EU Seeks Controls Over Bitcoin: “Subject to Particular Attention”

"Among the sectors under assessment, the use of virtual currencies will be subject to particular attention," said a Commission official.

European Union (EU) ministers requested that the European Commission propose controls on anonymous payment methods, with a particular emphasis on virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

There is a renewed sense of urgency to regulate such payment instruments in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, which were carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group, which is believed to have recently carried out a number of additional deadly attacks around the world, is suspected of using bitcoin to finance its operations, though this has yet to be proven.

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The EU request was formalized at a meeting in Brussels on Friday, according to Reuters, which also reported on a draft document prepared for the meeting earlier in the week.

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The ministers urged the Commission to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments, money remittances, cash-carriers, virtual currencies, transfers of gold or precious metals and pre-paid cards in line with the risk they present”, according to a joint statement that concluded the meeting.

The statement is nearly identical to that reported in the draft document, with the noticeable additions of money remittances and cash carriers. The final text also calls for measures to stop the illicit trade of cultural goods such as stolen art works.

The document also emphasizes the ministers resolve to “to ensure a swift and effective freezing of terrorist assets throughout the Union.”

Among the payment instruments undergoing risk assessment for use in money laundering and terrorist financing, the use of virtual currencies will be “subject to particular attention,” a European Commission official was quoted as saying.

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