Real estate agents will have to alert money laundering authorities of any property sales paid for in crypto, the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said in a statement on Monday.
With companies such as Bybit, Kraken, Binance and Crypto.com seeking to set up in the emerging crypto hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, some real estate developers in the country had announced they would start accepting payments in bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH).
Now the government is looking to clamp down, to ensure that any real estate transactions must be reported to money-laundering watchdogs if they use virtual assets, or funds derived from virtual assets, for even a fraction of the home's value.
The new rules will leave "little or no room for manipulation or illegal practices that could negatively impact the work environment and the economy and investment" in the real estate and legal sectors, UAE Minister for Economics Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri said in a statement.
They would also require brokers, agents and law firms to file reports to the Financial Intelligence Unit, which is responsible for tracking dirty money, and would also apply when the buyer attempts to pay in cash worth over AED 55,000 (around $15,000). The government did not specify any threshold for virtual assets, implying even the smallest bitcoin transactions will be caught.
Global anti-money laundering standard-setter the Financial Action Task Force is attempting to clamp down on using crypto to launder the proceeds of crime or fund terrorism, including via the "travel rule," a controversial way of identifying and tracking payers.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.