2023 has been touted by many as the year that will birth an increase in regulations and laws guiding the crypto industry, and judging from the developments and precedents set in January; this prediction appears spot-on.
Following the infamous FTX crash in the fourth quarter of 2022, which resulted in a staggering $8 billion loss, regulatory bodies across the globe, particularly in the United States, have been put on high alert and have acted quickly to tighten enforcement. Since the start of the new year, US regulators have launched investigations, prosecuted unlawful transactions on platforms like Bitzlato, and introduced new regulatory guidelines for cryptocurrency practices.
On January 18, 2023, the US Department of Justice charged the founder and majority shareholder of Bitzlato Ltd., Anatoly Legkodymov, with “Unlicensed Money Transmitting” based on evidence showing that his company allegedly processed more than $700 million worth of illicit funds.
This ongoing prosecution is an indication of the increased level of legal and regulatory involvement that crypto platforms and stakeholders will likely continue to experience, particularly to combat cryptocrime and other illicit activities in the industry.
Similarly, four offenders were also sentenced last month in the UK for fraudulently obtaining and laundering around $27m in crypto obtained from an Australian cryptocurrency exchange.
Asides from the US, legislators in some other regions have been drafting proposals to properly monitor crypto platforms and operators; one of such regions is Australia, which is working to introduce regulations for the introduction of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) to the Australian crypto market through China’s “digital yuan.”
The European Union is another region that has made moves to regulate the crypto space so far this year through its Market in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation, which intends to protect consumers and users in the crypto industry by establishing harmonized rules for crypto-assets at the EU level.
MiCA further imposes the duty to adhere to know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations already being followed by exchanges like Binance and Coinbase. However, in an interesting turn of events, Coinbase was recently fined US$100 million by New York state regulators for AML noncompliance.
The EU’s MiCA is a regulatory framework that has been highly anticipated since FTX’s collapse. Upon approval, it would provide standard regulations on stablecoin issuance, market manipulation, custody, and transaction reporting and ensure broad compliance with its rules in the digital asset economy.
Although the MiCA has already gained a lot of traction, especially since the beginning of the year, and will remain relevant in discussions about crypto regulation, its provisions are not expected to come into effect until around 2024. Nevertheless, it will almost certainly have a significant impact on the regulation of crypto activities in other countries around the world as 2023 unfolds.
The Thai SEC has also reportedly issued regulations targeting virtual asset service providers (VASPs) and crypto custodians on January 17, 2023. The regulations are intended to be more stringent to prevent or reduce catastrophic events like the FTX collapse and protect and improve investor confidence in the cryptocurrency industry.
Furthermore, the Thai SEC demanded that cryptocurrency custodians provide policies and procedures for designing, developing, and managing digital wallets and keys. The authority also requires crypto custodians to develop a contingency plan in the event of an unforeseen event that disrupts the wallet management system.
According to the announcement, the new regulations have taken effect as of January 16, 2023, and crypto custodians are mandated to fully comply within six months from the effective date.
There has been a prediction that a self-regulatory agency for crypto markets may be established later this year. However, there have also been arguments on whether such an agency would have as much authority as traditional regulatory agencies because “self-regulation” would make crypto firms and platforms the judges in their own cases.
Regulatory trends in January also revealed that AML agencies worldwide would focus primarily on stopping cross-chain financial crime by sending specific alerts and warning signs about cross-chain criminality to virtual asset service providers (VASPs).
Another trend in crypto regulation so far this year is the increased effort to monitor the banking sector’s exposure to cryptocurrencies. Thus, Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), which have the potential to revive economic growth in the financial industry, are already being considered in the regulatory processes of countries such as Australia.
The failure/collapse and fraudulent actions of crypto platforms pose a serious threat to investors’ wealth as well as the overall stability of the financial system, which is one of the primary reasons for the regulation and enforcement of legislation in the crypto industry.
As the year progresses, regulatory watchdogs will most likely focus on combating emerging financial crime threats in the metaverse.
For many years, the crypto sector has been in desperate need of proper regulation, and recent events have highlighted this need even more.
Although these developments will result in more stringent crypto regulations, which some members of the crypto community believe will undermine the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies, such regulations will achieve the ultimate goal of building and securing investor confidence in the long run.
From a variety of angles, 2023 appears to be a watershed year for cryptocurrencies, cryptoassets, and central bank digital currencies, and DeFi Planet will be right in the thick of things, actively reporting on and comprehensively analyzing any further trends and developments in the crypto regulation sphere/debate.
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