Germany Warns of Privacy Token Usage in Money Laundering and Terrorism

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The German Federal Ministry of Finance has expressed concerns about rising use of privacy tokens due to their association with criminal activities and difficulties in tracking them.

Published on Oct. 19, the ministry’s “First Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing National Risk Assessment” for 2018-2019 provided analysis aimed at the identification of existing and future risks in the field of anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorism financing (TF) in Germany. Among other challenges, the report examines circulation of cryptocurrencies in the darknet for criminal purposes.

Pseudo-anonymous vs. anonymous tokens

The report marks a distinction between pseudo-anonymous and anonymous tokens, noting that pseudonymity allows the analysis of transactions in public blockchains and the evaluation of suspicious movements, while fully anonymous tokens like Monero (XMR) and Zcash (ZEC) enable transactions to remain untraceable and are thus vulnerable to involvement in illegal activities.

In this regard, the Ministry urges oversight of anonymous cryptocurrencies in the future. Although the market capitalization of such coins is still relatively low, the report notes, they are gaining popularity and acceptance in the darknet and eventually may become a real alternative to Bitcoin (BTC).

Risks associated with stablecoins and cash

According to the report, use of crypto assets in TF is currently low. There is evidence of use of crypto assets in the fields of right-wing extremism and Islamism, however, there is no reliable evidence that cryptocurrencies have been used to a greater extent for TF.

Cryptocurrency volatility reportedly prevents its usage as a means of payment to some extent. However, stablecoins — which are pegged to an asset or fiat currency — can ensure stability of value, and thus could lead to an increase in laundering and TF risks, per the report. The report further reads:

“The use of cash, in contrast to the use of pseudonymous crypto assets, leaves no traceable footprint and is easy to handle, so it can be assumed that, for example, the transfer of funds in the field of ​​terrorism financing alongside hawala and money transfer service providers currently continues mainly via cash couriers.”

On Oct. 21, the United States Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth Blanco said that fintech firms offering cryptocurrency users anonymity must comply with AML laws “just like everyone else.”

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