Earlier this month, the Lord Chancellor David Gauke confirmed that a new 18 courtroom legal centre is to be built on the site of Fleetbank House in London which will focus on issues such as economic crime (including fraud) and cyber crime. Due to be established in 2025, this “state-of-the-art court” is to give the message to the world that Britain “stands ready to deal with the changing nature of 21st century crime”.

One of the areas where economic crime and cyber crime overlap is in the area of cryptocurrency-specific crime, which has received significant attention recently. As the National Crime Agency’s Prosperity Command, Donald Toon, told the Treasury Select Committee recently: “One of the fundamental problems around a lot of economic crime is cyber enabled criminality”. Legislators and law enforcement agencies are particularly concerned with the potential for money laundering opportunities in this relatively new and as yet unregulated area.

The EU’s 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive (5MLD), due to be implemented into national law by 10 January 2020, extends regulatory coverage to exchanges where cryptocurrency can be converted to fiat currencies (the UK has confirmed that it will implement 5MLD even though this will be after it formally leaves the EU). In June, the UK Financial Conduct Authority issued a “Dear CEO” public letter on how banks should deal with the financial crime risks associated with ‘cryptoassets’, which we covered in our recent blog .

It has now been announced that the City of London Police are rolling out a pilot scheme to train fraud investigators in how to deal with cryptocurrency as part of their Economic Crime Academy. It is reported that the motivation behind the training is specifically to enable officers to locate and seize funds which are being (or have already been) laundered through a cryptocurrency exchange.

The course has been implemented in response to police officers reporting that they felt insufficiently trained in this particular area. The indication is that thus far police nationwide have felt under-informed or under-resourced in respect of their ability to investigate and manage cryptocurrencies where they appear as part of an investigation. The introduction of this type of training is indicative of an increase in focus upon, and resourcing for, cryptocurrency-related investigations.

Despite the views of those who consider that cryptocurrency as a digital asset lacks longevity due to its fluctuating value and perceived lack of security, it looks as though, in London at least, the view of the authorities is that cryptocurrency is now a significant factor in the economic landscape, and one which they are preparing to deal with well into the future.