Cyprus Tightens Crypto Regulations with Hefty Penalties for Non-Compliance

Cyprus is set to introduce stringent penalties for unregulated cryptocurrency service providers (CSPs), according to the Cyprus Mail. The government has submitted a legislative amendment to the “Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering Law,” aiming to align the country with international anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) standards. The amendment was presented to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs on October 10, 2023.

The proposed amendments stipulate that all CSPs dealing with crypto assets must register with the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC). Failure to comply will result in penalties ranging from fines of up to €350,000 to imprisonment for up to five years, or a combination of both. This move reflects Cyprus’s commitment to minimizing risks associated with money laundering and terrorist financing.

The Cyprus Bar Association has expressed reservations about the amendments, particularly the requirement for CSPs registered in other EU member states to also register in Cyprus. In response, the Ministry of Finance highlighted that monitoring responsibility for such entities initially lies with the state where they are registered.

CySEC is also considering issuing guidelines related to the “Travel Rule” to further enhance regulatory oversight. Discussions are ongoing to ensure the proper and timely implementation of this regulation.

The Travel Rule, originally part of the Bank Secrecy Act in the US, mandates financial institutions to share transaction details with other institutions involved in fund transfers. This rule, adapted for the cryptocurrency industry, aims to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing by ensuring transaction details “travel” with the transfer. In cryptocurrencies, exchanges and wallet providers must share customer information, enhancing transparency and regulatory compliance.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has outlined compliance expectations for cryptoasset businesses regarding the ‘Travel Rule’ as well, effective from September 1, 2023. The rule mandates the collection, verification, and sharing of transaction information to align with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards.

This development is particularly relevant to Cyprus’ recent regulatory tightening, as both countries aim to align their cryptoasset industries with international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

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US Treasury to Increase DeFi Regulation

The decentralized finance (DeFi) sector has been booming in recent years, with a plethora of new projects and services popping up every day. However, with its rapid growth comes increased scrutiny from regulators, and the United States Treasury recently conducted a risk assessment of the sector to identify potential risks and areas where it may be lacking in compliance.

According to Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crime Elizabeth Rosenberg, the report found that DeFi was lacking in several ways, particularly in terms of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) compliance. She stated that the lack of compliance had allowed scammers, money launderers, and North Korean hackers to benefit from the sector, which is a major concern for the Treasury.

Rosenberg spoke about the report’s findings at a recent event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank, and she warned that the sector should be prepared for increased regulation in the future. The report was part of the Treasury’s response to U.S. President Joe Biden’s executive order on the responsible development of digital assets, which calls for increased oversight and regulation of the crypto industry.

One of the report’s key findings was that DeFi was not always as decentralized as it claimed to be. Many of the services and persons associated with DeFi services were found to be subject to AML/CFT obligations, meaning they were liable to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act. The report concluded that all DeFi services must comply with the Act, which is a major step towards increased regulation of the sector.

While some in the DeFi community may be concerned about the potential for increased regulation, others see it as a necessary step to ensure the sector’s long-term success. With more oversight and compliance measures in place, investors and users can be assured that they are participating in a safe and secure ecosystem that is less vulnerable to fraud and illicit activities.

Overall, the US Treasury’s risk assessment of DeFi has highlighted the need for increased compliance and regulation in the sector. As the DeFi industry continues to grow and evolve, it will be important for all participants to ensure they are following the necessary AML/CFT guidelines and complying with applicable laws and regulations. By doing so, they can help to create a more secure and sustainable future for the sector.


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