Russian Supreme Court Classifies Illicit Crypto Use Under Money Laundering Laws

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The Russian Supreme Court has included the illicit use of cryptocurrencies in the list of criminal offences related to money laundering, local legal news site Pravo reported on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

The court has introduced new amendments to the anti-money laundering (AML) decree issued in July 2015. These clarifications relate to Russian criminal code articles dedicated to the legalization of property acquired via criminal means.

According to Alexander Chervotkin, a judge who commented on the regulations, in the three years since the decree was signed, cryptocurrencies have became widely used by criminals. To prove that, the judge cited several cases in Russian legal practice where drug dealers converted crypto assets into fiat. Chervotkin concluded that, as such, the criminal code should take the new technology into account.

From now on, cryptocurrencies that were acquired via criminal means and then converted into fiat money will be considered as laundered funds and treated as a criminal offence.

However, the Supreme Court avoids giving legal definition to cryptocurrencies, as the term has not yet been introduced by the Russian government. Moreover, converting crypto to fiat per se cannot be considered a crime. Therefore, the court first must prove that the digital assets were obtained by criminal means.

According to Chervonkin, the amendments were developed in order to comply with recommendations from the international Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). The FATF, in its turn, is going to visit Russia mid-March as part of pre-scheduled regular monitoring.

Russia’s crypto-related bill, which passed its first reading in March 2018, has since been sent back for further edits. At the end of January, the chairman of the upper house of the country’s parliament urged legislators to expedite their work on the digital economy bills. The discussion of the crypto bill is currently scheduled for March.

Moreover, Russian parliament is considering a proposal to create an oil-backed crypto — an idea that closely resembles the Petro, a state-owned crypto in Venezuela launched in February of last year. However, the oil-backed coin has thus far failed to materialize.