India to Regulate Cryptocurrencies by March 31st

Though declared illegal tender, regulations will give cryptocurrencies some legality.

After the Indian Finance Minister’s clear statement on the position of the government regarding the legality of Bitcoin and other digital currencies in the annual budget speech (“The government does not recognize cryptocurrency as legal tender…”), the authorities are now gearing up to clamp down on the dramatic growth of the cryptocurrency economy.

In an after-budget event, Subhash Chandra Garg, who is serving as a secretary in the department of economic affairs, said that the government is set to regulate cryptocurrencies in India.

According to Mr. Garg, by the end of the current financial year – March 31st – the government will come up with proper regulatory rules on cryptocurrencies and exchanges.

“We hope that within this year, the committee would finalize its recommendations and then it would require legal changes, regulatory assignments, but certainly there will be regulations by the end of this financial year,” said Mr. Garg at the CNBC TV18-Mint event.

Mr. Garg is also heading a committee, which was set up in December last year, to study the impact of cryptocurrency on the mainstream economy and to make regulatory recommendations on the subject.

This is not the sole committee set up by the Indian government to study the feasibility of cryptocurrency regulation. Another committee already turned in its report on the same, but the government never made the details public.

Targeting exchanges

In the budget speech, the Finance Minister raised concerns about the use of cryptocurrency in illicit activities like money laundering and even terror financing.

Reaffirming the government’s stance, Mr. Garg said: “The exchanges which have been set up currently are not regulated exchanges. They are in a way self-set up, self-regulated. There are no legal or statutory requirements for conducting the KYC (know your customer), there are no records of the transactions.”

“When you move to a system of regulated exchanges for crypto assets, then you have a proper trail,” he added.

Indian tax authorities are also monitoring Bitcoin transactions on suspicion of money laundering. Along with the enforcement directorate, the income tax department last month investigated multiple cryptocurrency users. Last year, it raided nine cryptocurrency exchanges operating in India, looking for evidence to establish the identities of investors and traders related to transactions undertaken by Bitcoin traders in India.

“The income tax department sent notices to bitcoin users who were conducting transactions of more than INR 1 crore ($156,000) daily. These details have been passed onto the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is examining them for alleged money laundering and fraud,” said an income tax department official.

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