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European Union grants new AML watchdog to oversee cryptocurrencies

The European Union (EU) intends to strengthen oversight of the growing cryptocurrency sector by giving its new anti-money laundering watchdog (AML), responsibility for monitoring cryptocurrencies.

As reported by Bloomberg, a group of EU member states has put forward a proposal for the new financial regulator to be in charge of overseeing companies in the crypto industry. Led by Germany, the proposal seeks to make more explicit the inclusion of cryptocurrency companies within the scope of control of the new agency, said an EU diplomat briefed on the discussions.

The European Commission proposed last year to create a European Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Authority (AMLA) to directly supervise cross-border financial firms, and coordinate enforcement among national regulators. Media outlets such as Reuters reported in July 2021.

According to the anonymous source who spoke to Bloomberg, the new regulator is expected to begin operating in 2024. In the meantime, the European Commission and other authorities are negotiating the powers and design of such a body. According to reports, the full list of financial entities that would come under the new agency’s oversight has not yet been detailed.

Proposal for new AML watchdog

The 27-country bloc wants to include cryptocurrency firms within the regulatory scope of the new watchdog due to concerns that digital assets are linked to illicit activities. Members such as Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands, back this proposal.

“It is key that the scope of the new EU authority explicitly includes cryptoassets, given that it is one of the fields most prone to money laundering activities,” said Luis Garicano, one of the EU’s lead lawmakers for the proposal.

The proposal to form a new anti-money laundering watchdog agency for Europe emerged last year after a Danish bank scandal exposed the inadequacy of the bloc’s defenses, according to Reuters.

According to that media outlet, Europe had come under pressure to tighten enforcement of its anti-money laundering rules after several investigations into Danske Bank showed that more than 200 billion euros (USD $235 billion) of suspicious transactions had passed through its small Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

Politico adds that the decision came after the European Banking Authority (EBA) proved ineffective in covering the task; especially after a series of “scandals” and concerns about the Paris-based agency’s blind spots. The media outlet further mentions a case in which the agency failed to hold regulators accountable for sleeping on the job.

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