In a bid to prevent the usage of cryptocurrencies in criminal activities, Thailand is taking another route; covering cryptocurrencies under its anti-money laundering rules. 

The secretary-general of the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo), Preecha Charoensahayanon, said that criminals are hiding their tracks in cryptocurrencies. As such, Preecha noted, cryptos are becoming a new tool of money laundering.

Thailand thinks Bitcoin is preferred by criminals

According to the Bangkok Post:

“Preecha believes criminal suspects will increasingly transform their money into digital currencies such as Bitcoin as the virtual format will make it harder for authorities to trace their financial transactions.”

The secretary-general added that Amlo’s mandate would revolve around two major areas. For example, it will work to “prevent and crack” clandestine plots to hide illegal assets. Also, Thailand’s AML office will probe “new hideouts in the cyber world.”

To comprehensively approach the issue of money laundering using cryptocurrencies, the country’s laws will need to be amended to prepare Amlo for new online missions.

First, expand the AML Act

Therefore, Preecha will first expand the current Anti-Money Laundering Act to include a section that persuades virtual currency exchanges to surrender their users’ activities to Amlo. This, according to Amlo’s secretary-general, will help the authorities to track changes in currency formats. Consequently, it will help them unearth any discrepancy in “money activities on internet-based platforms.”

Preecha added:

“Though Amlo officers currently do not receive complaints, or deal with, cases directly involving virtual currencies, they need to stay alert. We may not find any clue, but that doesn’t mean the wrongdoing does not occur.”

While expounding on his reason to include crypto under AML rules, the secretary-general, said that the move is per international standards. 

Notably, Preecha may be referring to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which Thailand is a member. According to recommendations by FATF, cryptocurrency exchanges should furnish financial regulators in their respective jurisdictions with their users’ information.

Crypto exchanges should surrender user’s information

According to FATF’s proposal, a crypto exchange involved in sending money:

“[Should] obtain and hold required and accurate sender information and required recipient information and submit the information to beneficiary institutions [where applicable]. Additionally, countries should ensure that beneficiary institutions obtain and hold required sender information and required and accurate beneficiary information.”

For example, FATF noted, each transfer should record the sender’s name, sender’s account number (wallet address), the sender’s physical address/nationality/customer identification number, the receiver’s name, receiver’s account number (wallet address), among other details.

Luckily, compared to other Asian countries such as India and China, Thailand has had a relatively lower number of cryptocurrency-related scams. However, it has not all been clean.Last year, authorities in Thailand warned the public of a Bitcoin scam that duped Aarni Otava Saarimaa, a Finish investor, approximately 797 million baht. The investor was fooled into buying shares of three companies. Unfortunately, Saarimaa was “told to pay in the form of Bitcoins which was later secretly withdrawn by the suspect.”