The British government has introduced a bill to fight against dirty money. Cryptocurrencies are concerned by this text and can now be seized in case of illegal acquisition. One of the stated objectives of the text is to be able to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs and hackers.
Cryptos concerned by a new UK law
The Economic Crime Bill, which is currently being debated in the UK Parliament, will help the National Crime Agency in its fight against money laundering. It aims to prevent foreign landlords from laundering their money through British property and to ensure that more (Russian) oligarchs can be subject to an “unexplained wealth” order.
The measures set out in the text are part of a legal arsenal to fight corruption and “shady deals”. The authorities will have new powers to seize assets acquired with dirty money. In addition, the text will bring cryptocurrencies within the scope of civil forfeiture powers.
The justification for this inclusion is to have tools “against the growing threat of ransomware and the use of crypto assets for money laundering,” according to the Home Office. As a reminder, British hospitals had been targeted by ransomware during the COVID crisis.
Details on how the text will be applied or what tools will be used are not known for the moment.
Authorities overwhelmed in their fight against ransomware
Cryptocurrency ransomware targeted by UK lawmakers
For all that, the economic hunt is far from being won in advance, and this, even if the British government’s desire to fight against money laundering is reaffirmed. The technological delay and the lack of knowledge of the government are notably pointed out by the NGOs. An observation that applies particularly to the cryptocurrency sector, especially through ransomware.
“Despite high-level commitments by ministers to make a step change in the fight against economic crime and increase the number of assets recovered from criminals, the UK is currently losing the fight. UK law enforcement is under-resourced, overworked and under-tooled.”
Report by Spotlight Corruption, an NGO that fights money laundering.
The National Crime Agency estimates that fraud alone causes losses to British consumers, businesses and the public sector worth about £190 billion each year. Money laundering, meanwhile, costs the UK over £100 billion a year. Together, these figures represent 14.5% of the UK’s 2 trillion annual gross domestic product.
The bill appears to be broadly based, targeting both Russian oligarchs and state aid cheats. Probably the most important lesson to be learned is that the UK government considers cryptocurrencies as assets and that they are worth seizing. To avoid mishaps if such a law were to be enacted in France, remember to declare your cryptocurrency holdings correctly.