UK announces second crypto ATM crackdown this month

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The UK’s financial watchdog today announced its second crackdown on crypto ATMs in less than a month.

The joint operation with the Metropolitan Police will see regulators seize and confiscate unregistered crypto ATMs in East London. It follows an earlier crackdown in Leeds that was described by officials as a national first. 

As it stands, the FCA currently doesn’t regulate crypto ATMs. However, they’re not allowed to operate without first registering with the authority. The regulator told Protos that if an owner of a crypto ATM wants to register, they must follow the same process as if they were a crypto business.

To date, there are no crypto ATMs registered with the FCA.

“Crypto ATMs operating without FCA registration are illegal and, as today shows, we will take action to stop this,” said the Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA.

“This operation, alongside last month’s action in Leeds, sends a clear message that we will continue to identify and disrupt unregistered crypto businesses in the UK.”  

A report by the UK Government into money laundering and terror financing found that so-called “money mules” were increasingly relying on the terminals to launder their cash.

Both the National Economic Crime Centre and local authorities are working with the FCA to coordinate the ATM seizure operations, targeting ATMs in malls, newsagents, pubs, etc.

To confiscate the crypto ATMs, the FCA uses powers under the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations. Regulators first warn crypto operators to shut their machines down or face enforcement action.

Crypto ATM numbers on the slide

Last year the number of crypto ATMs being installed was reported to be decreasing. Indeed, data from Coin ATM Radar suggests that numbers are continuing to dwindle.

Read more: Bitcoin ATM hack may be Russian payback for Ukraine donation button

While true numbers may be hard to track given the unregulated status of the machines in the UK, Coin ATM Radar claims the country only has 19 of them.

The US is seemingly the leader when it comes to Crypto ATMs with an estimated 32,671 of them installed. However, as Bloomberg reports, many of the terminals see little to no use. 

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