The British Commonwealth announced on 3rd May that there is a project to develop a Blockchain app to combat cross-border crime.  A secure messaging system will be created to help law enforcement and prosecutors in member countries to co-operate more effectively in criminal investigations.

The planned project was announced at the 3-day virtual currency and blockchain conference, Consensus2016, which commenced on 28th April in New York. Built on the blockchain technology which supports virtual currencies such as Bitcoin it will be a record of digital events which can only be updated by agreement between the participants using the system.

“This new app has the potential to change the way we co-operate on criminal justice matters and will help reduce serious crime throughout the Commonwealth,” commented Steven Malby, Legal Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat and the project lead, in a press release. “It will be particularly useful for combatting cybercrime and other technology-enabled crimes which are borderless by nature.”

Steven Malby, Legal Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat

Benefit for Africa

Though cybercrime is a global phenomenon, this development is likely to benefit African countries the most. So far, many African countries have recorded more losses from cyber-related crimes but have been unable to tackle the great challenges posed because they lack the requisite resources to curb the growing menace. Of the Commonwealth’s 53 members, 18 are African countries.

The proposed mobile app which will use blockchain technology for criminal investigations and obtaining evidence abroad didn’t come as a surprise. The Commonwealth of Nations has been looking into virtual currency-related inventions for some time. In August 2015, after meeting International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials in London, a working group made up of Australia, Barbados, Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore and Tonga agreed that virtual currencies could benefit member states and drive development.

While recognizing that virtual currencies pose some risks, the group urged Commonwealth members to "consider the applicability of their existing legal frameworks to virtual currencies and where appropriate they should consider adapting them or enacting new legislation to regulate virtual currencies."

Ban on cryptocurrencies unlikely

The group agreed to create a digital repository of best practices and model regulations as part of an effort to assist members in developing policy.

In October 2015, a Commonwealth report stated that the prohibition of virtual currencies among the bloc was unlikely to be effective since the majority of its members – except for one member country - had recognized their advantages and treated their use as lawful.

The new app is a joint venture with the Digital Identity Security Company though the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative and Working Group on Virtual Currencies who provided expertise in the effort aimed at helping member countries make better use of new technology to facilitate international cooperation in criminal justice matters.