The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill was introduced in the United Kingdom’s parliament yesterday to extend police powers over cryptocurrencies in order to counteract cyber crime, money laundering, and “foreign kleptocrats.”
While not specifically targeting crypto, the bill would make it “easier and quicker” for law enforcement agencies like the National Crime Agency to “seize, freeze and recover cryptoassets” through a strengthened and modernized “Proceeds of Crime Act,” an act passed in 2002 to counter money laundering.
Director General of the National Crime Agency Graeme Biggar said in a statement: “Domestic and international criminals have for years laundered the proceeds of their crime and corruption by abusing UK company structures, and are increasingly using cryptocurrencies. These reforms—long awaited and much welcomed—will help us crack down on both.”
The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill introduced in Parliament today by @UKHomeOffice and @BEISgovuk cracks down on economic crime, strengthening the powers of legal services regulators while reducing money laundering, fraud and breaches of sanctions.
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— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) September 22, 2022
Last summer, the Economic Crime Command unit of Britain’s Metropolitan police (the Met) seized hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency in two separate raids. In June, the Met seized $158 million after investigating a string of money laundering offenses.
Just three weeks later under the same investigations, the Met outdid its previous seizure and confiscated $250 million.
Crypto: the British approach
In general, the UK has been keen to embrace cryptocurrency as a potentially revolutionary technology. The former British government seemed especially warm to it, so much so that back in April, it announced plans to become a “global crypto asset technology hub.”
At the time, then Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in a prepared statement: “It’s my ambition to make the UK a global hub for crypto asset technology, and the measures we’ve outlined today will help to ensure firms can invest, innovate, and scale up in this country.”
Sunak’s primary proposal toward crypto regulation involved regulating stablecoins as "a recognized form of payment."
The British government also announced that it was working with the Royal Mint—the official manufacturer of Britain’s coins—to produce an NFT that was initially going to be issued by summer, although Fall is almost here, and there have been no updates.
Protecting UK consumers
Back in January, Britain published plans to protect consumers from misleading crypto commercials.
The government said it was bringing all crypto advertising in line with existing financial promotions legislation to “increase consumer protection while encouraging innovation.”
This means that crypto ads need approval by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), or a firm licensed by either of those.
In March, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) issued a “red alert” Enforcement Notice to over 50 crypto companies, warning them to bring their advertising in line with a new set of guidelines. The ASA coordinated closely with the FCA to distribute the notice.