The U.S. Congress is pushing for a bill to ban the ‘money laundering’ of virtual currencies. Some project that this bill's passage will blow a heavy blow to North Korea, which has been raising funds for its nuclear and missile programs by hacking virtual currencies.
On Wednesday, U.S. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. Roger Marshall announced they are introducing a “Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act.” “The rogue states, Oligarchy (newly emerging conglomerates in Russia), and drug dealers are using virtual currencies to launder money and avoid regulations. We will set common-sense rules to prevent loopholes in money laundering,” said Warren, making it clear that they aimed at North Korea, Russia, and Iran.
The bill calls for the Ministry of Finance to designate virtual currency operators and miners as financial operators and mandate them to check their customers. It also bans financial companies from using cryptocurrency mixer companies to hide their fund sources and makes it mandatory for Americans to report cryptocurrency transactions worth more than $10,000 through overseas accounts.
“Following the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government enacted meaningful reforms that helped the banks cut off bad actors from America’s financial system. Applying these similar policies to cryptocurrency exchanges will prevent digital assets from being abused to finance illegal activities,” highlighted Sen. Marshall.
If the bill passes the U.S. Congress, it is expected to hurt North Korea, which has been raising funds by stealing virtual currency. The North stole over 1 billion dollars this year through hacking groups, including Lazarus. The regime reportedly has been laundering cryptocurrency through mixer companies to remove the traces and turned the money into cash for nuclear and missile development.
If the bill blocks the laundered money from flowing into financial institutions, North Korea will have no way to have the stolen money cashed. Virtual currency operators will have to verify the customers’ identification, allowing the government to determine how North Korea monetizes its virtual currencies and directly sanction North Korea’s funding sources.
However, it is still unclear whether the bill will become legislated. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, the ranking member of the Banking Committee, pointed out that he “did not think the money-laundering rules were well-suited to crypto.”
South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Hwang Joon-kook said in a public discussion on Security Council reform at the U.N. headquarters in New York that “certain member states are conducting cyberattacks to destroy other countries’ facilities, steal intelligence, and raise funds for nuclear weapons,” and called the Security Council for a discussion on cyber security targeting North Korea.