On December 15, the European Parliament and the European Council agreed to a series of measures aimed at bolstering know-your-customer and anti-money laundering efforts, including a rule that would impact cryptocurrency exchanges.
Under the agreed-upon terms, these marketplaces, as well as providers of virtual asset wallets, would be required to identify their users.
The measures would also grant national investigators increased access to information such as national bank accounts registers; require the owners of companies and trusts to abide by more stringent transparency practices; and entitle "persons who can demonstrate a legitimate interest" to retrieve data relating to the beneficiaries of trusts. They also place certain limitations on the use of pre-paid payment cards, which offer users a significant degree of anonymity.
The move represents a revision of the EU's Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which was enacted in June of 2015 with a two-year window during which member states were expected to become compliant.
This set of updates grew out of proposals made in the wake of terrorist attacks carried out nearly two years ago in Brussels and Paris, which sparked concerns that virtual currencies could be used to fund terrorism. The revelations of money laundering uncovered in the leaked Panama Papers may further have motivated the new rules.
Negotiations around the measures reportedly dragged on for over a year, at least in part because certain countries feared an adverse impact on their national economies. According to Dutch Member of European Parliament Judith Sargentini – the lawmaker in charge of these measures – the opposing countries included Britain, Malta, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Ireland.
Now that the changes have been agreed upon, EU countries will have 18 months to formally adopt them and pass them as national laws.
Věra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for Justice, lauded the agreement, predicting that it "will bring more transparency to improve the prevention of money laundering and to cut off terrorist financing."
A few days later, on December 18, EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici said during an interview on Bloomberg that his office does not "think that we have, at this stage, to react as a political and technical body" to bitcoin's presence in the market. At the moment, he reported, he and his colleagues have not been discussing the cryptocurrency with regulators.