Bitcoin may face increased regulatory scrutiny following recent events. Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian officials of using cryptocurrency and large-scale hacking to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted 12 officials from the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU), Russia’s intelligence agency, who have reportedly used bitcoin to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Bitcoin Under the Radar
Mueller’s indictment places the emphasis on the usage of Bitcoin as means for money-laundering and other illicit activities:
The use of bitcoin allowed the Conspirators to avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds.
The usage of Bitcoin as well as cryptocurrencies, in general, as a means for illicit activities could enhance the scrutiny that they face.
What’s more, President Trump signed an executive order July 11, setting up a task force within the DOJ, ordered “to investigate and prosecute crimes of fraud committed against the U.S. Government or the American people, recover the proceeds of such crimes, and ensure just and effective punishment of those who perpetrate crimes of fraud” associated with digital currencies.
Is It Called For?
Bitcoin has been tied to illegal activities in the past, but previous reports show that it’s far from being as dangerous as some try to make it look.
International institutions have released several studies, displaying that cryptocurrencies, in general, do not pose significant risks when it comes to their usage for illicit activities.
A recent report of the Financial Services and Treasury on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment showed that cryptocurrencies are avoided by organized crime. Similar conclusions were reached in a report issued by the UK’s National Crime Agency, and by the Quebec Government.
Unsurprisingly, many Bitcoin advocates are skeptical of the calls for increased regulation. Jerry Brito, executive director of the virtual currency policy nonprofit Coin Center, said:
Bitcoin faces the same challenges of perception that the early internet did. […] Good guys can use it and bad guys can use it.
They Used Bitcoin and Got Caught
Mueller’s indictment itself outlines the transparency introduced by Bitcoin’s public and transparent ledger. While Bitcoin itself is pseudonymous, which is akin to having a screen name on the Internet, every transaction can be easily tracked on its immutable blockchain. This allowed investigators to identify some of the digital transactions conducted by the indicted officials.
It is doubtful whether the given individuals would have been identified had the same transactions been carried out using cash dollars.
While it’s true that proper regulation is capable of further accelerating Bitcoin’s widespread adoption, it’s important to be particularly careful, especially when it comes to its actual usage for illicit activities.