‘British FBI’ deputy director spooked by luxury assets sold for Bitcoin

The UK's most expensive apartment might be sold for Bitcoin, and it has National Crime Agency's Nigel Leary concerned about money laundering.

The UK’s most expensive apartment — valued at £175 million ($246 million) — could be sold for Bitcoin or Ethereum (or fiat).

But National Crime Agency deputy director Nigel Leary recently told The Times he’s concerned that criminals are buying fancy assets with Bitcoin to hide illicit gains.

“Anything purchased with crypto assets I’d be slightly skeptical about,” said Leary. “I’d like to see why they’re being done in that way and what the requirement is for that anonymity, and why it needed to be done in a crypto transaction.”

Owner Nick Candy is one half of sibling property unit Candy & Candy, which co-built the $2 billion dollar One Hyde Park luxury apartment building.

The development is in one of the most desired residential locations in London.

Candy’s penthouse — spanning 18,000 square feet — overlooks department store Harrods with Hyde Park at the rear.

  • The penthouse boasts two floors and five bedrooms.
  • It features a private cinema, a swimming pool, and a cocktail bar. 
  • Overall, the apartment is larger than most UK homes.

To be clear, Leary didn’t imply Candy — or his apartment’s prospective buyers — are criminals looking to launder cash. The Times noted he spoke in more general terms.

Crypto exchanges still full of holes, says Leary

Leary explained luxury assets selling for Bitcoin isn’t explicitly suspicious, and conceded that swathes of the population use crypto legitimately.

But in the absence of widespread effective regulation, Leary reckoned some instances require additional vetting, “It’s easier to defraud when it’s all done remotely.”

“It’s not as though I have to turn up at the bank with my passport which, if I’m going to try and do it fraudulently, will take a little bit more preparation than it does to do it online where I can procure myself false identity documents, false bank statements and so on,” he said.

Last year, Chainalysis found that most illicit Bitcoin is washed on exchange-run OTC desks.

[Read more: SEC chief says crypto exchanges need a regulator for market manipulation]

Leary also questioned the effectiveness of anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations currently imposed on crypto exchanges.

More jets sold for Bitcoin than ever

Importantly, it must be highlighted that analytics unit Chainalysis tied just 0.34% of all crypto activity in 2020 to criminals — equal to $10 billion.

That’s down from 2.1% in 2019 ($21.4 billion). Chainalysis explained one reason for the drop was because “overall economic activity nearly tripled between 2019 and 2020.”

But whether selling expensive assets like penthouses for Bitcoin is a glib move for extra press or a genuine bid to adopt the financial future, luxury merchants regularly offer goods and services for Bitcoin.

“Using Bitcoin to buy yachts has many advantages, the most significant of which is privacy,” said Superyachts Monaco in March.

This superyacht could be sold for Bitcoin.
Superyachts Monaco announced in March it would accept an undisclosed amount of Bitcoin for this superyacht.

[Read more: Miami penthouse most expensive US property sold for crypto on record]

“All payments done through Bitcoin are untraceable, so yacht clients wishing to stay out of the headlines will be able to do so with ease,” the company added.

Although, it’s not exactly true that all Bitcoin payments are untraceable — especially those not passed through crypto mixers.

As well, private jet supplier Private Fly has accepted Bitcoin since 2014. The Times reported that Bitcoin accounted for 19% of its sales revenue in December 2020 and January 2021.

“The popularity of buying flights with cryptocurrencies has soared in the last few months, rising from typically 1-2% of flights per month in recent years, to 12% in December and 13% in January,” said the company in a press release (our emphasis).

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