The top Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee plan to introduce legislation this week that would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study virtual currency’s role in illicit online activity. 

  • The language appears in a draft anti-money laundering amendment to the gargantuan National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass bill that greenlights annual military spending. 
  • “Although the use and trading of virtual currencies are legal practices, some terrorists and criminals, including international criminal organizations, seek to exploit vulnerabilities” through them, the amendment read.
  • If the amendment is passed the GAO, a congressional watchdog agency, would have one year to report on how virtual currencies might be facilitating human- and drug-trafficking industries across online marketplaces.
  • The office would study how virtual currency acts as a vehicle for laundering illicit funds into the U.S. banking system, as well as what, if anything, the federal government is doing to stop it.
  • Whether the “immutability and traceability of virtual currencies” can help prosecute criminals would also be on GAO’s list of concerns. 
  • As first reported by Bloomberg Law, committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) agreed to the language with bipartisan support from the 25-member Senate committee.
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