Crime isn’t supposed to pay, but sometimes the wages of sin are paid in bitcoin. Last week, Japanese police reported that 2018 saw a tenfold increase of cryptocurrency money laundering. In 2017, Japan’s National Police Agency discovered fewer than 700 instances of crypto money laundering. Last year, they found more than 7,000 cases. What is it about this new asset class, which is enabled by blockchain distributed ledger technology, that makes it so appealing to criminals? And what can be done to keep cryptocurrency clean?
Cryptocurrencies present the world with a radically new way of thinking about value. As a rule, there’s no central issuer like a mint, no printed bills or stamped coins, and no government affiliation. Given these radical differences from traditional money and cryptocurrency advocates’ concerns about institutions and centralization, some uncontroversial and long-established aspects of traditional finance have proven unpopular in the crypto world. One of the most important disputes, and the most central to stopping crime, is over anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations.