Bitcoin is often accused by regulators, governments and central bankers as being a tool for money laundering by criminal organizations, usually without presenting any evidence. A new report from Hong Kong, a major international financial hub and nexus for trade between China and the whole world, spells this out clearly.
No Evidence of Money Laundering
The government of Hong Kong has published on Monday its 2018 Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) Risk Assessment Report. The paper examines threats and vulnerabilities facing the city with regards to the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the inter-governmental body that sets international standards on combating ML and TF.
Addressing the issue of bitcoin, the report reveals that Hong Kong Police Force monitoring indicates no apparent sign of organized crime or ML/TF concerning the trading of cryptocurrencies. Moreover investigations and intelligence do not suggest cryptocurrencies were used or intended to be used in other prevalent predicate offenses (e.g. drugs, dutiable goods smuggling) or terrorist financing. “The threat level is low.” The government did find, however, that cryptocurrencies have been used as a pretext in Ponzi schemes or as payments for cyber criminals, mostly blackmailers using ransomware.
Not a Threat to Free Economies
Interestingly, the report also explains why the use of bitcoin should not be seen as a threat to governments that don’t try to limit the financial freedom’s of citizens. “Hong Kong is one of the world’s freest economies with a vibrant foreign currency exchange market and no capital controls.” Cryptocurrencies “are therefore not as attractive as in economies where people may try to circumvent currency controls or seek refuge from a high inflation rate.”
The approach of the Hong Kong government regarding fraud, as evident by the report, is that it’s enough to warn the public to stay vigilant when dealing with cryptocurrency investment offers and take action only against actual crime. And unlike other governments in the region, Hong Kong sees no need to create regulations to limit the legitimate use of bitcoin. It considers the current legal and regulatory provisions relating to fraud and other crimes to be wide enough to catch offenses, whether involving cryptocurrencies or not.