The Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) is drafting a law to look into cryptocurrencies after call centre scammers and other fraudsters were found to be storing their ill-gotten gains in Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
Amlo secretary-general Romsit Wiriyasan said investigators need to conduct longer and more thorough probes to keep pace with criminals who are using cryptocurrencies to hide their assets after many spiked in value last year.
Bitcoin, known for its volatility, rose from under US$1,000 last January to nearly $20,000 in December before halving in price this month.
“We’re speeding up our work to amend the relevant laws,” Pol Maj Gen Romsit Wiriyasan, the Amlo’s acting secretary-general, said yesterday.
Scammers have managed to conceal their loot by transferring it to businesses, foreign banks and, more recently, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple, he said.
Even though such digital assets are not recognised by the Bank of Thailand they can still be seized and examined, he added.
However, this is only possible after an arrest has been made.
The country still lacks a law allowing authorities to extend probes into crypto transactions that are considered dubious, such as suspected money laundering.
Pol Maj Gen Romsit said the law now being drafted will require cryptocurrency trading platforms to report their transactions to Amlo, especially when suspicious activity is detected.
Other measures will ensure those companies perform the necessary due diligence on their customers, Pol Maj Gen Romsit said.
If the firms find any irregularities in the transactions, they must immediately report them to Amlo, he added.
Stricter legal measures are needed because the new currencies are largely unregulated.
Reports are on the rise that some criminal suspects, especially those who run call centre scams, have begun to invest heavily in crypto-assets to avoid inspection.
Police said 20 million baht stolen by call-centre scammers has been traded for crypto-assets.
Some may have regretted that move as the crypto market tanked this month.