According to major banks and governments across the world, the primary threat of crypto-currencies are their possible use for criminal activities.
Unlike regular bank transfers which are monitored and tracked, crypto transactions are largely anonymous, allowing large transfers to go under the radar. A recent Hong Kong report, however, claims that crypto has been left alone by the city’s organized crime network.
The report, released by the Hong Kong Financial Services and Treasury (FSTB), said while the number of suspicious transactions in the city has quadrupled over the past six years, it assessed the risks from crypto currencies as “medium-low,” adding there seemed to be “no visible impact affecting the overall risk in Hong Kong so far.”
The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment report also noted that there are now no specific regulations for crypto trading. Money Service Operator’s licenses only have to be obtained for services conducted in fiat currencies, not crypto. Hong Kong regulators have now started a “dialogue on the regulatory tools available to address local and international concerns.”
In complete contrast to mainland China where crypto trading is banned, the Hong Kong government’s hands-off crypto policy echoes its commitment to remaining ‘one of the world’s freest economies’ and the FSTB report seems to indicate that social media fraud seemed to be a bigger concern to the authorities in Hong Kong. The efforts by autocratic governments to quash crypto trading in China, India and Thailand have seen innovation driven elsewhere.
Forbes also quotes the Hong Kong Police Force staying that they saw “no apparent sign of organized crime or money laundering/terrorist financing concerning trading of cryptocurrencies.”
Criminals who have been detected using crypto-currencies have often chosen the most private and anonymous ones. In Japan the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which is responsible for approving licenses to digital currency exchanges, has been under pressure to eliminate the use of certain crypto-currencies favored by cyber-criminals and hackers.
Privacy based altcoins such as Monero, Dash and Zcash mask blockchain entries so transactions can be encrypted and completely anonymous. In order to prevent money laundering or criminal activity the FSA has been putting pressure on exchanges in Japan to drop these three coins from their listings. According to Forbes the FSA is particularly adverse to Monero (XMR), after reports emerged in January that North Korea may be mining the currency to raise funds.
At the time of writing all three anonymous crypto-currencies were still available for trading in Japan.
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