UK authorises police to seize illicit crypto without arrests

  • UK police now have powers to seize, freeze or destroy criminal crypto holdings.
  • It follows new legislation that comes into effect today, April 26, 2024.
  • Reforms to help UK’s national security, said Home Secretary James Cleverly.

Law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom can now seize, freeze or destroy crypto assets deemed to be illicit without having to first make any arrest.

This is after the UK government updated legislation around proceeds of crime and terror to authorise police and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to investigate and seize any cryptocurrency linked to criminal activity.

A press release the UK Home Office published on Friday notes that the new rules come into effect on April 26, 2024. Targeted are drug dealers, fraudsters and terrorists among other organised criminals.

With the new powers, police have the authority not just to seize crypto, but can transfer seized assets to electronic wallets or destroy them if their return to circulation is deemed negative for the public good. Law enforcement officers are also allowed to take control of passwords or memory sticks.

“The changes that come into force today will stop criminals from undermining the legitimate use of crypto, while also supporting the development of crypto as a potential driver of economic growth,” reads part of the press release.   

Reforms “bad news for criminals”

According to Home Secretary James Cleverly, the reforms are crucial to the UK’s national security, with criminals never allowed to benefit from illicit activities.

UK Security Minister Tom Tugendhat added that the revamped rules “are bad news for criminals.”

UK’s new legislation comes into force after parliament passed a related crime bill in September 2023. The development has helped police and the NCA to seize millions of dollars’ worth of illicit crypto.

For instance, the NCA teamed up with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in an operation that resulted in the seizure of over $150 million from a criminal drug enterprise in January this year.

The UK has also seized over £750,000 ($937,890) from three men who accepted crypto for counterfeit drugs. In 2021, the UK police seized $250 million in crypto from suspected money launders. 

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