Estonia’s New Anti-Money Laundering Chief Wants Stricter Rules for Crypto Licenses

The head of the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit even wants to revoke existing licenses, but the communications manager for the FIU said that the country would not pursue this action.

AccessTimeIconOct 13, 2021 at 4:34 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:14 p.m. UTC

Matis Mäeker, recently appointed head of Estonia’s anti-money laundering government agency, believes Estonia should scrap its current crypto regulations and start again, he said in an interview with the local news outlet Eesti Ekspress.

Estonia has been known among crypto entrepreneurs as a friendly jurisdiction, and getting a license there has been easy. Now, that could change.

Talking to journalists, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) chief, appointed in May of this year, said crypto companies have made “tens of billions of euros per year,” and that most of that money ended up in other countries and didn’t help the Estonian economy, according to the translated version of the interview by ERR.

“Their only goal is to get an Estonian license and use it to turn over very large sums, while Estonia gets nothing out of it,” Mäeker said.

Mäeker proposed stricter rules for licensing crypto startups in Estonia and raising the minimum capital requirements from €12,000 (US$13,900) to €350,000 ($405,000). He said a bill proposing regulations for crypto licenses will be introduced in the Estonian parliament.

Meanwhile, existing crypto licenses should be revoked, Mäeker said. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) revoked 1,808 cryptocurrency licenses last year, and now there are 400 current licenses in Estonia, according to ERR.

But in an email to CoinDesk, the communications manager for the FIU said that Estonia is not planning to revoke existing licenses of crypto operators in the country. The manager, Õnne Mets, said that “the aim of the new regulations is “to handle better the risk” that cryptocurrency creates.

Mets said that the Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu, must pass the new regulations, which the FIU supports, and that if they win approval, crypto operators will have a time period to adopt them. He said that the regulations would help ensure that crypto operators are managing risks and also bolster the FIU’s oversight of crypto services. “The changes reinforce a transparent and trustworthy business environment,” Mets said.

UPDATE: (Oct. 15, 21:00 UTC): Updates headline and deck, and adds paragraphs noting the comments of the FIU’s communications manager.


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Anna Baydakova

Anna Baydakova was CoinDesk's investigative reporter with a special focus on Eastern Europe and Russia. Anna owns BTC and an NFT.

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