Crypto firms among ‘greatest risks’ for money laundering in 2022-2023: UK govt

Crypto firms were among those with the “greatest risk” of being exploited for money laundering, according to the United Kingdom’s top financial regulator.

In a May 1 report, the U.K. Treasury concluded from data provided by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that crypto-asset companies were among the top four kinds of firms that remained “particularly vulnerable” to financial crime, particularly for cases of money laundering between 2022 and 2023.

Crypto firms were listed alongside retail banking, wholesale banking, and wealth management companies.

Crypto-asset firms remain vulnerable to being exploited for money laundering. Source: FCA

The report showed between 2022 and 2023, there were a total of 52.8 full-time specialist employees overseeing Anti-Money Laundering cases, with nearly one-third focused specifically on supervising crypto firms.

During the 2022 to 2023 period, the FCA’s financial crime specialists conducted a total of 231 reviews of financial firms operating in the U.K. as well as an additional 375 cases related to financial crimes and sanctions.

Related: UK regulator to tighten measures against crypto market abuse

As part of a broader supervisory effort outside of these full-time reviews, FCA teams launched a total of 95 cases into British crypto companies.

Britain has been working to introduce clearer legislation for local crypto firms with the U.K. Treasury announcing on April 16 that it would aim to present a full regulatory framework for crypto assets and stablecoins by July.

On April 26, The U.K. National Crime Agency (NCA) and police received expanded authority to “seize, freeze, and destroy” cryptocurrency used by criminals. Under the new rules, police in the country will no longer be required to make an arrest before seizing crypto holdings.

U.K. law enforcement can now seize items like passwords and memory sticks that could aid investigations. They have also been granted power to remove crypto assets from being returned into circulation — typically by burning the asset — if it were to be deemed detrimental to the public good.

Under the new laws, U.K. police can transfer seized illicit cryptocurrency to wallets under their control, and crime victims can apply to reclaim funds from their crypto accounts.

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