FATF head urges G7 to bring order to ‘lawless crypto space’
May 18, 2023

FATF head urges G7 to bring order to ‘lawless crypto space’

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The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) head T Raja Kumar said G7 nations need to take a more proactive approach to regulate the “lawless crypto space” as it continues to allow illicit financial transactions to occur around the world.

Kumar made the comments in a letter published ahead of the G7’s 2023 Summit in Hiroshima slated for May 19, where the group will discuss various agenda items for the year, including the regulation of cryptocurrencies and the overall industry.

Illicit digital financial flows

The FATF chief said the watchdog is working on “multiple fronts” to help countries combat “digital financial flows” that are “fueling crime and terrorism.”

However, the eradication of these flows requires “concerted global action” to ensure that no “safe haven” can exist in the financial system of the world for such transactions, according to Kumar.

The FATF has updated its Recommendations — the global standards on combatting money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing — to include crypto-assets and related financial activity.

However, Kumar said countries have made “relatively poor” progress in implementing these new standards as part of the Recommendations.

As of 2019, the regulator surmised that only 27% of countries were compliant with the updated standards that include crypto, while the remaining majority of 73% are completely or partially non-compliant and have yet to begin work on supervising the crypto industry.

Kumar added that the non-compliant 73% includes some G20 countries. He wrote:

“This unacceptable situation must be urgently addressed.”

The FATF chief said that many countries do not have the experience to tackle illicit financial flows when they become digital and the watchdog intends to roll out a new program — which will include the so-called “travel rule” —to help them adapt.

The travel rule will mandate virtual asset service providers like exchanges to pass along information to one another — and supervisory bodies — for crypto transactions that cross a certain threshold.

Updated recommendations

Kumar said the FATF recommends that countries should immediately start working on two areas to ensure cryptocurrencies cannot be used for illicit financial transactions.

The first area is ensuring transparency of beneficial ownership, which is “crucial in fighting money laundering, corruption, tax evasion and sanctions evasion.”

Kumar said criminals abuse the lack of transparency in ownership laws to hide their financial activity through complex corporate structures and countries must implement the FATF’s updated recommendations to close these loopholes.

The second area countries need to focus on is recovering the proceeds of crimes. Kumar wrote that asset recovery helps strengthen trust in law enforcement as it helps victims directly and is an “effective” method of stopping economic crimes. However, countries have barely done any work on asset recovery and only a small fraction of the global illicit financial flows are ever recovered.

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