Colombian anti-money laundering czar Javier Gutiérrez López said a government financial watchdog detected signs of money laundering and terrorist financing activities through the use of digital assets, Bloomberg reported this week.
Gutiérrez López, director of Colombia’s Financial Information and Analysis Unit (UIAF), which has a mandate to investigate and monitor transactions in Colombia’s financial systems for signs of illicit activity, said to the publication that his agency had already detected red flags in the crypto space.
‘[The UIAF] has already detected possible money laundering and terrorist financing operations using virtual assets,” he said in an interview with the publication.
Virtual assets have raised red flags in a number of suspicious transaction reports that the UIAF has been tasked with combing through as a means of tracing the flow of illicit money, according to Bloomberg.
The agency said that between 2014 and 2021, it received 1,379 suspicious transaction reports involving digital assets.
Gutiérrez López shared the information – a rare move, according to Bloomberg – during a press conference on the state of Colombia’s anti-money laundering regime with particular emphasis on protecting nonprofits. while supporting its growing crypto industry.
His comments follow the release of proposed draft rules issued by Colombia’s financial sector regulator, the Financial Superintendency of Colombia, which would create a risk management system to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism, including guidance on methods of tracking crypto transactions.
The guidelines were proposed to support the country’s “Sandbox” initiative launched in 2021, which allows banks to work more closely with cryptocurrency exchanges to buy and sell digital assets.
“It is no secret that money laundering and terrorist financing through virtual asset mining is due to the fact that illegal money can be used to acquire computer tools for the mining service,” said Gutiérrez López, who became director of the UIAF in September 2018 after working there. for 12 years.
“In this way, the illegal money that drives the original offer can be mixed with legal money,” he added.
However, Gutiérrez López said that in seeking to crack down on potentially illicit transactions in the crypto space, his agency’s mandate as a watchdog should not interfere with the role of the Colombian government in supporting the industry as it matures.
“Our goal is not to stigmatize virtual assets, we want to protect them from the penetration of illicit money. But there is a need to assess and understand the risk in transactions with digital assets and move towards a single anti-money laundering regulation,” he said.