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Seizing Crypto: When Asset Recovery Goes Digital

Over £6 billion of illicit funds reportedly flow through the crypto ecosystem every year. More training, resources and regulation are needed to seize these assets.

Complex task: seizing cryptoassets requires training, resources, regulation and a good dose of political will

In late March, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced the conviction of an ex-takeaway worker residing in a mansion in North London for laundering the proceeds of a multi-billion pound investment fraud. While the details of the prosecution were headline-grabbing, the case also marked a significant milestone: the largest Bitcoin seizure to date in the UK. An estimated £2 billion worth of Bitcoin was seized by the UK authorities, deemed to be the proceeds of crime.

When compared to other countries, the UK is regarded as one of the leading jurisdictions for cryptoasset seizures. While this case was undoubtedly a sizable success, it was not an easy task at all. The process took at least six years to complete from the initial raid of the suspect’s home in October 2018 to the confiscation of the assets following the criminal trial. Considering the limited number of crypto seizures that have taken place in the meantime, and the amount of illicit activity that is facilitated by the use of cryptoassets, this case feels less like a reason to celebrate and more an opportunity to discuss why cryptoasset seizures do not happen more often.

Seizing cryptoassets has its challenges, but it is not impossible. Given the data breadcrumbs left on the blockchain, it could be argued that it is actually much easier to detect and seize the proceeds of crime. However, it still requires training, resources, regulation and a good dose of political will. Put simply, the same sort of challenges that have troubled the asset recovery landscape for many years need to be overcome first before diving into the cryptoasset space.

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Original article link: https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/seizing-crypto-when-asset-recovery-goes-digital

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