New Financial Action Task Force Standards Could Further Hinder Crypto Use By Extremists

There has been a long-standing debate concerning the use cases of cryptocurrency by criminal elements and extremists like ISIS. A recent report from Europol pointed out how terrorist groups have attempted to (and ultimately failed at) using cryptocurrencies to raise cash.

CryptoGlobe reported how Yaya Fanuise of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance essentially told the House Financial Services the same thing, noting how “cold hard cash is still king” when it comes to financing.

Now, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) says they are ready to agree to a new series of anti-money laundering standards in October that would apply to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, ones that would make it much harder for criminal or extremist elements to utilize cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Closing Up Loopholes

According to FATF President Marshall Billingslea, the group had made a lot of progress on coming to some sort of a consensus on standards after the G20 asked to make the issue an urgent one.

Billingslea thinks current anti-money laundering (and affiliated) standards are still a “patchwork quilt or spotty process” contributing towards “significant vulnerabilities” for financial systems across the world.

Now, Billingslea says the FATF will convene in October to talk about existing standards and discuss how they should be modified to rope in virtual assets. Then the agency will revise the methodology concerning how these types of standards are implemented. 

Their overall goal is to create a worldwide set of standards “that are applied in a uniform manner.”

Still Keeping An Open Mind

Despite calls from some to task an agency like Europol with crafting a centralized system to keep track of digital wallets linked to nefarious activities, Billingslea maintains cryptocurrencies are still “a great opportunity.”

He thinks regulation should not go too far in one direction since blockchain technology “will continue to evolve.”

Albanian Gangs Are Reportedly Using Bitcoin to Fuel the Uk’s Cocaine Market

  • Albanian gangs are using bitcoin for moving funds in the UK cocaine market.
  • Authorities are having to keep pace to match the increasing sophistication of criminals. 

Albanian gangs are turning to bitcoin to flood the streets with cocaine, according to UK authorities. 

Increasingly Sophisticated Criminals

First reported at the beginning of August by The Times, UK authorities have increasingly noticed the use of bitcoin by Albanian gangs in connection to the selling of illicit substances. 

Peter Goodman, chief constable of Derbyshire, said at the time that gang activity in the area has become increasingly more technological,

They are increasingly organized and spreading out from London. They are increasingly sophisticated in terms of how they are cashing out [from drug operations].

The most recent reports estimate the UK’s cocaine market to be worth around £5 billion, with the Albanian criminal network heavily implicated in the trade between Europe and Colombian drug cartels. Albanian street dealers, known colloquially as Hellbanianz, have turned to bitcoin and crypto-assets as a way to move money through their operation. 

According to a report by ZDNet, drug-dealing criminals are exploiting the lack of regulation on cryptocurrency, particularly in the international sphere. 

Michal J. Oghia, a Balkans-based internet governance consultant, told the outlet, 

In the case of cryptocurrencies, they are simply an extension of the ongoing struggle between bad actors and cybersecurity and security authorities that are working to counter online threats.

Oghia added that gangs are leveraging the privacy afforded through crypto,

One of the biggest differences, though, is that – unlike issues regarding encryption or malware – cryptocurrency is used by organized crime and other nefarious actors in a way that combines illegal offline actions with a technology that was designed to maximize privacy, security, decentralization, and anonymity.

Oghia predicts that as more criminals turn to the use of crypto-assets, cyber forensics teams will become increasingly sophisticated in tracking transactions. 

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