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Bitcoin in Europe

On 25 June 2015, the EU Fourth Directive was enacted, which replaces the previous Third Directive. With a two-year window for implementation, all EU member states must be compliant with the new mandates by 26 June 2017 so it looks like the European Union will potentially be one of the most restrictive of all groups on the planet when it comes to the regulations on bitcoin and other digital currencies. The European Union’s Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive was ratified on the 26th June 2017 to now include bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

This includes the formulation of a central database of registered bitcoin owners identities and wallet addresses in Europe and setting up a central hub of people who use the online exchanges where Bitcoin is bought and sold. The reason given is that bitcoin and other currencies are used to evade taxes and launder illegal funds and of course includes updates to money laundering regulations that require the online exchanges to abide by strict customer identity requirements, and to report suspicious activity to the authorities.

Contained within the directive is the following:

  • Emphasis on ultimate beneficial ownership and enhanced customer due diligence (CDD)
  • Expanded definition of a politically exposed person (PEP)
  • Cash payment threshold lowered to €10,000 Expanded to included entire gambling sector beyond just casinos
  • Enhanced risk-based approach, requiring evidence-based measures
  • CDD is required by anyone trading goods in cash with a value over €10,000 (current value is €15,000)
  • CDD by casinos where customers wish to place a stake or collect winnings of at least €2,000

 

The relevant amendment states:

"Tackling terrorist financing risks linked to virtual currencies: to prevent their abuse for money laundering and terrorist financing purposes, the Commission proposes to bring virtual currency exchange platforms under the scope of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, so that these platforms have to apply customer due diligence controls when exchanging virtual for real currencies, ending the anonymity associated with such exchanges;"

The European Union Commissioner for Justice, Věra Jourová said about the directive, “Today’s agreement will bring more transparency to improve the prevention of money laundering and to cut off terrorist financing.” According to Reuters, “Bitcoin exchange platforms and ‘wallet’ providers that hold [bitcoin] for clients will be required to identify their users, under the new rules which now must be formally adopted by EU states and European legislators and then turned into national laws.”

Deutsche Welle has detailed the legislation that, “Requires platforms that transfer bitcoin and ‘wallet’ providers that hold cryptocurrencies for clients to identify users; Limits use of pre-paid payment cards; Raises transparency requirements for company and trust owners; Allows national investigators more access to information, including national bank account registers; Grants access to data on the beneficiaries of trusts to ‘persons who can demonstrate a legitimate interest,’” it explained.

In the European Union it should be noted that Ireland, Cyprus, Britain, Malta, and Luxembourg all expressed various levels of opposition during negotiations, possibly due to the fact these countries host various financial technology companies.

It has also been noted that such previous directives and legislation has not prevented revelations such as has been contained in the Panama and Paradise papers over which such legislation has no jurisdiction.

This is an area to keep up to date on.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as financial information for any purposes such as investment or speculation and it is the responsibility of the reader to perform proper due diligence before acting upon any of the information provided. We recommend that you consult with a licensed, qualified investment advisor before making any investment decisions.