Crypto-assets’ transfers would need to be traced and identified to prevent their use in money laundering, terrorist financing, and other crimes. There is an absence of rules for tracing transfers of crypto-assets like bitcoins and electronic money tokens.
On Thursday, MEPs from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) adopted, with 93 votes to 14 and 14 abstentions, their position on draft legislation strengthening EU rules against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Traceability of transfers of crypto-assets
Under the new requirements agreed by MEPs, all transfers of crypto-assets will have to include information on the source of the asset and its beneficiary, information that is to be made available to the competent authorities. The rules would also cover transactions from so-called unhosted wallets (a crypto-asset wallet address that is in the custody of a private user). Technological solutions should ensure that these asset transfers can be individually identified.
The aim is to ensure that crypto transfers can be traced and suspicious transactions blocked. The rules would not apply to person-to-person transfers conducted without a provider, such as bitcoins trading platforms, or among providers acting on their own behalf.
No minimum thresholds
Due to their speed and virtual nature, crypto-asset transactions easily circumvent existing rules based on transaction thresholds. MEPs decided therefore to remove minimum thresholds and exemptions for low-value transfers.
Public register of high-risk entities
MEPs want the European Banking Authority (EBA) to create a public register of businesses and services involved in crypto-assets that may have a high risk of money-laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal activities, including a non-exhaustive list of non-compliant providers.
Before making the crypto-assets available to beneficiaries, providers would have to verify that the source of the asset is not subject to restrictive measures and that there are no risks of money laundering or terrorism financing.
Ernest Urtasun (Greens/EFA, ES), co-rapporteur for ECON said: “Illicit flows in crypto-assets move largely undetected across Europe and the world, which makes them an ideal instrument for ensuring anonymity. As illustrated by all the recent money-laundering scandals, from the Panama Papers to the Pandora Papers, criminals thrive where rules allowing for confidentiality allow for secrecy and anonymity. With this proposal for a regulation, the EU will close this loophole.”
Co-rapporteur for LIBE Assita Kanko (ECR, BE) said: “Our report has two goals: to protect and to normalise. We should be facilitating the use of crypto-assets by people of good will safely and correctly, as well as protecting against the use of crypto-assets for terrorist financing, extortion, child sexual abuse material or money laundering. But we also seek to normalise the crypto world as it grows, implementing rules that create trust. More than a decade after the creation of Bitcoin, it is high time we took these important steps for our citizens.”
The adopted text represents the draft mandate for MEPs to negotiate the final shape of the legislation with EU governments. The EP as a whole should vote on it during the plenary session in April.
The new rules are part of a new Anti-money laundering package, which sets out measures to strengthen the EU rules on combating money laundering and terrorist financing. It addresses the shortcomings of the existing framework, which include ineffective implementation, weak oversight and insufficient detection of suspicious transactions.
Currently there are no rules in the EU allowing crypto-asset transfers to be traced and providing information on the originator/beneficiary of such crypto-asset transfers.
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