Thai AML body seeks power to seize crypto assets
Concerned about the growing number of cryptocurrency-related crimes, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is looking to expand its powers to allow for seizure of digital assets, including cryptocurrency wallets.
“We have discussed launching our own ‘AMLO Wallet’ to hold or confiscate digital currency from illegal sources,” AMLO Secretary Witthaya Neetitham said during a recent seminar in Bangkok, according to a report from news outlet The Nation.
The desired legislation would also come in handy for the confiscation of cryptocurrency earnings from other crimes. The Nation article cited a case where Thai police had arrested the operator of a child pornography website whose digital wallet contained THB123 million ($3.8 million). “We found bitcoin in his e-wallet, but had to leave it there because we don’t have any regulations [for such seizures],” Police Captain Ekkanit Nathethong said.
Witthaya said that AMLO did have authority over companies licensed by the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission, but when it came to unlicensed entities, “We cannot identify the cryptocurrency operator or receivers when duped victims transfer money to the criminals.”
Chartpong Chirabandhu, of the Office of the Attorney General, shared that prosecutors were limited in their ability to use electronic evidence in building a case against cybercriminals.
Recently, a Finnish businessman was defrauded of $24.4 million worth of cryptocurrencies by Thai suspects, who have since admitted to the crime and are participating in negotiations for the return of the stolen amount. The suspects had invested the funds of Aarni Otavi Saarimaa in three companies, before running off with the money.
Colonel Pisal Erb-Arb, deputy commander of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, proposed a working panel tasked to fight cybercrime. “We need to hurry. Thailand is a haven for money laundering that finances terrorism,” said Pisal, who helped with the arrest of Alexander Cazes, founder of dark web marketplace AlphaBay, where users transacted in cryptocurrencies.
The Thai government has made several policy changes with its growing awareness of cryptocurrencies. Last month, the Bank of Thailand, the country’s central bank, reversed its earlier ban on banks engaging in cryptocurrency-related activities. Now, banks are permitted to create subsidiaries for the purpose of cryptocurrency transactions, issuance of tokens, and the like.
The SEC began its regulation of cryptocurrency-related activities last May, and has approved five exchanges and two dealers since.
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