Treasury Eyes Cryptocurrencies For Money Laundering

The U.S. Treasury’s financial crime unit is picking up enforcement of cryptocurrency platforms that don’t have strong internal mechanisms in place to prevent money laundering, according to a report in Reuters.

Sigal Mandelker, the U.S. Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told the Senate Banking Committee that the unit will go after virtual currency platforms – even those located outside of the U.S. – if they don’t have the proper safeguards in place. The cryptocurrency platforms in the U.S. must comply with the anti-money laundering rules on the books, including the requirement to file reports about suspicious activity. The report noted that roughly 100 platforms have registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

“The real vulnerability that we all have to address is that while we have regulatory authorities in place here in the United States and we do enforce those … we need other countries to do the same,” Mandelker said. He noted that the U.S. government will also urge other countries to implement more regulation of cryptocurrencies.

In the summer, the Treasury went after the BTC-e bitcoin exchange, the Russian cryptocurrency platform, and fined it $100 million for allegedly participating in illicit practices that included computer hacking, ransomware and drug trafficking.

The U.S. isn’t the only country looking to crack down on the cryptocurrency market. Bitcoin dropped 14 percent on Tuesday (Jan. 16), hitting its lowest point in a month and trading at below $12,000 a unit, as concerns emerge that a regulatory crackdown is imminent in several nations worldwide.

South Korea, which has been a bit back-and-forth on the issue, announced last week (via the Justice Ministry) that it would be banning bitcoin exchanges before announcing (via the Blue House) that it actually would not be banning bitcoin after all. The uncertainty continued this week, when South Korea further “clarified” that the nation is not banning bitcoin now, but could ban cryptocurrency trading in the future.