In a bold stride towards curbing money laundering, the U.K. is implementing “the travel rule”, an international anti-money laundering law for crypto set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), from September 1. This legislation comes with quite a conundrum for crypto firms that are now navigating the challenge of subtle variations in the regulation’s application across borders. An interesting wrinkle lies in the FATF’s requirements, which insist on firms knowing the names of people behind transactions, generating quite a boil in the crypto industry.
Certain aspects of the crypto world, such as self-custodied wallets that lack regulated provider oversight, are creating a significant discord in applying the rule. However, another group views this legislation as indispensable in combating dirty money, thus enhancing crypto’s reputation. FATF has described the apparent reluctance in implementing this rule across a modest 35 jurisdictions as a “serious concern”.
One of the headaches caused by this regulation is that crypto firms are expected to gather data on their customers’ overseas interactions. This prompts a “sunrise issue” for the law, where some geographical locations enforce it while others do not. This issue, aptly described by Ilya Brovin of Sumsub, a verification platform, brings about complications in achieving compliance. Still, he argues that the travel rule will help institutions identify trustworthy crypto businesses.
UK Finance and Claire Cross of law firm Corker Binning are among the groups pushing for standardizing the travel rule across jurisdictions. They caution that the lack of harmony in the rule’s application could result in loop holes that criminals can exploit. The ongoing challenge is the delay in the rule’s execution, even in some of the 35 jurisdictions that have passed the laws, such as the European Union.
There are also discrepancies in implementation within compliant jurisdictions. Canada, for instance, requires operators to register beneficiaries’ postal addresses – a specification the U.K. does not demand. Companies dealing with transfers across such jurisdictions grapple with this variance.
For Caterina Veloso of CryptoUK, the key to mitigating these issues lays in more detailed guidelines, especially for handling inbound transfers and dealing with non-compatible, closed protocols. The group plans to contact the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG) to seek more clarification. Veloso also hopes that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will exercise some empathy with firms coming to grips with the new legislation. However, the FCA has made it clear that laxity will not be tolerated where money laundering is concerned.
As we embark on this new era of cryptocurrency regulation, it remains to be seen how these distinct variations and challenges will be managed, steered and inevitably, resolved. With the potential to redefine trust in crypto businesses and curb criminal activity, the travel rule’s full impact will undeniably be an unfolding revelation.