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New U.K. bill looks to clamp down on crypto-facilitated money laundering

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(Kitco News) - A new anti-money laundering bill has been introduced in the U.K. that looks to make it easier for law enforcement to seize digital assets as part of a large push to clamp down on money laundering in the country. 

The new legislation, entitled "Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill," will reportedly require anyone who registers a company in the U.K. to verify their identity as a way to tackle the issue of companies being used as fronts for crime or foreign kleptocrats. 

"Domestic and international criminals have for years laundered the proceeds of their crime and corruption by abusing U.K. company structures, and are increasingly using cryptocurrencies," according to National Crime Agency Director General Graeme Biggar. "These reforms – long awaited and much welcomed – will help us crack down on both." 

Along with beefing up identity verification requirements, the new law will also make it easier for law enforcement agencies such as the National Crime Agency to seize, freeze and recover crypto assets, which have been "increasingly used by organized criminals to launder profits from fraud, drugs and cybercrime."

This is part of a broader crackdown on illicit funds currently stashed in the U.K., an issue that has become a point of focus after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

"The U.K. is no home for dirty money. The government has taken unprecedented action to prevent kleptocrats and organized criminals from abusing our open economy, and this bill will go even further," Home Secretary Suella Braverman said in comments that accompanied the proposed legislation. 

"Through this Bill, we are giving our law enforcement agencies greater powers and intelligence capabilities to stay one step ahead of the criminals intent on keeping their corrupt assets out of reach."

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Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg highlighted that the goal of the new bill is to be welcoming to legitimate businesses while also avoiding exploitation "by fraudsters misusing the identities of innocent people, or corrupt elites attempting to disguise their dodgy dealings."

"This historic Bill will equip Companies House and law enforcement with the tools they need to root out criminals attempting to hide their activities without burdening law-abiding companies with unnecessary bureaucracy. Above all, via strict enforcement measures, we are telling investors that the U.K. is open for legitimate business only," Rees-Mogg said. 

The first reading of the new bill took place on Thursday in the House of Commons, and a second reading, which is a required step in the process of the bill becoming law, is currently scheduled for October 13.

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