Crypto firms must comply with AML laws, FinCEN chief warns

Anti-money laundering laws apply to everyone, regardless of whether you are a banking institution or a crypto payments provider. This is the message from Kenneth Blanco, the director of the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Blanco made it clear that full anonymity in crypto won’t be allowed by financial regulators in the United States and that crypto startups must comply with the applicable financial laws or risk legal action.

As reported by American Banker, Blanco was speaking during an event at the University of Georgetown. In his speech, he insisted that crypto users must comply with the AML laws, just like everyone else. He reminded everyone why AML laws are crucial, especially from a regulator’s view.

“There is a reason you want to know the person on the other side of that transaction—they might be dealing in some kind of illicit activity. Whether it’s opioids or human smuggling on the other side, you want to know who that person is.”

Blanco made his comments at a time when anonymity in cryptocurrencies has come under the spotlight internationally. This anonymity has been associated with crime, as it enables the criminals to hide behind anonymous addresses and conceal their activities.

Complying with AML laws isn’t all that difficult, Blanco told the audience, stating, “All we’re asking for is name, address, account number, transaction, recipient, and amount. So when you tell me you don’t know who’s on the other side, you’ve got a big problem. Because you are required to know, and that is what our expectation is going to be.”

Blanco further made it clear that the definition of a crypto doesn’t matter when it comes to complying with the Bank Secrecy Act. “Your BSA obligations are still going to be there. Whether you’re stablecoin, centralized, decentralized—doesn’t matter. You’ll still have to be able to comply,” he stated.

One country that has been very particular about anonymity in crypto is South Korea. The country has always been a crypto haven, but anonymity is something the regulators have sought to stem out of the crypto industry. Having banned anonymous crypto trading in January 2018, the country has been pushing crypto exchanges to take a firm stand as well. OKEx is the latest exchange to comply, banning Monero, Dash and some other privacy coins.

And while the rest of the world is only now realizing that crypto shouldn’t be anonymous, the person who started it all a decade ago has been saying this for a while. Dr. Craig Wright has been addressing the issue of anonymity for years now, stating that he designed Bitcoin to be private, not anonymous. In a blog post a month ago, he stated:

“In the Bitcoin white paper, I’ve mentioned both identities and the ability to keep public keys anonymous outside of those who require knowledge of the transaction. It is not anonymity, it is privacy. It is keeping details away from the public; not those who were involved in the exchange and certainly not those who are required by law to monitor exchanges.”

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