Bitcoin is under scrutiny in the U.K., as the country’s largest police force called for new powers to freeze cryptocurrency assets just days after the financial watchdog said many crypto businesses weren’t meeting anti-money-laundering standards.
Detectives with the London Metropolitan Police, also known by the name of its headquarters Scotland Yard, want the ability to freeze criminals’ crypto assets in the same way they can stop them from transferring funds, the Times of London reported on Monday.
The police service is also lobbying the government for legislative changes that make it more difficult for criminals to transfer crypto assets, according to the report.
“The conversations that we’re having is about how we align cryptocurrency to the same kind of approach that we have about cash-based criminality,” said Mick Gallagher, detective chief superintendent at Scotland Yard’s central specialist crime command, to the Times. “Cryptocurrency is invisible, it’s instant, it goes around the world, it’s not tangible.”
Crypto assets, such as bitcoin
and even dogecoin
can be bought, sold, and sent anonymously, since transactions are encrypted with a decentralized ledger technology known as blockchain.
Since these assets aren’t issued or controlled by a central bank or official authority, their use is largely unregulated and outside of the sphere of government intervention. As such, they can be a popular money-laundering tool for criminals.
Scotland Yard’s call for new powers to curb money laundering with cryptos comes just days after a warning about the practice from the Financial Conduct Authority, the U.K.’s financial regulator and watchdog.
On June 3, the FCA said that a “high number” of crypto businesses aren’t meeting the required standards under money-laundering regulations. The announcement came as the regulator pushed back by eight months the deadline by which existing crypto businesses must register.
Earlier this year, the head of the European Central Bank called for the global regulation of bitcoin, saying that multilateral action was needed to stop “funny business” and money laundering. Christine Lagarde, speaking at a conference on January 13, said that bitcoin “has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money-laundering activity.”