Acca sounds Bitcoin alert

Acca sounds Bitcoin alert

By Pádraig Hoare

The use of cryptocurrencies for money laundering and terror financing could set Irish crime detection back 20 years, an accountancy body has warned.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca) said it was vital that Irish members of the profession kept up with the rapidly-evolving cryptocurrency space, which includes Bitcoin.

Acca director of professional insights, Maggie McGhee, said Bitcoin caused concern because its pseudonymous nature gave rise to the risk of illegal activities such as money laundering and terror funding.

She said Bitcoin’s high volatility made it “inherently risky and unstable”, adding that it was “funding a speculative bubble in other areas like initial coin offerings (ICOs) with speculators chasing poorly formed business propositions”.

However, she said the underlying technology had huge potential for good.

“The underlying blockchain technology behind Bitcoin could revolutionise how financial transactions are done and have a positive impact on business globally. This potential must be viewed separately from the risks of Bitcoin.”

Acca Ireland technical director Aidan Clifford warned the Republic and the North could be attractive for criminals to launder money.

“The historical prevalence for money laundering across the border makes Ireland particularly at risk to cryptocurrencies by providing a clear route to enabling the proceeds of crime to go undetected.

“Cryptocurrency could bypass all the current controls and with the pending challenges of Brexit, it could set crime detection back 20 years. As an important line of defence it is incumbent upon all accountants to be informed and knowledgeable about the evolution of these evolving assets,” he said.

Meanwhile, Google said it will ban advertisements for cryptocurrencies and related content starting in June. Under the new policy, it will ban ads for unregulated or speculative financial products like binary options, cryptocurrency and financial spread betting.

In January, Facebook said it will ban ads promoting financial products and services tied to cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings. The policy will be implemented across its platforms, including Facebook, Audience Network and Instagram.

Additional reporting, Reuters

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