The Week Of: January 27, 2020

This week’s news and stories of interest to the AML community. If you prefer a news roundup sent to you, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Sanctioned countries turning to cryptocurrencies

A report from Forbes details how countries like Iran and Venezuela use cryptocurrencies to evade U.S. sanctions.

The decentralized and semi-anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is a useful though not wholly successful workaround of the sanctions, as Iran’s economy has shrunk by 10-20% in the last two years. Officials there recently issued 1,000 licenses for cryptocurrency mining, a sign that Tehran is looking seriously at virtual currencies as an alternative source of income.

The U.S. government is concerned enough that it charged a member of the Ethereum Foundation with sanctions violations for attending a cryptocurrency and blockchain conference in North Korea last year.

Suspicious cash transactions spike in Ontario casinos after crackdown in B.C.

International criminal organizations operating in Canada have apparently shifted their focus to casinos in Ontario after British Columbia instituted new laws aimed at cracking down on illicit cash flows.

Two months after the laws went into effect in January 2018, B.C.’s attorney general announced that the value of suspicious transactions went from a high of $20 million per month in 2015 to just $200,000 a month in February 2018.

Conversely, Ontario police logged a 140% year-to-year increase in suspicious transaction investigations at casinos from 2017 to 2018.

Officials are unsure exactly how much money is being laundered through Ontario casinos. One investigation into an organized crime family last year revealed it may have washed roughly $70 million in dirty money through a method similar to one used in B.C. called bulk cash refining.

Read more at Global News.

Charitable trusts in the UK to be exempted from new money laundering requirements

The European Union’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which went into effect this month, imposed new rules for trusts, including having to register with the government in their member states.

However, after lobbying from special interests that claimed this would be a regulatory burden for small charitable trusts, HM Revenue & Customs have decided that such trusts “are not in scope to register because the risk of these kinds of trusts being used for money laundering or terrorist financing activity is low.”

Read more at Civil Society. Read the HMR&C consultation here.