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Senate Coalition Grows to Crack Down on Crypto's Use in Illicit Finance

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bill to crack down on crypto’s use in illicit finance has gained more support among lawmakers. “The Treasury Department is making clear that we need new laws to crack down on crypto’s use in enabling terrorist groups, rogue nations, drug lords, ransomware gangs, and fraudsters to launder billions in stolen funds, evade sanctions, fund illegal weapons programs, and profit from devastating cyberattacks,” said Senator Warren.

Elizabeth Warren’s Crypto Bill Gains More Support

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced on Monday “an expanded coalition of Senate support” for her bipartisan Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act. Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) have joined the bill as cosponsors.

The Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act “would mitigate the illicit finance risks that crypto poses by closing loopholes and bringing the digital asset ecosystem into greater compliance with the anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AMF/CFT) frameworks that govern much of the financial system,” the announcement describes. Senator Warren first unveiled the bill in December last year. In July, she and Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced the bill. Crypto proponents have called this bill the most direct attack on the personal freedom and privacy of crypto users.

Besides Warren, Marshall, Manchin, and Graham, the bill’s existing cosponsors comprise Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and John Fetterman (D-PA).

Senator Warren commented:

The Treasury Department is making clear that we need new laws to crack down on crypto’s use in enabling terrorist groups, rogue nations, drug lords, ransomware gangs, and fraudsters to launder billions in stolen funds, evade sanctions, fund illegal weapons programs, and profit from devastating cyberattacks.

“The lack of basic legal safeguards around crypto opens up Americans to countless risks. What’s more, crypto has become the payment method of choice for terrorist organizations, drug cartels, and authoritarian regimes in order to fund their illicit activities,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Crypto should be governed by the same transparency rules as traditional banks to protect Americans and help ensure it isn’t used to facilitate illegal behavior by criminal enterprises and rogue nations.”

This bill has also been endorsed by Bank Policy Institute, Massachusetts Bankers Association, Transparency International U.S., Global Financial Integrity, National District Attorneys Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association, AARP, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), and National Consumers League.

The announcement details that the Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act would:

Extend Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) responsibilities, including know-your-customer requirements, to digital asset wallet providers, miners, validators, and other network participants that may act to validate, secure, or facilitate digital asset transactions.

The bill will also “Address a major gap with respect to ‘unhosted’ digital wallets … by directing FinCEN to finalize and implement its December 2020 proposed rule, which would require banks and money service businesses (MSBs) to verify customer and counterparty identities, keep records, and file reports in relation to certain digital asset transactions involving unhosted wallets or wallets hosted in non-BSA compliant jurisdictions,” the announcement notes.

In addition, it would “Strengthen enforcement of BSA compliance” and “Extend BSA rules regarding reporting of foreign bank accounts to include digital assets by requiring United States persons engaged in a transaction with a value greater than $10,000 in digital assets through one or more offshore accounts to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Internal Revenue Service.”

In October, Warren and over 100 lawmakers asked the Biden administration to address “crypto-financed terrorism” after reports claimed that Hamas raised millions in crypto to fund its operations. Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, however, has debunked the claim, stating that there is no evidence that Hamas received significant crypto donations. While Warren is worried about crypto’s illicit use, less than 1% of the trillions transacted annually in crypto are illicit. Meanwhile, the UN estimates that annually between 2% to 5% of global GDP ($800 billion – $2 trillion) is used for illicit activities and money laundering through the traditional banking system and cash.

What do you think about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s crypto bill gaining support among lawmakers? Let us know in the comments section below.

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