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UK bolsters crypto law enforcement efforts with new bill passage

uk-bolsters-crypto-law-enforcement-efforts-with-new-bill-passage
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UK bolsters crypto law enforcement efforts with new bill passage

Following the passage of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, the UK law enforcement authorities will now find it easier to confiscate the crypto assets of bad actors. The legislation takes effect in April.

A recently issued statutory instrument documentation indicates that U.K. law enforcement agencies will gain the authority to freeze cryptocurrency assets involved in criminal activities without requiring a conviction.

Issued on Feb. 29, the bill summarized its amendments to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, expanding the National Crime Agency’s power to confiscate and seize crypto assets suspected of being linked to illicit activities, without extensive legal procedures.

Starting from April 26, the UK’s economic crime legislation will incorporate civil recovery orders for confiscating crypto assets. Furthermore, authorities will have the capability to retrieve crypto assets directly from exchanges and custodian wallet providers, with the option to destroy them if necessary.

Although not explicitly detailed, the typical method for destroying a crypto token involves burning it, and transferring the tokens to a burn wallet address, thus removing them from circulation.

One provision of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill enables the recovery of crypto assets used in crimes without requiring an initial arrest, as some individuals may evade conviction by staying abroad. 

The Bill also contains a provision that criminalizes resisting or assaulting a law enforcement officer in the process of seizing a cryptocurrency asset.

Tackling crypto crimes

The United Kingdom has taken decisive steps to address the growing concerns about cryptocurrency involvement in criminal activities such as cybercrime, scams, and drug trafficking.

One significant measure was the introduction of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill in 2022, which subsequently received royal assent on October 26, 2023, becoming an official Act of Parliament.

The Bill emerged in response to the evolving landscape of financial crimes, including money laundering, fraud, bribery, and corruption. 

In September 2022, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) established a specialized division called the ‘Crypto Cell,’ to tackle digital crimes associated with cryptocurrencies. This initiative signifies a heightened emphasis on addressing cyber threats and financial crimes involving cryptoassets.

The Crypto Cell, initially consisting of five officers, operates within the National Cyber Crime Unit and has been assigned a proactive mandate specifically aimed at addressing cryptocurrency-related offences.

What’s more, in March 2023, the UK and the U.S. jointly announced sanctions against seven Russian cyber criminals associated with notorious ransomware attacks, including the Trickbot malware and the Conti and RYUK ransomware strains. These sanctions entail freezing the criminals’ assets and imposing restrictions on their use of the global financial system.

Looking ahead, the UK government has expressed its commitment to introducing new legislation governing stablecoins and crypto staking within the next six months 

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Bim Afolami underscored the government’s dedication to passing legislation before an upcoming general election. This proposed regulation specifically targets improving regulatory frameworks within the cryptocurrency sector.

The U.K. government’s agenda includes the establishment of rules governing stablecoins and staking services. A proposed timeline indicates a consultation on final rules by mid-2024, with the implementation of the stablecoin regime slated for 2025.

Despite earlier promises and consultations on crypto regulation, notable strides have been taken toward creating a conducive regulatory environment for crypto firms operating in the UK.