The UK’s National Crime Agency seized £26.9m worth of cryptocurrency from 2021-2022.
The law enforcement agency did not report any crypto seizures the year before as it seized £40.1m in physical assets and monies, according to its annual report. It seized £32.9m worth of those assets in 2021-2022.
“With no change in the volume of illicit funds from crimes such as drugs and fraud, tried- and-trusted methods of money laundering continued,” the report, which covered 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022, said. “Criminals increasingly exploited financial technology and crypto assets.”
Including the crypto, NCA-seized property as of 31 March 2022 was £59.79m in cash, vehicles, and other valuables which were suspected of being derived from criminal activity.
“It is a sign that law enforcement agencies are getting to grips with and adapting to this new technology and space. As adoption increases, so will the level of regulation,” Asim Arshad, an associate solicitor in the Crypto and Blockchain team at law firm Mackrell.Solicitors, said to City A.M.
“It shows the law enforcement agencies of this jurisdiction, along with the courts, will not be dissuaded from tackling, disrupting and taking enforcement action against those bad actors seeking to exploit this technology for criminal gain.”
Michael Munk, Managing Associate in Linklaters’ Dispute Resolution team, said to City A.M., “The NCA’s seizure of c.£27m of cryptoassets in 2021-22 shows that the UK’s criminal and regulatory authorities are developing a deeper understanding of cryptoassets and an appetite to take enforcement action where appropriate. This is consistent with the global trend where, after years of playing catch-up, law enforcement agencies are showing an increased aptitude for tracing and seizing stolen or laundered cryptoassets.”
The NCA tends to investigate organised crime, drug and human trafficking, cybercrime, and economic crime. The report stated the agency’s focus this year was on cash-based and high-end money laundering that impacted the UK and the main vulnerabilities criminals exploited.
Crypto has been controversially linked to financial crimes like money laundering, with the FCA last year warning that the unregulated crypto market allowed fraudsters to conduct widespread money laundering and financial crime which posed a risk to the strength of the UK financial system.
Global regulatory watchdog the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) earlier this month called on more countries to implement rules that better understand the money-laundering and terrorist-financing risks within the crypto industry.