17 Jan 2018
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has appointed a ‘bitcoin tsar’ to examine cryptocurrency-linked financial crime and regulation amid growing speculation and concern from global regulators.
A French Ministry of Finance spokesman told KYC360 that Le Maire said the official will submit a report after examining the issues pertaining to cryptocurrencies.
As part of his annual New Years Speech delivered on Monday, Le Maire said: “We want a stable economy. We refuse speculation, risk or possible deviation from the law [because of] bitcoin. So I have asked the Argentinean presidency of the G20 to look into that question, and I have also appointed former Bank of France deputy governor Jean-Pierre Landau with that mission.
“The mission will make a prospectus to me of the orientations, evolution, regulation and better understanding of the developments of cryptocurrencies, and also prevent their use for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorism financing and [other crimes].” (Translated)
Last month France’s central bank governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau warned against digital currency bitcoin, saying: “We need to be clear: bitcoin is in no way a currency, or even a cryptocurrency. It is a speculative asset. Its value and extreme volatility have no economic basis, and they are nobody’s responsibility.”
“The Banque of France reminds those investing in bitcoin that they do so entirely at their own risk.” (Translated)
In Europe, German financial watchdog BAfin and the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority have also warned against investing in initial coin offerings (ICOs).
“ICOs are a highly speculative form of investment. Investors should therefore be prepared for the possibility of losing their investment completely,” BAfin said.
Le Marie’s move comes about a week after widespread reports that South Korea’s Ministry of Justice said virtual currencies were “great concerns” and the ministry was looking to ban trading.
News of possible regulation has seen the price of bitcoin fall this week, according to media reports.
The issue of cryptocurrency regulation could be discussed at the upcoming G20 summit in March, and France, which has played a key role in drafting EU anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing laws, may seek to prioritise the issue.
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