Europol has set up a working group combatting money laundering with digital currency. Experts say it’s good for the industry.

On 9 Sept 2016, Europol announced the launch of a Bitcoin money laundering division in partnership with INTERPOL and the Basel Institute on Governance.

The terms of reference

The announcement claims that the aims of this setup are to:

  • Gather, analyse, and exchange non-operational information regarding the use of digital currencies as a means of money laundering, and the investigation and recovery of proceeds of crime stored in the same form.
  • Organise annual workshops and meetings for the representatives of the above mentioned law enforcement agencies and institutions to increase their capacity to successfully investigate crimes in which virtual currencies are involved.
  • Create a network of practitioners and experts in this field, who can collectively establish best practices and provide assistance and recommendations inside and outside of the working group.

Good for the industry

Despite fears by many Bitcoin users that this could be a move to hunt down the cryptocurrency, experts think otherwise.

Jonathan Chester  is a member of a working group who is working with the European Parliament on the subjects of Bitcoin and the Blockchain. It seems clear, says Chester, that the two main objectives of lawmakers in this matter are anti-money laundering, specifically as it pertains to terrorism, and consumer protection.  The objectives of Europol, INTERPOL and the Basel Institute on Governance is to collectively focus on criminal intelligence.

Chester says to Cointelegraph that it is very likely that this task force has been set up with the objective of, first, learning if digital currencies are being used for terrorist financing, and, second, if so, finding out ways to track and stop the users who are using the technology in this way.

Chester is of the opinion that this will be a very good thing for the industry:

“This development will provide insight to lawmakers into the current risk profile of the users of this technology.  Many in the community believe that the use of digital currency in terrorist financing is low to nonexistent, and this group will be able to support or disprove this claim.  Should the claim be supported it would very likely help to alleviate many of the banking pressures that startups in the digital currency industries face.  Should it be disproved, then we would begin testing the true nature of Blockchain transparency”.  

Chester concludes by noting that in the latter scenario, enforcement agencies would turn to Blockchain forensic companies and prove to lawmakers that this system is a more transparent form of cash, whilst also being faster and cheaper.

Benefits to consumers

Founder of Cryptopay, George Basiladze sees this as a very positive development for the Bitcoin ecosystem. He thinks that consumers will benefit from it.

Basiladze says:

“Nothing really bad will happen. For consumers this will mean better protection against criminals, the same for business. One good thing is that the Bitcoin network will not be affected - it is a database and communication network and so people will still be free to use their Bitcoins”.