?”

She went on to wonder why Russia would be allowing this information to surface now.

“That FSB colonel and those arrested with him have been in jail for a year this week,” she said. “Why would the Russian government allow us to know now the reason they have been in jail all this year, because they helped America figure out Russia hacked our election? Why would it be to Russia’s advantage for us to allowed to know this now?”

Unfortunately, only the intelligence community can answer those questions.

Watch the full commentary below:

Sarah K. Burris writes about politics and technology for Raw Story. 

Rachel Maddow Explains Mystery Around Arrests of High-Level Russian Intelligence Officers – AlterNet

mikenova shared this story from Russian Intelligence services – Google News.

Rachel Maddow Explains Mystery Around Arrests of High-Level Russian Intelligence Officers
Well now, from the Russia side, ‘The Bell’ is reporting, based on conversations with acquaintances of the men arrested, that the reason they were arrested is because they were the Russian sources who helped U.S. intelligence services get evidence last 

Bitcoins – Google Search

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Bitcoins – Google Search

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More than $70 million stolen in bitcoin hack

CNNMoney4 hours ago
Hackers have carried out a heist on a leading digital currency platform, making off with bitcoins worth more than $70 million. “Yesterday morning at about 1 a.m. a hacker or a group of hackers was able to infiltrate our systems through a compromised company computer,” NiceHash CEO Marko Kobal said in …
Hackers Steal $70 Million in Bitcoin
Money Magazine21 hours ago
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Why Has Bitcoin’s Price Gone Up So Fast?

New York Times11 hours ago
SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin has been in a bull market like few the world has ever seen. At the beginning of the year, the price of a Bitcoin was below $1,000. It hit $5,000 in October, then doubled by late November. And on Thursday, less than two weeks later, the price of a single Bitcoin rose above $20,000 …
Criminals are cashing in on Bitcoins for illegal activity from buying drugs, hiring hitmen and forging passports on the Dark Web

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A Sun investigation has now proved that Bitcoin is linked to a range of serious crimes on the Dark Web


By Miles Goslett and Nick Pritchard

8th December 2017, 2:03 am

Updated: 8th December 2017, 4:22 am

THE smartly dressed young woman barely attracted a glance as she swept into the second-hand electronics store and approached the Bitcoin machine.

Standing there for half an hour, she peeled off £50 notes from a fat roll and fed them into the slot — until £10,000 in sterling had been converted into the electronic currency that only exists online.

When she came back the next day to do the same, store manager Simao Arinto became suspicious.

“It was £50 after £50 after £50,” said the boss of the CeX store in central London’s Tottenham Court Road.

“She told us she got some kind of insurance that paid out for some kind of disease. What was the truth? Who knows?”

The police, however, believe they do know the truth, warning this week that this fast-growing digital cryptocurrency is being exploited by organised criminals who use Bitcoin cashpoints to launder dirty cash.

Bitcoins were being traded for around $20,000 each yesterday as speculators created the biggest buying rush the world markets have ever seen.

Some exchanges saw the value of the digital currency 52 percent rise at its peak yesterday – with the past seven days seeing a 72 per cent rise.

The astronomical price increases–driven by demand for the coins the numbers of which are limited–are the biggest in the history of modern financial markets, even beating ‘Tulip Mania’, a 17th century financial crash that became known as the first financial ‘bubble’.

Bitcoin’s price has gone up faster in past three years than the price of tulip bulbs did before that bubble burst, according to figures from the New York firm Convoy Investments.

Now a Sun investigation has proved that Bitcoin is also linked to a range of serious crimes thanks to the anonymity it offers.

Within minutes of logging on to the Dark Web — an encrypted corner of the internet that can only be accessed by special browsers — we found organised criminals offering a chilling array of services.

For payment in Bitcoin, we could get a computer hacker to “destroy a business or a person’s life”, buy drugs, passports, cloned credit cards and counterfeit money or even order acid attacks, rape and murder.

Bitcoins only exist as lines of computer code and are created and stored online–and the surge in value means that criminals who had previously been paid in Bitcoin are seeing their wealth rise astronomically.

They can be ‘mined’ by computer users using software that both verifies other people’s transactions and generates a new ‘block’ of code by solving increasingly complex mathematical problems.

They were created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto — an unknown person or group — but have surged in value by more than 1,400 per cent this year alone.

They hit a peak this week when one unit went from being worth £8,750 on Tuesday to £12,500 Thursday at the time of writing. The value has probably risen again since.

Bitcoin’s rapid rise is fuelled by the fact there is a limited supply — only 21million will ever exist — and that it is completely unregulated by banks and governments, making it attractive for criminals or those who want to keep their transactions secret.

One of the first sites we come across on the Dark Web is Dream Market, where a gram of super-strength cocaine costs 0.00344 of a Bitcoin, the equivalent of £43.

The vendor, called Drugkingz, promises to ship it anywhere in the UK or Ireland.

Another site, called Clone Card Crew, offers cloned credit cards, and boasts: “All cards are skimmed and cloned. They are legal to receive. Using them is a different thing.”

One truly disturbing site is Slayers Hitmen. The online agency claims to have 48 operatives worldwide who will inflict all sorts of physical attacks in return for Bitcoin.

An assassination by shooting costs the Bitcoin equivalent of £11,185. An acid attack is £3,000, rape £1,500 while a “scare” comes in at £750.

The site asks for 50 per cent of the fee to be deposited upfront in an online Bitcoin wallet.

At the UK Guns and Ammo site, you can buy a new 9mm Glock 19 pistol for 0.04 Bitcoins, worth £500. A new 9mm Walther P99 handgun goes for £650.

Yet another site offers “high quality” fake euros that will apparently pass UV and pen tests and work in vending machines.

Thirty bills, worth 600 euros, cost the Bitcoin equivalent of 315 euros.

Cryptocurrency specialist detective inspector Timothy Court, of the Met’s Organised Crime Group, said this week: “We are seeing criminals using Bitcoin to buy drugs and firearms on the Dark Web and also laundering money with it.

“Cash is hard to move for criminals but cryptocurrency is an easy way to move assets across borders.”

He added that it was an “emerging issue” which is being closely monitored by law enforcement agencies.

Julian Dixon, CEO of anti-money laundering and big data specialists Fortytwo Data, said: “I warmly welcome The Sun’s investigation.

“I hope the authorities sit up and take notice of this report, which suggests highly dangerous individuals and criminal organisations are using a cloak of anonymity surrounding Bitcoin to finance crime.

“Regulation of crypto-currencies is long overdue so the funding of these activities by worldwide criminals, in even the darkest region of the web, ceases.”

The Met’s Serious and Organised Crime Command is carrying out a cryptocurrencies training programme to help sharpen its officers’ awareness of the problem.

But they face an uphill battle combatting it, as detective superintendent Nick Stevens explains.

He said: “Cryptocurrencies are not illegal, but they are unregulated, decentralised currencies that can be quickly transferred across borders then converted into the currency of the country where the funds are received.”

He added that his team is currently investigating several major criminals who use Bitcoin and the Dark Web for “the supply of drugs, firearms, modern slavery and child exploitation”.

The CeX store in Tottenham Court Road is more used to customers buying and selling unwanted DVDs than arriving with large sums of cash.

But that could change now it is one of only 98 UK High Street shops to host a Bitcoin terminal.

Boss Mr Arinto told The Sun that the Bitcoin users he sees are a mixed bunch, but one trait unites them: A desire for privacy. This is not surprising.

The terminals offer an easy way for drug dealers and other criminals to launder cash without having to go through any bank checks.

After notes have been converted into Bitcoins, they can be moved anywhere in the world electronically then withdrawn as clean cash.

They are stored in a virtual wallet on a PC or mobile phone app and can then be withdrawn from another Bitcoin machine in the local currency.

This system makes the cash almost impossible to trace. Mr Arinto said: “I see people from all types of backgrounds. Some try to cover their faces and will look around to see if anyone is looking.

“Some of them come in and make the whole shop stink of weed.

“There is a £400 limit on deposits, but there is no limit on how many deposits you can make and no identity checks.

“You want to ask questions but it’s their personal life.”

That might be so, but it is a problem that has the potential to affect us all.

There are more than 1,300 cryptocurrencies in use, with new ones emerging all the time.

Bitcoin’s extraordinary growth has sparked alarm among police and intelligence agencies across the globe, with the Russian mafia in particular known to be capitalising on the phenomenon.


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The Way It Works

BITCOIN is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. It is produced by people running powerful computer programs to solve complex mathematical problems. Here we answer the main questions about it.

What makes it different from a normal currency? There are no physical notes or coins, so no single institution controls it. It exists only as lines of computer code. The value of Bitcoin is highly volatile, which has led people to buy it as a risky speculative investment.

Who created it? An anonymous software developer, or possibly developers, known as Satoshi Nakamoto.

Who prints it? No one. Bitcoin is created digitally by a community of people that anyone can join. Bitcoins are “mined” using computing power to solve puzzles and unlock currency units.
is there a limit on how many Bitcoins can be mined? Only 21million Bitcoins can ever be created by miners. However, these coins

can be divided into smaller parts. The smallest divisible amount is one hundred-millionth of a Bitcoin and is called a Satoshi, after the founder.

Is its use truly anonymous? You can set up a Bitcoin address in seconds – and it does not have to be linked to any name or address. But Bitcoin stores details of every single transaction that has ever happened in a huge version of a ledger, called the blockchain. This blockchain tells all about each purchase by each address linked to each Bitcoin.

Detective chief superintendent Mick Gallagher, head of the Met’s Organised Crime Command, says police have been aware of the threat for around 18 months but “at the moment it feels like there is significant growth”.

This week, the Treasury said that money-laundering regulations should be updated to include virtual currencies.

But while we wait for that to happen, law agencies have their work cut out to stop Bitcoin and its rivals allowing requests for serious crimes to be just a few clicks away.

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