The Biden administration has published the United States Strategy on Countering Corruption—a first of its kind document that lays out the government’s anti-corruption policy.
The document defines a government-wide approach to corruption under five pillars. Specifically, pillar three—which is about holding corrupt actors accountable—targets cryptocurrencies with a new Department of Justice (DOJ) task force.
“DOJ will utilize a newly established task force, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, to focus specifically on complex investigations and prosecutions of criminal misuses of cryptocurrency,” the document says.
The task force will focus on “crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and money laundering infrastructure actors.”
The document confirms what has been speculated on for much of 2021—that the Biden administration is serious enough about the crypto industry to construct a bespoke team to combat its risks.
Biden and the crypto industry
The Biden administration has long targeted the dark side of the crypto industry.
In the summer, the administration’s crypto task force began to hit headlines following a virtual briefing with Congress in June. At the time, deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberget said the administration was working to quell the use of cryptocurrencies in illicit financial activity.
Part of the reason why the Biden administration has been so concerned about crypto has been the industry’s involvement in some of the year’s most high-profile ransomware attacks.
It’s not just about ransomware, though. Cryptocurrencies also hinder the efficacy of the United States’ sanctions regime by giving bad actors an economic lifeline. With over 9,000 sanctions in place against rogue states like North Korea and Iran, sanctions have become a cornerstone of American foreign policy.
“These technologies offer malign actors opportunities to hold and transfer funds outside the collar-based financial system. They also empower our adversaries seeking to build new financial and payment systems intended to diminish the dollar’s global role,” the Treasury Department said earlier this year.