Are criminals too stupid to use bitcoin? That is what a July 4 European Union report suggested. This will not strike many people as obvious, though. One of the most common concerns touted by governments about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is criminals will use them to fund their activities.
The EU’s commission Staff document detailed, “While they (criminals) may have a high intent to use due to VCs characteristics (anonymity in particular), the level of capability is lower due to high technology required.” This low level of capability implies criminals lack understanding of cryptocurrencies and have little technological acumen.
Financing Terrorism with Bitcoin Requires IT Expertise and Tech Skills
After the report mentioned the low incidence of criminal use, it added terrorists may try to use “virtual currencies” like bitcoin to finance some operations. The report said the level of anonymity of virtual currencies provides a modicum of risk, because it plays into the hands of terror cells and other nefarious organizations. In other words, people with violent intentions can use these currencies in a secretive way to fund bombing campaigns or other violent activities. It currently seems unlikely, however, considering the technology is still developing/emerging, the report stated.
“It is nevertheless important to mention that being currently a developing technology requiring IT 88 skills and expertise, virtual currencies are not necessarily easy to use and the number of transactions is still quite low.”
Regulation Vulnerability in the EU
The biggest fear the EU report pointed out centered on the regulation status of bitcoin and other “virtual currencies.” The fact that these cryptocurrencies are essentially unregulated means there are few reporting and tracking mechanisms in place. The report concluded since suspicious transactions cannot be monitored, are borderless, international, anonymous, and no one has duty to report strange activity to the Financial Intelligence Unit, the risk of vulnerability for financial terrorism remains high.
The inherent risk exposure is also very high due to the features of the virtual currencies (internet, crossborder and anonymity). Finally, the sector is currently not organised well enough to receive guidance or relevant information on AML/CFT requirements. Consequently, the level of TF vulnerabilities related to virtual currencies is considered as significant/very significant (level 3/4)
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