Shasky Calvery warns of virtual currency risks

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Nov. 19, 2013 – Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery warned financial institutions of the dangers of virtual currency such as Bitcoin, which can be traded anonymously online, during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing Monday.

The hearing, titled “Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies,” featured testimony from Shasky Calvery and others, including the acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, a special agent from the Secret Service, the president of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, and the general counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation.

In her testimony, Shasky Calvery spoke of the importance of anti-money laundering regulations in this area, saying, “Any financial institution could be exploited for money laundering purposes. What is important is for institutions to put controls in place to deal with those money laundering threats, and to meet their AML reporting obligations.”

Shasky called on virtual currency operators to register with FinCEN and maintain records, with special attention to suspicious activity reports. She said innovation comes with an obligation "to protect the [financial] system from illicit actors."

The hearing in particular focused on the online black market site for drugs known as the “Silk Road,” which the FBI shut down on Oct. 2 and which was known as “the Amazon.com of illegal drugs.” The site relied on the Bitcoin currency. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on the same topic today.