Estonia Shuts Down Crypto Firms
In recent news, Estonia has strengthened its Anti-Money Laundering laws and almost 400 virtual asset service providers (VASPs) have shut down as a result. The amended laws expanded the defined scope of VASPs and increased licensing fees, capital requirements, and information reporting requirements. Additionally, the laws introduced the Financial Action Task Force Travel Rule. The Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) announced that almost 200 domestic crypto service providers voluntarily shut down, and another 189 had their authorizations revoked due to non-compliance.
The FIU's director, Matis Mäeker, noted that the response from the legislator and the supervision activities have been relevant, given the documents submitted by the service providers that lost their authorizations and their methods of operation and risks involved. The FIU also found several general issues within the companies it shut down, including misleading company information. For instance, some companies had registered board members and company contacts without their knowledge, while others had falsified professional backgrounds on their resumes. Additionally, many companies had copy-pasted identical business plans from each other, which were also found to be lacking any logic or connection with Estonia.
Estonia has made significant efforts to implement strong AML laws, primarily due to the discovery in 2018 that around $235 billion worth of illicit capital had been laundered through the Estonian branch of Denmark megabank Danske Bank. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has also had an impact, as Estonia has pushed to cut off revenues supporting Russia’s war machine and protect international financial systems via strong AML regulation as part of its partnership with the U.S. Estonia is a member of the European Union and will soon have to implement the upcoming Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) laws that are slated to come into effect in early 2025. Under MiCA, crypto firms will be subject to stringent AML and terrorism prevention requirements.
In conclusion, Estonia has taken significant steps to ensure the implementation of robust AML laws. The recent enhancement of AML laws has resulted in the closure of nearly 400 crypto firms in Estonia. The FIU found several issues with the companies it shut down, including misleading company information. As a member of the European Union, Estonia will soon have to implement MiCA laws, which will require crypto firms to comply with stringent AML and terrorism prevention requirements.