The U.S. Treasury Department may start publishing cryptocurrency wallet addresses along with the names of people and organizations with whom it forbids citizens from doing business.
In a March 19 update to its FAQ on sanctions compliance, the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control notes that cryptocurrencies are treated the same as fiat currencies when it comes to Specially Designated Nationals - a list of people affiliated with the governments of sanctioned nations, terrorist organizations or narcotics trafficking.
"To strengthen our efforts to combat the illicit use of digital currency transactions under our existing authorities, OFAC may include as identifiers on the SDN List specific digital currency addresses associated with blocked persons," the agency said.
Doing so would "alert the public of specific digital currency identifiers associated with a blocked person," OFAC said. However, the address listings "are not likely to be exhaustive."
The regulator advised:
"Parties who identify digital currency identifiers or wallets that they believe are owned by, or otherwise associated with, an SDN and hold such property should take the necessary steps to block the relevant digital currency and file a report with OFAC that includes information about the wallet's or address's ownership, and any other relevant details."
OFAC even indicated there would be a field on the SDN list for digital currency addresses, with room for up to 256 alphanumeric characters and the name or ticker of the currency (it listed as examples bitcoin, ether, litecoin, neo, dash, XRP, iota, monero and Venezuela's petro).
Marco Santori, president of wallet startup Blockchain.com and a longtime industry lawyer, tweeted that the move was "good news" for bitcoin in a broad sense, though he said it may have some unintended consequences:
This could create perverse incentives to use @zcashco or other privacy coins: Presumably OFAC will be able to ID bitcoin and non-private blockchain addresses but not private ones. Therefore, companies for whom it's difficult to comply will just support private chains instead.
-- Marco Santori (@msantoriESQ) March 21, 2018
The update came the same day U.S. president Donald Trump issued new sanctions against Venezuela after the latter launched the petro. Trump's executive order prohibits U.S. residents from purchasing or otherwise dealing with the sovereign cryptocurrency.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro launched the petro in an attempt to bypass existing U.S. sanctions, and later said the new executive order was in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
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