Cybercriminals are taking full advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced life into a digital realm, by leveraging increased fear and uncertainty to steal money and launder it through the complex cryptocurrency ecosystem. Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, known as the J5, has ramped up its efforts by arresting cybercriminals suspected of laundering millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, according to a J5 joint statement. The J5 also has been updating its Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism laws for cryptocurrencies in accordance with Financial Action Task Force standards, with Australian researchers having linked half of all yearly transactions in the $250 billion Bitcoin (BTC) market to illegal activity, according to a new report.

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The J5 is a multiagency coalition that includes government agencies from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was formed in mid-2018 by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in response to a call to action from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for countries to do more to tackle the enablers of cross-border tax and related crime by those individuals who have access to resources and professional enablers as well as by organized crime groups. 

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The J5’s first globally coordinated day of enforcement action against suspected offshore tax evasion and other related crimes was undertaken at the beginning of this year. The effort involved the sharing of evidence and intelligence and information collection activities such as search warrants, interviews and subpoenas. 

Related: Upbeat Dutch Blockchain and Crypto Action Agenda

Sources: finder.com.au, abc.net.au, therift.eu, europarl.europa.eu, fintrac-canafe.gc.ca  

*Effective June 1

Related: How Crypto Is Taxed in the US: A Taxpayer’s Dilemma 

The new Canadian cryptocurrency AML/CTF laws

Canada’s watchdog for financial crimes, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada, will begin regulating cryptocurrency companies as of June 1. 

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Such companies with $10,000 Canadian dollars in crypto activities are required to register as a money service business and are also required to document the name, birth date, address, phone number and type of crypto transaction for any transaction over C$1,000. More details would be required in case of transactions of C$10,000 and greater.

Rod Hsu, the chief operating officer of Interlapse Technologies Corp., stated in a private interview: 

“Building consumer trust takes time and this space has had its fair share of negative press over the years. While regulation is adapting, by putting initial frameworks in place for businesses to operate within, this can help provide consumers with a level of comfort and security. Ultimately, consumers want to know they are protected and by having guidelines in place, businesses can be held accountable for their actions. While this is one facet of building consumer trust, it’s a vital one given the nature of Bitcoin.” 

He also added that with regulation “you will see smaller operators fall off due to the regulatory requirements and operational overhead. This will lead to consolidation of virtual currency operators that can function within these regulatory frameworks. With these requirements as a prerequisite, this will help to filter out ‘fly by night’ operators.” Hsu thinks regulation is a good thing for building consumer trust and encouraging mass adoption of Bitcoin. 

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of CryptoNewspeople.

Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA, is an international tax attorney and certified public accountant who frequently writes about tax, legal and accounting issues for Tax Notes, Bloomberg BNA, other publications and the OECD.