UK police authorized to seize criminal crypto holdings without arrests

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From April 26, police can transfer seized illicit crypto to wallets controlled by the authorities, with victims able to reclaim funds from the accounts.

UK police authorized to seize criminal crypto holdings without arrests

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The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and police have received expanded authority to “seize, freeze, and destroy” cryptocurrency used by criminals. As a result of the new rules, police in the country will no longer be required to make an arrest before seizing crypto holdings.

According to a press release from the U.K. Home Office, the police can also seize items like passwords or memory sticks that could aid investigations. U.K. law enforcement will also be able to eliminate a crypto asset if returning it to circulation is deemed detrimental to the public good.

Part of the new laws — which will come into effect from April 26 — state that the police can also transfer seized illicit cryptocurrency to wallets under their control, and crime victims can apply to reclaim funds from their crypto accounts.

U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly said that criminals must not profit from illegal activities. Cleverly cited crypto fundraising by groups as the rationale behind the new police powers.

“These reforms will also enhance our national security. Terrorist organisations like Daesh are known to raise funds through crypto transactions and these updated powers will enable our agencies to more easily strip them of their assets.”

The new regulations were implemented following the passage of a crime bill by the U.K. parliament in 2023, which facilitated the rapid seizure of cryptocurrency.

Related: UK to propose clearer crypto regulations by July

The press release highlighted privacy coins as being “detrimental to the public good.” While most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) employ public ledgers that offer pseudo-anonymity to users, privacy coins provide a much higher level of anonymity.

However, it’s noted that even with wallet addresses being anonymous, once associated with an individual’s identity through procedures like Know Your Customer (KYC), all transactions made by that wallet can be traced and identified.

The announcement, while noting that cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens are used by drug dealers and fraudsters, as evidenced by different investigations, stated that the new changes aim to prevent criminals from exploiting crypto for illicit purposes while also fostering its potential to drive economic growth legitimately.

However, it stated that the new changes are intended to prevent criminals from exploiting crypto for illicit purposes while also promoting its potential to legitimately drive economic growth.

Governments and law enforcement globally, not just in the U.K., have recently intensified efforts against crypto privacy initiatives. On April 24, authorities in the United States apprehended the founders of Bitcoin mixer Samourai Wallet on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Magazine: Tornado Cash 2.0: The race to build safe and legal coin mixers

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