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One of the UK’s finest crime fighters muses on an obvious question: Who is purchasing property in Bitcoin?
A director of the UK’s leading crime agency is afraid that selling extremely valuable items for Bitcoin would attract money-laundering criminals.
“Anything purchased with crypto assets I’d be slightly sceptical about,” National Crime Agency director Nigel Leary told The Times of London in an interview published today.
“I’d like to see why they’re being done in that way and what the requirement is for that anonymity, and why it needed to be done in a crypto transaction,” he said.
Of course, pricing expensive assets in Bitcoin is likely to attract the crypto rich—not just money launders.
Rather than laundering money, French DJ David Guetta’s choice to sell his Miami beach apartment for 38 Bitcoin could be an attempt to scoop up the spare change of Bitcoin maximalists hanging around after last week’s Bitcoin conference.
The same could be said about the seller of a $241 million house at One Hyde Park, who was apparently taking ETH and BTC offers in April.
Bitcoin transactions are not completely anonymous, but are pseudonymous; you can monitor the flow of money between wallets on public ledgers, but you must use expert blockchain investigators to identify wallet owners.
The NCA stated in a May study that the late Bitcoin bull run made it simpler for criminals to launder money. “During the UK lockdown, there was an increase in the routine use of crypto assets, such as Bitcoin, and the dark web to enable serious organised crime offending,” the NCA noted.
Leary told The Times: “It’s easier to defraud when it’s all done remotely. It’s not as though I have to turn up at the bank with my passport which, if I’m going to try and do it fraudulently, will take a little bit more preparation than it does to do it online where I can procure myself false identity documents, false bank statements and so on.”
The NFT growth this year has raised concerns that criminals are utilising crypto art to launder money. Cat Graffam, an adjunct professor in Lasell University’s Art & Design department, told Decrypt that NFTs are “already being used to launder money in similar ways done with physical art.”
Graffam went on to say that NFTs might make it “even easier to move dirty funds around” since they are “tied to a decentralised currency” and do not need criminals to store art.