The attacks on crypto by banks and states have begun – and they might not even be aware of it. It’s emergent behavior. Let’s see what happened.
First some background. The European Union’s proposed 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive concerns virtual currencies and anonymity directly. Here is a helpful factsheet showing the main changes.
This is going to be implemented in the legislation of EU member countries within 18 months of passing the directive through European Parliament.
In Czech and Slovak republic (both members of EU), the banks have started closing bank accounts of crypto companies – all within the same timeframe. It is a “business decision of the bank”, they never mention any particular issue with cryptocurrencies, the bank just decided to close the bank account.
Who are these companies? Operators of Bitcoin ATMs, payment gateways (like BitPay), exchanges, anyone. Please note that the banks did not ask for additional information about their clients. No communication, they just delivered the contract cancellation notice. It is very suspicious that several banks in unison started targetting all crypto businesses.
We may only speculate about the reasons, but a few of them probably relate to the fact that banks, not police are supposed to find and report any suspicious activity. Slovak Ministry of Interior issued a statement in which they announced that cryptocurrencies are used for financing terrorism and they should be considered suspicious. What would bank do then? Close the accounts of these companies is by far the easiest solution.
It would be no problem if banks decided to end bank accounts of companies if having a bank account would not be a lawful requirement for a business – in order to pay taxes. So it seems that the banks for whatever reason can decide who can do business in the country and who can not.
It is very suspicious that among these companies are companies that pose direct competitive threat to banks.
Who is responsible? There will be a lot of finger-pointing and the result will be “no-one”. Banks are responsible for identifying anything suspicious. The government said that cryptocurrencies are suspicious. EU says that anonymity and virtual currencies are a problem. So while no-one directly banned crypto businesses, they cannot operate at least in these countries.
Do you know of any other countries or banks that started behaving similarly in the last month? Let us know. For what we can tell at least in Slovakia and Czech Republic, this looks like a coordinated action. While you might not care about small European countries, we believe that this is a result of at least european regulatory framework and will spread to other european countries.