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AMLO orders that cryptocurrency deals must be reported to curb criminals’ money laundering

Jan 30. 2018
File photo: Israelis walk past the cryptocurrency
File photo: Israelis walk past the cryptocurrency "Bitcoin Change" shop in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on January 17, 2018. // AFP PHOTO
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THE GOVERNMENT will step up surveillance of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by requiring digital currency exchangers to report their transactions to the country's anti-money laundering agency.

Pol Maj-General Romsit Viriyasan, the acting chief of the Anti-Money Laundering Organisation (AMLO), said the agency would amend its law to impose the requirement in order to suppress money-laundering activities using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as media of exchange. 

Investing in digital currencies carries a high risk because Thai law does not recognise them as legal tender, so the public should exercise caution to avoid misleading and cheating tactics, he said. 

Local and international criminal networks relied on digital currencies to hide ill-gotten gains, he added.

Moreover, the methods used to lure unsuspecting investors had become diverse and sophisticated, including the buying and selling of goods with the digital coins to conceal ill-gotten wealth, Romsit said. 

In response, the AMLO needed to be empowered to investigate and pursue digital money trails, he added. Bitcoin and another cryptocurrency, ripple, are currently the two most popular units used by criminals to launder money in Thailand. 

‘Ponzi schemes’

Even though digital currencies are not legal tender, they have market value and can be traded internationally on digital platforms in Thailand and overseas.

Romsit said the current AMLO law empowered the agency to investigate cases in which ill-gotten money, such as the proceeds of cheating and investment scams, was converted into other assets, while the planned amendment would relate to bitcoin and all other digital currencies.

If there is solid evidence, the agency will also be empowered to freeze all assets arising from illegal activity, pending further investment and prosecution. The AMLO will require people providing digital exchange services to file reports about transactions, with a special focus on people involved in suspicious activities that could be covering up money laundering.

Meanwhile, AMLO chairman Pol General Chaiya Siri-ampunkul said the public should be careful when investing in bitcoin and other digital currencies since they could be joining illegal Ponzi schemes using digital currencies.

Most of the schemes promised very high returns but payments were typically delivered for a short time only, after which they stopped and the schemes collapsed, Chaiya said. 

He added that investors would not be able to contact criminal networks involved and could lose their investments. 

The public should reach AMLO via its 1710 hotline for inquiries, he said.

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