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FinCEN acts against money laundering through art and antiquities

FinCEN has informed art and antiquities traders that they will be subject to the same reporting standards as financial institutions; Trinidad & Tobago’s FIU received a record number of SARs and South Korea is set to impose heavy penalties on cryptocurrency violations.

Antonis Melis
March 12, 2021

This week FinCEN issued a “Blue Box Notice” to warn art and antiquity traders that they will be held to held to the same reporting standards as financial institutes.

The Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago received a record-breaking number of SARs, valued at $27 billion.

And South Korea introduces heavy penalties for cryptocurrency violations in the region.

Find out more on these stories below.

FinCEN warns art and antiquities traders of new aml measures

On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a “Blue Box Notice” to inform art and antiquities traders that they are soon to be held to equal reporting standards as financial institutions are under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).

This means that the antiquities trade will have to submit suspicious activity reports (SARs).

The Blue Box Notice states that “Financial institutions with existing BSA obligations, including the reporting of suspicious activity, should be aware that illicit activity associated with the trade in antiquities and art may involve their institutions.”

These new rules come well within the one year deadline which a congressional bill gave the Treasury Department to implement regulations that combat the threat of not only money laundering, but also the financing of criminal and terrorist activities through the antiquities trade.

Trinidad & Tobago’s FIU uncovers $27B in suspicious transactions

Over 2019 to 2020, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (FIUTT) received a total of 1,831 SARs valued at $27 billion, the most SARs it has received in its 10-year history. This was a massive jump in value from their previous reporting period which saw reported SARs only worth $1.7 billion.

The FIUTT issued a statement attributing the increase in both the number of SARs and their cumulative value to an  “increase in fraudulent activity" with numerous customers being scammed with fake/fraudulent foreign contracts to engage in business expecting millions of US dollars or Euros to be wired to their local bank accounts.

“Also, the COVID pandemic resulted in an increase in fraudulent activity being perpetrated against people. Transactions that were flagged and stopped included numerous third-party transactions being attempted between unconnected parties under the guise of payments for “gifts,” “blessings” or “sou-sou”.”

Find out more on the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian

South Korea to impose heavy penalty on cryptocurrency violations

Recently, the Financial Services Commission of Korea (FSC) introduced new penalty standards for cryptocurrency service providers. This will allow the regulator to impose heavy penalties on digital exchanges in the country if they fail to report suspicious transactions.

The FSC has asked local crypto exchanges to keep separate records of their customers' cryptocurrency transactions, and they instructed virtual assets service providers (VASPs) to verify the identity of their clients.

The FSC mentioned in the official announcement that “under the revised regulation, financial institutions and VASPs will be subject to penalties if they are found to be in violation of internal control duties (failure to report suspicious transaction activities), data maintenance duties (failure to keep relevant data on suspicious transactions), and duties specifically pertaining to VASPs (failure to keep separate management of customers’ transactions records). The revised regulation also introduces a new penalty abatement of fifty percent. For small-scale entities, penalty abatement can be granted in excess of the fifty percent limit.”

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