The Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom are ramping up their efforts to combat crypto-related crime as concerns about these activities surge worldwide. The UK’s largest police force, the Met, has been actively strengthening its anti-crypto crime initiatives, a move that began with the recruitment of a dedicated crypto investigation team in December. Currently, this team comprises approximately 40 staff members.
Simultaneously, the NCA has opened high-level positions for crypto investigators, signaling a strategic alignment with the broader UK endeavor to enhance cryptocurrency market regulation. Detective Inspector Geoff Donoghue of the Met’s crypto investigation team explained the gravity of the situation, stating, “Cryptocurrencies give a new dimension to the settlement of value transfer… everywhere that we have looked, we have found [crypto]. The evidence is suggesting an endemic role of cryptocurrency in organized crime.”
Despite the rising number of crypto-related crimes, including organized crime and fraud, the UK continues to witness significant growth in its cryptocurrency industry. The government has voiced ambitions to establish London as a leading hub for digital assets. Consequently, it has contemplated implementing stricter regulations for the cryptocurrency market, similar to those governing traditional financial assets.
“Crypto was once considered a niche within criminal enterprises, but there has been growing evidence that is no longer the case,” Donoghue added. “Drugs, guns, girls, and workers… there has been growing evidence that there has been the emerging use of crypto within those fields as well.”
To further bolster their efforts, the NCA has created roles like the Digital Assets Disclosure Officer and Digital Assets Cryptocurrency Financial Investigations Manager. These positions are part of the newly formed Digital Assets Team (DAT), which is dedicated to conducting complex investigations involving cryptocurrency and digital assets.
The UK’s heightened attention to crypto crime coincides with a global crackdown on the misuse of digital currencies. The government’s vision to establish London as a hub for crypto assets has faced challenges, particularly from the Financial Conduct Authority’s stringent new standards for the promotion of crypto products, which are among the strictest globally.
Nonetheless, the cryptocurrency industry in the UK has seen remarkable growth. A report from 2021 revealed a 450% increase, outpacing countries like the US and Japan. This growth, coupled with the government’s aspiration to position the UK as a global crypto hub, underscores the need for a balanced approach to regulating the sector. Such an approach aims to ensure that the industry continues to thrive while effectively curbing its misuse and criminal activities.