A director of the UK’s top crime agency is concerned that selling wildly expensive things for Bitcoin might attract money-laundering criminals.
“Anything purchased with crypto assets I’d be slightly sceptical about,” National Crime Agency director Nigel Leary told The Times of London in an interview published today.
“I’d like to see why they’re being done in that way and what the requirement is for that anonymity, and why it needed to be done in a crypto transaction,” he said.
Of course, pricing expensive assets in Bitcoin is likely to attract the crypto rich—not just money launders.
Rather than laundering money, French DJ David Guetta’s choice to sell his Miami beach apartment for 38 Bitcoin could be an attempt to scoop up the spare change of Bitcoin maximalists hanging around after last week’s Bitcoin conference.
The same could go for the seller of a $241 million property in One Hyde Park, who in April was reportedly accepting offers in ETH and BTC.
You Can Now Buy London’s Most Expensive Property With Bitcoin
Bitcoin transactions are not strictly anonymous, but pseudonymous; you can track the flow of money between wallets on public ledgers, but must employ professional blockchain investigators to have a chance at identifying wallet owners.
In a May report, the NCA said that the late Bitcoin bull run made life easier for criminals laundering money. “During the UK lockdown, the routine use of crypto assets, for example Bitcoin, and the dark web to enable serious organised crime offending increased,” the NCA added.
Leary told The Times: “It’s easier to defraud when it’s all done remotely. It’s not as though I have to turn up at the bank with my passport which, if I’m going to try and do it fraudulently, will take a little bit more preparation than it does to do it online where I can procure myself false identity documents, false bank statements and so on.”
This year’s NFT boom sparked concern that criminals are using crypto art to launder money. Cat Graffam, an adjunct member of Lasell University’s Art & Design department, told Decrypt that it is plausible that NFTs are “already being used to launder money in similar ways done with physical art.”
Graffam added that NFTs could make it “even easier to move dirty funds around, because it is tied to a decentralized currency” and does not burden criminals with storing art.