According to the head of the top law enforcement agency of the European Union, numerous criminals are laundering billions of pounds of cash through bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, has stated that money laundering that is taking place through the unregulated digital cash could already amount to as much as £4bn. That is around three to four percent of the £100bn in illicit money that is sloshing across Europe.
On the Panorama show of the BBC that is aired tonight, Wainwright stated: “It’s growing quite quickly, and we’re quite concerned.
“They’re not banks and governed by a central authority so the police cannot monitor those transactions,” he said. “And if they do identify them as criminal they have no way to freeze the assets unlike in the regular banking system.”
The United Kingdom is considering making some amendments to the anti-money laundering rules of the European Union to make it apply to cryptocurrencies.
Wainwright said that his law enforcement agency has identified that some money mules are being utilised to cash out, turning bitcoin into fiat currencies in smaller amounts to make it harder for the police to track it.
He asked the bitcoin industry to co-operate with the agency in its tackling of the said issue, which is already “growing quite quickly.”
The cryptocurrencies are still not directly regulated in Europe, and it is still not clear among most financial regulators how the digital currencies should be classified under the existing laws.
Wainwright stated: “They have to take a responsible action and collaborate with us when we are investigating very large-scale crime.
“I think they also have to develop a better sense of responsibility around how they’re running virtual currency.”
The show is called “Who Wants to be a Bitcoin Millionaire?” It is scheduled to be broadcasted on the Panorama show of BBC on BBC One at 8.30pm in the evening.