FATF Issues Preliminary Guidelines on Digital Assets to Combat Money Laundering

By Ana Berman

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization that develops policies against money laundering, has published preliminary guidelines for cryptocurrencies on its website on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The FATF held a meeting on preliminary crypto requirements on Feb. 22. According to the organization, the new text of the Interpretive Note to Recommendation 15 — which contains  requirements for regulating and supervising digital asset services providers — has been finalized.

However, the FATF expects to benefit from private sector consultations that are scheduled for May, asking entrepreneurs to send their comments to the organization by Apr. 8. Once the recommendation is finalized, it can be formally adopted by the FATF. The final meeting is scheduled for June 2019.

Firstly, the task force urges countries to follow guidelines to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing with cryptocurrencies — an amendment from a previous edition signed in 2018.

Moreover, digital asset providers are obliged to be licensed or registered in the jurisdictions they were created, and their owners have to provide identity information to relevant authorities. The FATF also adds that crypto products must sometimes be certified, should the host country requires it.

The guidelines also compel governments to form adequate regulation and supervision over digital assets. The FATF emphasizes that monitoring must be conducted by a competent authority instead of a self-regulatory body in order to successfully prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. The country that applies the guidelines must also establish criminal, civil or administrative sanctions for violating the rules.

Finally, the FATF obliges digital asset providers to obtain and keep records of senders and beneficiaries of crypto transfers, and to provide the data to appropriate state or international authorities should they require it. If a transaction is suspected to be illicit, the country has to take measures to freeze the action or prohibit the transfer.

The FATF currently has over 30 member countries. European countries make up a large percentage of the member states, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, France and others. While the organization first issued a “risk-based-approach” guideline for cryptocurrencies in 2015, the organization amended and updated it in late 2018 following the pop of the initial coin offerings (ICO) bubble that began in 2017.