Bitcoin and money laundering. To date, cryptocurrencies have failed to completely strip their association with shady financial practices. A new study by Ciphertrace shows: crypto exchanges and comparable service providers continue to have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to anti-money laundering measures.
In 2020, 56 percent of all Bitcoin exchanges place too little value on adequate customer identification. A new study comes to this conclusion the blockchain analytics firm Ciphertrace. The company examined know-your-customer processes from 800 crypto exchanges and comparable service providers from 80 countries.
Know Your Customer (KYC) is an important element in combating money laundering activities. The responsible international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) therefore demanded a year ago that Bitcoin exchanges should increasingly collect customer data. According to Ciphertrace, there has actually been an improvement since then. In 2019, 65 percent of the 120 most popular Bitcoin exchanges still had insufficient KYC measures. In 2020, at least from Ciphertrace’s point of view, crypto-asset service providers „still have a long way to go when it comes to compliance.“
Europe’s Bitcoin exchanges are doing poorly
Most of the Bitcoin exchanges and crypto service providers examined are located in Europe. Despite the comparatively high regulatory requirements on the continent, 60 percent of European providers come off badly when it comes to KYC. Europe is in contrast to the Asia-Pacific region. There are also many Kypto service providers in terms of quantity, whose KYC concept can be expanded. However, the percentage of providers with a good KYC is disproportionately high.
At the country level, the USA, Singapore, Great Britain and Russia bring up the rear in the study. According to Ciphertrace, a full 80 percent of Russian Bitcoin exchanges carry out an inadequate verification of customer data.
In Africa, meanwhile, the Seychelles are emerging as a money laundering hotspot. 72 percent of all Bitcoin service providers from Africa are registered on the islands, 70 percent of them attest Ciphertrace poor KYC measures. So it hardly seems surprising that the majority of the customers of those exchanges come from abroad.
DeFi could be an “oasis for money launderers”
In addition to the Bitcoin exchanges, the study also focuses on DeFi services. The authors point out that DeFi platforms can be very attractive for money laundering operations as a result of regulatory ambiguities.
According to this, 90 percent of all DeFi service providers only have an inadequate KYC concept, while 81 percent do not even establish the identities of their customers. In addition, of the 51 DeFi exchanges examined, only 21 indicated a country of origin at all. The rest remain in anonymity.
With regard to decentralized finance, Ciphertrace points out that the Financial Action Task Force already regards DeFi exchanges as a crypto asset service provider. In the European Union, the planned MiCA crypto regulation will not only affect Bitcoin exchanges, but also the DeFi space.