By Arun Kumar Shrivastav
The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has revealed that it has tracked nearly 3,300 crypto accounts from April to November 2022 for illegal activities such as wildlife smuggling, drug trade, money laundering, and funding social unrest. The total illegal transaction through these accounts amounted to nearly Rs 28,000 crore, which took place between 2019 and 2021. FIU has been able to get 70% of these accounts closed while it’s working to get the remaining accounts closed. Some of them are on foreign exchanges and to get those accounts blocked FIU is coordinating with international agencies such as Interpol and Europol, among others.
FIU which works under the Ministry of Finance has shared the input with other premier investigation agencies such as ED, CBI, and IT Department for field investigations. It has also directed investigations against three prominent Indian crypto firms but has named them publicly.
In the face of a crypto meltdown and the collapse of a string of big crypto companies that resulted in tens of thousands of investors losing their money, the crypto space is being seen with doubts and concerns not seen in its history so far. Indian investigators being on the hot trail of wrongdoers in this space have been able to ensure that India is not hit by the cascading effects of big collapses. The RBI’s stance against cryptocurrency looks to be vindicated as it has vehemently opposed any legitimacy to digital coins so far.
But that is not the full story. Early this month, UK’s Economic Secretary Andrew Griffith reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the crypto industry and its ambition to become a key player. This is despite the collapse of FTX, which has left investors with a setback of $ 8 billion. “We’re driving forward this agenda, and I continue to chair the crypto-engagement group to hear from industry and share progress… Yes, there are questions about the future of crypto, but we’d be foolish to ignore the potential of the underlying technology,” Griffith said last Thursday.
Michael Gronagar, CEO of Chainalysis, a Blockchain intelligence company that counts governments, investigation agencies, and financial companies as its clients, says in a new blog that the failure of entities such as FTX is an opportunity to reiterate the reason why we are in the crypto industry, what we believe in, and why we are building. This intends to clarify that crypto is going to reinvent the exchange of value in the same as the internet has reinvented the exchange of information.
The official stance of the Indian government on the issue of cryptocurrency has been one that of indecision. It believes it is an emerging idea for which there are not enough safeguards and it may trigger financial instability and spike funding of illegal activities. India wants a global voice against cryptocurrency that acts in unison. With India assuming G20 Presidency, it is expected that it will work towards the goal of global regulation for this sector. That may or may not come, given differing viewpoints and interests of member countries of this important economic block.
In Griffith’s reassertion of the UK’s resolve to move ahead with its crypto plans because of the powerful technology that underpins the world of digital assets, failures like FTX notwithstanding, he has the support of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had overseen some important initiatives taken under his previous role as the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. While not letting crypto flourish by formal and informal means, the government may have a case that it wants to protect the investors. But by not taking adequate initiatives in this field, it’s putting cold water on India’s lead in this space.
For example, India is debating a new bill on personal data protection and even when this is going on, several institutions of national importance such as AIIMS have seen malicious attacks on their data centres, resulting in the exposure of data of millions of Indians to bad actors. It appears from the reports so far that these attacks are being sponsored by India’s arch rivals and neighbours China and Pakistan as a test of resilience of India’s critical IT infrastructures. These attacks often launched from a third country in Eastern Europe and elsewhere amount to a threat to India’s national interest. Can blockchain technology help in this matter?
Well, it seems we are not allowing India’s tech capability to respond to emerging challenges in this space. (IPA Service)