UK Lawmakers Vote to Widen Authorities’ Powers in Seizing Crypto-Related Property

The amendment builds upon a bill in Parliament that allows the government to seize cryptocurrencies tied to crime.

AccessTimeIconNov 22, 2022 at 1:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 22, 2022 at 2:28 p.m. UTC

Lawmakers in the U.K. voted on Tuesday to grant authorities wider powers to seize property containing information that can help identify crypto assets related to crime.

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which is being debated in Parliament, already included rules to give authorities powers to seize cryptocurrencies tied to criminal activity.

New amendments accepted by lawmakers in the House of Commons (the lower chamber of Parliament) seek to give local law enforcement powers to also seize “crypto asset-related items,” which are items of property that contain or give access to information that could help assist in the seizure of targeted crypto assets.

“What this bill is doing is making sure that those assets that are held in crypto can be seized like other assets,” Tom Tugendhat, the minister of state responsible for crime and terrorism regulation, said during Tuesday’s line-by-line reading of the bill.

The same amendment makes it an offense to assault or resist an accredited financial investigator trying to seize a crypto-related item. Yet another amendment accepted on Tuesday to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 ensures courts across the U.K. can ask authorities to seize and freeze crypto tied to crime. Measures that will ensure seized assets aren't released until legal proceedings are concluded were also added to the bill.

“We should prioritize tightening regulation and enforcement by cracking down on the widespread use of such assets to defraud individuals and undermine our national security,” said Stephen Kinnock, shadow minister of the Home Office department, which deals with security matters.

The U.K. National Police Chiefs' Council, a law-enforcement body, has said it has already seized “millions of pounds worth of cryptocurrency assets” and has crypto advisers in police departments all over the country.

Rulemakers for crypto worldwide are closely eyeing the sector amid this year’s market downturn and this month's collapse of crypto exchange FTX. Although the FTX fallout may be prompting regulators to establish tougher controls over the industry, it is unclear if stricter rules would have prevented FTX’s demise.

"It's certainly arguable that FTX got into difficulties for other reasons other than lack of regulation. I'll leave it there," Tugendhat said.

The bill still has to pass the House of Commons and go through the upper chamber of Parliament before it becomes law.


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Camomile Shumba

Camomile Shumba is a CoinDesk regulatory reporter based in the UK. She previously worked as an intern for Business Insider and Bloomberg News. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies or projects.