UK Reports 'Relatively Low' Use Of Crypto In Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing

A report issued by the UK’s treasury and Home Office has determined that the money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with cryptocurrency are currently low.

The National risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing 2017 (NRA), released on October 26, explains that because “digital currencies have only become marginally more mainstream since 2015,” the threat they represent with regard to these criminal activities has not grown appreciably since the 2015 NRA presented similar findings. In light of the report’s conclusion that terrorist financing via cryptocurrency has been limited by the digital assets’ “lack of widespread use” as well as the absence of “evidence of this occurring,” its authors predict that terrorist use of cryptocurrency is “unlikely to increase significantly in the next five years.” However, the document warns that as more businesses begin to accept these tokens as a form of payment, the “risk of criminals using the currencies to launder funds” will become greater.

The 2017 NRA notes that in the broader field of cybercrime, “the threat posed by digital currencies is higher” for a number of reasons: they enable cybercrime victims to easily transfer funds to perpetrators, they act as the “primary method” by which cybercriminals pay one another for “illicit tools or services sold online in the cyber criminal [sic] marketplace,” and they “play a vital role in laundering the proceeds of cyberdependent crime.”

The report also mentions that the Home Office is leading a “multi-agency group focused on digital currencies,” the goal of which is to better equip law enforcement with the skills and knowledge necessary to combat cryptocurrency-based money laundering and terrorist financing. In 2015, it says, the British government suggested that law enforcement agencies might enhance their ability to address this threat by “taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the blockchain ledger.”

Britain’s is not the only government concerned about cryptocurrency’s possible use in terror financing and money laundering. On June 8, 2017, the US House of Representatives’ Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee held a hearing entitled “Virtual Currency: Financial Innovation and National Security Implications,” which included the testimony of experts from a variety of professional backgrounds.