On February 13, 2018, undersecretary of the US Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) Sigal Mandelker touched on cryptocurrencies in a speech before the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Anti-Money Laundering & Financial Crimes Conference.
The TFI develops policies to combat money laundering and put a halt to the domestic and international financing of terrorist activities. Mandelker's call to increase regulatory measures for cryptocurrencies was framed by examples of necessity that included the Venezuelan petro, saying it was created to get around "powerful sanctions, which the United States imposed on the regime for its vicious assault on human rights and the rule of law." She also brought up a case in which a woman used proceeds from a bitcoin-related money laundering scheme to fund ISIS.
Mandelker explained how the TFI works with the IRS to keep a close watch on businesses that are centered around cryptocurrencies, which she said are "subject to comprehensive, routine AML/CFT [anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism] examinations, just like financial institutions in the securities and futures markets." In addition, TFI is working with the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission and Securities Exchange Commission in an effort to ensure companies are complying with the law.
Mandelker went on to encourage other countries to "strengthen their virtual currency frameworks" against "illicit financing risks." She named Japan and Australia, along with the US, among the few countries who have enacted regulatory measures in the name of AML/CFT amenability, but maintained, "We need many more countries to follow suit, and have made this a priority in our international outreach, including through the Financial Action Task Force."
In the end, Mandelker seemed to lump cryptocurrencies together with a variety of threats:
"North Korea, Hizballah [sic], Iran, and emerging technologies used by illicit actors are just a few examples of the many threats we face. They reinforce the importance of the international community coming together to combat bad actors and protect financial systems, markets, and institutions from abuse."
Mandelker's tone is somewhat familiar; regulators often speak of the criminal nature of cryptocurrencies and laud strengthened restrictions in the name of protection, although the fact remains that fiat currencies are a much larger conduit for such nefarious activities.