Bitcoin [BTC] worth $5.84 million stolen from MapleChange; Binance CEO gives his insight

MapleChange, a Canada-based cryptocurrency exchange, recently announced that their platform was hacked. The exchange platform took to their Twitter handle to provide clarity on the situation, stating that they could not refund the stolen cryptocurrencies.

According to their official post, a bug on the platform enabled a group of hackers to withdraw funds remotely. The platform reported that 913 Bitcoins [BTC] were stolen and that they cannot refund any of the funds until a “thorough investigation” was conducted.

Another controversial aspect was that the “thorough investigation” resulted in the exchange platform realizing that they did not have funds for repaying its users. Furthermore, they stated that the platform would not function anymore and that they would soon deactivate their social media channels. Their official post stated:

“We have sustained a hack, and we are investigating the issue.”

On their official Twitter handle, the exchange stated that they had not “disappeared”, but had temporarily turned off their accounts to think of a solution.

In addition, they could not refund “everyone with all their funds”, but would soon open wallets in order to allow its users to “hopefully” withdraw whatever funds were left on the exchange. They added:

“We CANNOT refund any BTC or LTC funds unfortunately. We will try our best to refund everything else.”

Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of trading volume, was surprised by the hack and stated that a procedure was required to rank exchanges based on their wallet storage. He added that users had to avoid using exchange platforms which did not have anything in their cold wallets.

Maplechange’ed, a platform dedicated to find, take down and expose maplechange.com, with the help of members from the Lumeneo [LMO] telegram channel, allegedly found that Glad Poenaru, a service technician at American Piledriving Equipment, could have been responsible for the hack.

Joseph Young, a cryptocurrency investor and analyst, stated:

“A small crypto exchange pulled off an exit scam, taking all customer funds. There is no incentive for using small exchanges. Use established exchanges that are regulated, & transparent. Small exchanges also focus on maximizing profitability, not security or investor protection.”

MapleChange further added:

“We are sending all of the coin developers the wallets containing the coins we have left. So far, LMO and CCX have been handed over the funds.”

https://ambcrypto.com/bitcoin-btc-worth-5-84-million-stolen-from-maplechange-binance-ceo-gives-his-insight/

How The Unexplained Wealth Order Combats Money Laundering

The UK is a haven for dirty money; more than £90 billion is estimated to be laundered through the country per year. The size of the UK’s financial and professional services sector, its open economy and the attractiveness of the London property market to overseas investors all make it unusually exposed to international money laundering risks. As part of new measures to tackle asset recovery and money laundering, the UK government introduced Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) in January, which are being hailed as the cure to Britain’s dirty money problem.

What is an Unexplained Wealth Order?

UWOs require the owner of an asset worth more than £50,000 to explain how they were able to afford that asset. Introduced primarily to target Russian and Azerbaijan laundromats, UWOs have wide-ranging applications to all situations where the National Crime Agency (NCA) believes wealth was acquired illicitly, including tax evasion.

The game-changing nature of UWOs lies in the power they give UK law enforcement to prosecute. Formerly, little could be done to act on highly suspicious wealth unless there was a legal conviction in the country of origin. In cases where the origin country is in crisis or the individual holds power within a corrupt government, this is unlikely to be achieved. Where previously law enforcement agencies needed to prove in court that an asset was purchased with laundered funds, UWOs shift the burden of proof away from prosecutors and on to the asset’s owner.

Preventing Financial Crime with Unexplained Wealth Orders

The first successful use of a UWO since its implementation is the recent case of Zamira Hajiyeva, who owns millions of dollars in properties in London through offshore companies. Her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for fraud and misappropriation of public funds, and authorities were able to identify a clear disparity between his income and the couple’s apparent wealth.

With corruption watchdog Transparency International estimating that £4 billion of UK property has been purchased with the proceeds of crime, it is hoped that this successful implementation of a UWO will herald a clampdown on overseas criminals laundering via the property market.

The success of this UWO has been fundamental in beginning to reduce the appeal of the UK as a destination for illicit income. In June, mortgage brokers were already reporting that Russian purchases of prime real estate in London had slowed as a result of both government pressure and a tightening of anti-money laundering rules.

There are, however, reasons to be wary of perceiving the introduction of UWOs as a cure-all for the UK’s money laundering problems. These court orders are ineffective as soon as a defendant can provide an explanation for the source of their wealth. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, they then win the argument. Legal difficulties and costs are other factors that can lead to delays in the UK’s fight against money laundering, while information obtained via a UWO cannot be used in criminal proceedings against the respondent. For UWOs to have credibility, authorities will need to ensure the first uses of them continue to be successful in order to serve as a useful deterrent going forward.

Further, money laundering covers a wide range of criminal activity and consequently can’t be solved by a single approach. Fragmented supervision and anonymous ownership of property in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are just two areas where Transparency International is still advocating for change to improve the UK’s asset recovery and anti-money laundering regime.

How Can We Continue to Fight Money Laundering?

It is clear that UWOs have the potential to act as powerful tools for law enforcement but are not yet being used frequently enough— more action is required if real change is to come. We need further action from the government to restrict property ownership and levy realistic local taxes.

With UWOs beginning to lead to the identification of criminals, questions will be asked of the financial institutions who facilitated the individual’s money management. To better equip themselves for the fight against money laundering, banks need to overhaul outdated AML systems to suit the complexity of the schemes perpetrated by criminals. They need to combat problems by employing entity resolution and network analysis techniques to understand vast data networks and identify hidden money.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/vishalmarria/2018/10/25/how-the-unexplained-wealth-order-combats-money-laundering/#26a904a54703

How Binance is Legitimizing the Crypto Market by Eliminating Money Laundering

Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, has voluntarily engaged in an initiative to eliminate money laundering on its platform.

For years, despite the inherent lack of privacy measures on major public blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum that discourage the settlement of illicit transactions, a widely pushed narrative against crypto has been the suspected usage of digital assets by criminals.

Eliminating Easily Refutable Claims

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, EOS, and many other major cryptocurrencies are not anonymous by nature. With Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) systems integrated by cryptocurrency exchanges, it is extremely difficult for criminals to utilize digital assets to settle the transfer of illegal proceeds.

Authorities and government agencies across the globe are well aware of the non-anonymous characteristic of blockchains, which could have motivated governments like the US, Japan, and South Korea to legitimate and recognize the cryptocurrency market.

This week, Binance has started to cooperate with Chainalysis, a leading blockchain analysis company that evaluates suspicious transactions and addresses, to improve its AML system and to further legitimize the cryptocurrency sector.

binance cryptocurrency exchange

“Cryptocurrency businesses of all sizes face the same core challenge: earning the trust of regulators, financial institutions and users. We expect many to follow Binance’s lead to build world-class AML compliance programs to satisfy regulators globally and build trust with major financial institutions,” said Jonathan Levin, co-founder and COO of Chainalysis.

In 2018, some of the world’s most influential banks were cracked down for money laundering. Danske Bank laundered $243 billion from criminal groups, and as CCN reported on October 20, Nordea Bank, the largest financial group in the Nordic countries, is said to have taken several illicit payments from banks in the Baltic region.

With the institutional market of cryptocurrencies growing exponentially, the tightening of AML systems employed by public exchanges is expected to solidify cryptocurrencies as a recognized asset class and the digital asset market as a well-regulated sector.

Wei Zhao, the CFO at Binance, said that maintaining the firm’s vision of increasing the freedom of money globally, the exchange will continue to adhere to regulatory mandates in the countries it operates in.

“By working with Chainalysis, we are able to continue building a foundational compliance program that enables the next phase of our growth. Our vision is to provide the infrastructure for a blockchain ecosystem and increase the freedom of money globally, while adhering to regulatory mandates in the countries we serve.”

Importance of Compliance

The cryptocurrency sector is entering a new phase of development and growth, as Zhou explained.

During the 2017 bull market in which the valuation of the cryptocurrency market surged to $800 billion, the asset class obtained significant mainstream awareness in both countries that support crypto and regions that have established impractical regulatory frameworks to prevent local blockchain markets to flourish.

In a period in which governments are introducing increasing efforts to embrace crypto and blockchain businesses as a part of the fourth industrial revolution, voluntary initiatives by companies like Binance to legitimize the industry will ease the process of governments in regulating and acknowledging the global market.

https://www.ccn.com/how-binance-is-legitimizing-the-crypto-market-by-eliminating-money-laundering/

Dark Web Dealer ‘OxyMonster’ Forfeits $700,000 in Crypto with 20-Year Prison Term

US District Judge Robert Scola has imposed a 20-year prison sentence on 36 year-old Gal Vallerius also known as “Oxymonster” on the dark web drug hub Dream Market.

In June, CCN reported that the French-Israeli citizen was apprehended by police at Atlanta airport in 2017 while attending the World Beard and Moustache Championship in Austin Texas. He will now start his prison term in Southern Florida after being convicted of money laundering and narcotics trafficking.

Huge Crypto Seizure

In his plea agreement, Vallerius admitted to selling drugs like oxycodone, heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and Ritalin in exchange for cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and bitcoin cash on the dark web. More than 100 BTC and 121.95 BCH – equivalent to over $700,000 – seized from him as proceeds of illicit activity will now be forfeited to the government.

For many, the big question following the forfeiture is: “What becomes of this huge amount of crypto in the hands of the U.S. government?”

A development of this nature is not new. In 2015, after Silk Road creator, Ross Ulbricht was given a life sentence, the government took possession of 144,336 BTC found on his laptop. At a time when the price of one bitcoin was just over $300, the government realized a total of over $48 million selling to multiple auctions. Some later criticized the government’s hasty sale which prevented it from earning far more.

With his plea agreement, sources say Vallerius would have to “provide all necessary passwords” to enable the government gain access. It remains uncertain if the government will take similar action to that taken of Silk Road, or delay auctions till prices show upward movement. The rarity of this situation makes it hard for analysts to predict what decision the government will make.

Earlier this week, Irish native Gary Davis pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell drugs on the Silk Road under the alias Libertas. In 2017, the District Court in California also seized over $8 million worth of cryptocurrency from Alexandre Cazes who committed suicide in Thailand after being accused of running a dark web market AlphaBay. With more cases related to crime which might ultimately lead to similar forfeitures, the U.S. government might just be dealing with crypto auctions more regularly.

Some have however suggested that at a time when the U. S. Justice Department is investigating the possible manipulation of cryptocurrency prices, crypto acquired through the legal system is somewhat unlikely to last in the custody of government for long.

https://www.ccn.com/dark-web-dealer-oxymonster-forfeits-700000-in-crypto-with-20-year-prison-term/

£50 notes to stay despite money laundering claim

£50 notes will not be scrapped but instead get a polymer redesign in a bid to make them more durable and harder to forge.

The announcement by the Bank of England follows growing calls to withdraw the note altogether over fears that the UK’s largest denomination was widely used by criminals and rarely for ordinary purchases.

In March, a review by the Treasury found the roughly 330 million £50 notes in circulation, with a combined total of £16.5bn, were “rarely used” for routine transactions.

The Treasury concluded that “there is also a perception among some that £50 notes are used for money laundering, hidden economy activity, and tax evasion”.

Peter Sands, former chief executive of Standard Chartered bank, said in a 2016 report that high-denomination notes are favoured by terrorists, drug lords and tax evaders.

Illegal money flows exceed $2 trillion (£1.4 trillion) a year, Sands said. But rather than focus on the criminals, he argued G20 countries should now target the cash itself, urging central banks to stop issuing £50, $100 and €500 notes.

Following the study, the European Central Bank announced it was to axe the €500 note, known in some circles as a “Bin Laden”, in a bid to crackdown on money laundering.

However, Robert Jenrick, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, has resisted a similar move

“People should have as much choice as possible when it comes to their money and we’re making sure that cash is here to stay. Our money needs to be secure and this new note will help prevent crime” he said.

The decision to switch to polymer plastic notes will, however, “also raise questions over which famous Briton will feature on the reverse of the note”, says the BBC.

Steam engine pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton appear on the current £50, issued in 2011.

http://www.theweek.co.uk/97093/50-notes-to-stay-despite-money-laundering-claim

Report: 64 Percent Of Countries Have Money Laundering Risk

By Pymnts

Amid the headlines detailing the billions of dollars in money laundering done through conduits like Danske Bank and Deutsche Bank, among others, a report shows that the problem is a global one — and that it is getting worse.

Certainly the topic is a timely one, and here we delve into why the current anti-money laundering (AML) system and standards in place are less than optimal. In an interview with Karen Webster of PYMNTS, Akli Adjaoute, founder and CEO of Brighterion, said the rules-based system adopted by banks and others battling criminal activity are “pretty much useless.” The tech and rules in place simply go about generating volumes of false positives and are hardly efficient.

A report issued earlier this week by the Basel Institute on Governance trains a spotlight on just how poorly the status quo is working. The seventh annual edition of the Basel AML Index, the report shows that 83 of 129 countries have a risk score of at least 5.0 on a 10-point scale. This classification, as The Wall Street Journal notes, means that there is a “significant” risk for money laundering and terrorist financing. Even more unsettling is the fact that the risk appears to be growing: over 40 percent of companies have higher scores than they did in the last report issued in 2017.

The Basel report notes that there is no country with a “zero” risk of such illegal activities. The risk is scored using data points from sources that come from the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and the Financial Action Task Force. The Basel report also noted that only countries with data sufficient to be used in scoring were ranked. Thus some countries — such as Iran, which stood at the top of the list across the last four years — were excluded from the risk scoring.

There is no quantification of how much money is actually flowing through money-laundering activities and across different nations.

Going down the ranks of “top spots,” Tajikistan topped the list for countries at risk for money laundering. Tajikistan was followed by, in order, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Laos and Guinea Bissa. At the bottom of the list — the lowest-risk countries, according to the index — are Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand and Macedonia. In reference to the U.S., the score most recently was 5.0, the ranking was 82, and was up 50 basis points from last year.

What the Data Show

In terms of general trends, the headline is that 64 percent of countries show significant risk of those illegal activities. That risk comes, the Basel report said, as countries are not using the tools they have at their disposal to battle money laundering and terrorist financing.

But even the lower-risk countries, the study found, have seen upward  momentum in their risk scores, tied in part to greater access to data and of course the flow of recently-disclosed scandals at banks and elsewhere tied to money laundering. In one example, Denmark’s score was up in the most recent reading to 4.1, a significant jump from 2.98 in the previous year. Denmark’s Danske, of course, has been under investigation tied to as much as $234 billion in illicit fund flow.

“A low risk score in the Basel AML Index is not a ticket to taking a leave from [anti-money-laundering and counterterrorist financing] vigilance, either for a country’s administration or for companies and financial institutions doing business in that country,” the report pointed out. Danske is a Danish Bank, and “seems to confirm the observation that there are big issues with the effectiveness of money-laundering supervision in countries generally regarded as low risk,” the report said.

In other observations published on the Basel site and centered on the findings, at a high-level view, “money laundering and terrorist financing continue to cripple economies, distort international finances and harm citizens around the globe. Estimates of the amount of money laundered worldwide range from $500 billion to a staggering $1 trillion.”

Fewer than 4 percent of countries that were ranked — four of the 129 — bettered their scores by at least one point. Those countries were Ghana, Bolivia, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago. Progress has been slow, where only 17 percent of firms improved their score by one point over the period stretching from 2012 to 2018.

“The downward trend is more striking,” said the report, which noted that “42 percent of countries have worsened their risk scores between 2017 and 2018. Almost 37 percent of countries now have a worse risk score than they did in 2012.”

What Must Be Done

Against that backdrop of rising risk, said the report, “taking a holistic approach to tackling money laundering issues is therefore essential. Economic development can only contribute to reducing the risk of money laundering if it is sustainable, in other words not based on corrupt practices or illegal trafficking.”

But, cautioned the Basel Governance report, countries that undertake what the report termed indiscriminate de-risking — “avoiding rather than managing [money laundering and terrorist financing] risks” by terminating relationships with entire regions or classes of customers — can have disastrous consequences as it cuts entire jurisdictions off from international financial flows, including legal ones.

In terms of guidance, the Basel Governance report said actions to undertake — both to improve risk scores or maintain already relatively low ones — include strong legislation that includes freezing terrorist funds, and measures set in place for domestic and international cooperation. Financial sectors must be highly regulated, with “competent supervisory authorities, and minimal, if any, cash-based transactions.”

Money Laundering Tactics Adapting to Colombia Cocaine Boom

By Parker Asmann

A new investigation says that record cocaine production in Colombia is causing criminal groups to diversify the ways in which they launder their money, reflecting the fragmented state of the country’s criminal world.

Criminal groups in Colombia are increasingly diversifying their traditional money laundering techniques involving real estate and large public works contracts, as well as new laundering methods involving cryptocurrencies and non-profit organizations, according to a report from the country’s national anti-money laundering body, the Financial Investigations and Analysis Unit (Unidad de Información y Análisis Financiero – UIAF), El Tiempo reported.

Such changes are occurring amid record cocaine production in the Andean nation.

The article reports that 40 trillion Colombian pesos (around $13 billion) of illicit money have been generated in Colombia, without specifying a time frame. Furthermore, every year 16 trillion pesos (around $5 billion) are moved through different money laundering schemes, according to the UIAF.

El Tiempo also received information that traffickers returning to Colombia and to drug-related activities after serving prison time in the United States have been increasing investment in rural properties since 2016.

The real estate boom that major urban centers like Medellín and Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá saw in the past has now moved on to smaller cities near major coca growing areas, such as Pasto in Nariño, southwest Colombia — the department with the most cocaine — and Popayán in the nearby Cauca department. Property records have grown by 300 percent in Pasto and Popayán alone, according to El Tiempo.

In 2017, Nariño department accounted for more than a quarter of the 171,000 total hectares used for coca cultivation last year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The UNODC also found that the number of coca hectares in Cauca department increased by 55 percent between 2016 and 2017.

On average, each hectare of coca produces 6.9 kilograms of cocaine, with one kilogram of cocaine selling for around 5 million pesos (about $1,600) in Colombia, meaning that a single hectare of coca could produce up to 35 million pesos in illicit earnings (about $11,500), according to El Tiempo.

While there are no official reports linking the real estate boom in Nariño and Cauca with the illicit money derived from increased cocaine production, Colombia’s outgoing superintendent of Notary and Registry (Notariado y Registro), Jairo Mesa, says he has no doubt about the links between what he calls the country’s “new urbanism” and illegal drug proceeds.

The shift in money laundering techniques used by criminal groups in Colombia is likely tied to the departure of the now largely demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the increasingly fragmented criminal landscape that the guerrillas’ exit ushered in.

The more localized makeup of criminal groups in Colombia and the large profits that are coming in amid record cocaine production may help explain the diversification of money laundering techniques and the substantial uptick in property records observed in smaller municipalities in departments that are strategic to the cocaine trade, such as Nariño and Cauca.

“The Mexicans are full of cash and paying quickly for cocaine, so these more regional groups in Colombia are likely looking for places close to their centers of operation to put their money,” Adam Isacson, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) think tank, told InSight Crime.

This is in line with the historic behavior of Colombia’s most notorious drug trafficking organizations, such as the Norte del Valle, Medellín and Cali cartels, according to Douglas Farah, president of the national security consulting firm IBI Consultants.

“Colombian crime groups have traditionally loved to operate in areas where they know the terrain, have family, and know officials and their vulnerabilities,” Farah said. “As you go from large transnational groups to smaller regional groups, there’s not much protection for them in big cities.”

As Colombia’s criminal landscape continues to take shape, it appears that traffickers are adapting their money laundering strategies to best suit the current dynamics of the cocaine trade.

The EU’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive: What Does It Mean?

By Vishal Marria

In the past week alone, cases of money laundering have hit headlines all around Europe. An investigation found that up to $30 billion of ex-Soviet and Russian money had potentially passed through the Estonian branch of Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank. It also emerged only last week that Dutch bank ING will have to pay €775m in fines after it allowed ‘structural infringement’ of the Netherlands’ Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act. So, what is being done about Europe’s evident money laundering problem?

In July this year, the European Commission brought into force the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive. In the preceding 12 months, a string of money laundering cases which involved high-profile and politically exposed individuals had placed increasing pressure on the Commission to update its policy. The same 12 months saw a series of devastating terror attacks across Europe which raised serious questions about terrorist financing and therefore confirmed the need for policy reform.

The primary focus of the latest directive is to establish a centralized and public register of companies and their ultimate beneficial owners. A typical method of money laundering involves the creation of a shell company which exists solely on paper in order to transform the profits of crimes into ostensibly legitimate assets. Making corporate ownership information public is expected to reduce the use of shell companies because this information will be open to much greater public scrutiny. The directive also requires that the data on these registers be subject to comprehensive verification mechanisms to ensure that the registers themselves cannot be manipulated.

International cooperation is another priority of the directive. Historically, criminal networks have been able to capitalize on the lack of interinstitutional communication by choosing to launder money through countries or banks where they know they are less likely to be detected. The directive is explicit about European banks and their respective Financial Intelligence Unit’s working collaboratively. Centralized bank account and corporate ownership registers must be able to interconnect and be accessible to all member states. Cooperation at this level is expected to be particularly impactful in preventing laundering designed to exploit vulnerabilities of specific member states.

The new directive is the first of its kind to take into consideration digital currencies and prepaid cards. Newer financial technology had been largely overlooked by AML policy until it became clear that they had been used to fund several terror attacks across Europe. The vehicles used in the 2016 Nice truck attack were paid for by pre-paid card because of the anonymity that these cards afford the user. The maximum amount that can be placed on these cards has already been drastically reduced but the new directive also dictates that banks must investigate the holder of any pre-paid card with a value over EUR 150. Similarly, cryptocurrencies and wallets will be held to the same standards as other financial institutions under the new directive to ensure that digital currencies cannot be used to obfuscate a trail of money.

Europe’s money laundering problem was born historically out of an apathy manifested by inefficient detection systems which have been routinely capitalized on by criminals. The EU’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive is the latest in a series of policy developments which demonstrate its commitment to remedying the problem itself. The cooperation of banks on an international level should have a profound effect on the efficacy with which fraudsters operate by drastically restricting their means of deception. And, the introduction of public registers and limits on anonymous financing options restrict their opportunity further still. Europe has a long way to go before it is rid of its dirty money problem but its latest directive is another fantastic step in the right direction.

European countries have been ‘oblivious’ in fighting money laundering, says Latvian minister

By Silvia Amaro

European countries have failed to address financial crime and it is time to take action, the Latvian finance minister told CNBC Wednesday.

The Latvian ABLV, the Danish Danske Bank and the Dutch ING have all recently been involved in scandals over money laundering and financial crime. Dana Reizniece-Ozola, finance minister of Latvia said that these cases have “opened a Pandora’s box” and asked banks do to more to prevent such situations.

“Countries in the European Union have been oblivious in fighting financial crime,” the finance minister told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“Something has to be done, not only at the national level but also at the European level, like probably strengthening the EBA (European Banking Authority),” she suggested.

In the case of ABLV, the U.S. Treasury accused the bank earlier this year of “institutionalized money laundering,” including allowing its clients to conduct business with parties connected to North Korea, which would violate sanctions imposed by the United Nations on the country. At the time, ABLV said the accusations were based on assumptions and information that was then unavailable to the bank.

When the scandal emerged earlier this year, European institutions were criticized for not having the means to oversee and prevent money laundering in the financial system.

This issue has been under further scrutiny after the head of the Danish lender, Danske Bank, resigned last week following a money laundering investigation into the bank. Earlier this month, ING agreed to pay 775 million euros ($910.20 million) in penalties for failing to stop several companies to allegedly launder money over a six-year period.

Separately, German regulators on Monday ordered Deutsche Bankto take internal actions to prevent money laundering.

“The game cannot be won only by one side playing, only by the government playing. The private sector, namely banks themselves have to participate and demonstrate a strong dedication,” Reizniece-Ozola said, adding that “this is the right time” to take action.

Global standard for cryptocurrency anti-money laundering to be agreed

The global anti-money laundering task force has said it is closer to establishing a worldwide set of standards to apply to virtual currencies.

The president of the Financial Action Task Force, Marshall Billingslea, said he is optimistic that at its plenary, due in October, the FATF will agree a series of standards that will close the anti-money laundering “gaps” that all nations face.

“It is essential that we establish a global set of standards that are applied in a uniform manner,” he added.

The task force has accelerated its work and made significant progress on reaching a “consensus across nations” after the G20 requested the organisation tackle the issue as a matter of urgency.

In October, the FATF will discuss which of its existing standards need to be updated to address virtual assets, since its current recommendations do not acknowledge them. It will then revise the methodology it uses to assess how countries implement these standards and when this revised assessment methodology will take effect.

Mr Billingslea, who is also assistant secretary to the US secretary, said currently the adoption of anti-money laundering standards and regimes pertaining to digital assets and virtual currencies is “very much a patchwork quilt or spotty process,” which is “creating significant vulnerabilities for both national and international financial systems”.

China and South Korea have clamped down on the sector, while other countries — including France, Switzerland, Malta and Gibraltar — are drawing up regimes for formally policing the space in an attempt to attract fintech business.

UK MPs also highlighted on Wednesday the urgent need to regulate “Wild West” crypto-asset markets. The Commons Treasury select committee warned that a dearth of regulation around crypto-assets had left investors exposed to a “litany of risks” — without any of the protections usually afforded to consumers, such as access to compensation.

Cryptocurrencies are not regulated by central banks but are held digitally via electronic identities that in many cases allow their owners to remain anonymous. As a result, they have been linked to payments for prohibited goods such as guns and drugs and are a target for hackers.

Mr Billingslea said there were concerns of an emerging use of virtual currencies by terrorist organisations including Isis, as well as in extortion schemes, such as the WannaCry attacks.

His comments come after some observers argued that authorities such as Europol, Europe’s law enforcement agency, should devise a centralised system that flags cryptocurrency wallets linked to nefarious activities to major exchanges, so that they can block the owners from exchanging those funds for hard cash.

Despite the risks associated with digital assets, Mr Billingslea said they also presented “a great opportunity”. In terms of regulation, he said, “you can’t tilt too far in one direction or another” since blockchain, the technology that underpins virtual assets, “will continue to evolve”.

https://www.ft.com/content/1a67f6b2-bbf7-11e8-94b2-17176fbf93f5