UK law enforcement given new powers to seize, destroy digital assets linked to criminals

The UK government enacted new laws on April 26 that grant the National Crime Agency (NCA) and police enhanced powers to seize, freeze, and destroy digital assets linked to criminal activities.

The new measures aim to disrupt the financial networks of organized crime groups that increasingly exploit cryptocurrencies to launder money

. These legislative changes are part of the UK’s broader strategy to combat cybercrime and manage the risks and benefits of digital assets in the economy.

The update to the UK’s proceeds of crime and anti-terrorism laws eliminates the requirement for an arrest prior to seizing crypto. The adjustment targets criminals who maintain anonymity or operate from overseas.

Law enforcement officers now have the authority to seize items like written passwords or memory sticks that could aid in criminal investigations and transfer illicit digital assets to government-controlled electronic wallets, effectively blocking criminal access.

Additionally, authorities now have the power to destroy certain digital assets, particularly privacy coins, which provide high anonymity and are commonly used in illegal transactions. This measure prevents these assets from re-entering circulation. Additionally, crime victims can now request the release of funds held in crypto accounts.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said:

“We are making it much easier for law enforcement to stay on top of a new and developing threat by ensuring that criminals can never benefit from breaking the law.”

He noted the reforms would enhance national security and support economic growth through legitimate uses of crypto.

In recent operations, the NCA and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration dismantled a multi-million-dollar drug network, seizing $150 million in cash and cryptocurrencies. Other successful cases include the conviction of individuals using crypto for counterfeit drug sales on the dark web and VAT fraud involving non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor, highlighted the importance of adapting to technological advances”

“Investigators and prosecutors must have the capability and agility to keep pace with the changing nature of crime.”

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