The terms of reference for the UK Home Affairs Select Committee’s Proceeds of Crime Inquiry include, “Whether additional measures are required to achieve the objectives of ensuring criminals do not benefit from their crimes“. Evidence submitted to the Committee suggests that more than £1.6bn of Confiscation Order debts are outstanding at present, but only £203m of these debts are likely to be recovered. So, the Committee wants to know what Parliament can do to increase recoverability, and stop criminals benefiting quite so much from their crimes.
In its written submissions to the Committee, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that , “The use of virtual currencies is increasingly a feature of serious and organised crime. These currencies allow criminals to operate and launder money without any legitimate oversight of their activity. A power for law enforcement to seize, hold and sell virtual currency is required if we are to keep abreast of changes in the manner [in which] sophisticated criminals operate“.
In his oral evidence to the Committee (in particular, on 24 May 2016, at 15:33:54 ), Nick Price, the head of the National Proceeds of Crime Unit at the CPS, told the Committee that a “small technical” but “important” change to UK law would make it easier for UK law enforcement agencies to seize, hold and sell virtual, digital and crypto-currencies, and that these changes would enable more of the proceeds of crime to be recovered. He went on to say that the CPS and other agencies have been “talking to the Home Office about [these things] for some time, and hope to be able to work up some proposals in that regard” soon. It’s not yet clear what those proposals might be or include; how they’re likely to be effected; or when. But it is perhaps reasonable to suppose that wallet and exchange service providers will be expected (or required) to help by (for example) (a) implementing or complying with account-freezing injunctions; (b) preparing and submitting suspicious activity reports to the National Crime Agency; and (c) carrying out anti-money laundering and other checks on their actual and potential customers. (Our recent blog posts about the last of these things are here.) No doubt there will be more to report on each of these things, in the coming months. We’ll see.