Bitcoin is one of the last assets that money launderers ever think of using, according to BitMEX. The exchange published a report meant to dispel rumors that the cryptocurrency world is rife with people smelling of coin detergent.
In the report, BitMEX approaches the situation with a scenario in which a criminal wishes to move $1 million and transform it into Bitcoin. Using this case, there are two choices.
“Either you can open an account on an exchange, or trade over-the-counter (OTC) with a dealer,” the company wrote.
BitMEX points out that exchanges that can provide this amount of liquidity need good friends in the banking sector. And, of course, banks like these require KYC/AML verifications for accounts. Even if a bank doesn’t necessarily care about money laundering, there are laws they have to follow and they can’t just allow their largest clients to move money around with impunity.
In the European Union—a region that BitMEX didn’t mention in its report—it’s worth noting that exchanges are required to do KYC checks regardless of what bank relationships they have. This agreement was reached as far back as October last year, affecting all exchanges operating inside of member states.
As the exchange points out, there are indeed dealers who don’t require KYC verifications, but they mostly deal in cash and require significant overhead costs. Finding one that would be able to move $1 million would also be tough.
So, where are money launderers washing their money?
According to the report, the US real-estate market is a haven from this perspective. They do not need to present identification or any background checks for purchasing property with cold hard cash below a certain threshold. In some cities, this threshold could reach as high as $3 million.
Foreigners get the added benefit of the fact that the US is not a signatory of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS). For a US citizen to get the same treatment, they have to go to do their business in a non-FATCA-compliant country, which isn’t easy to find. Considering the strengthening of crypto-facing regulation, though, buying Bitcoin might still be one of the least efficient ways to launder large amounts of cash.