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ECB Releases Paper Revealing Financial Crime Risks in Cross-border Payments

  • Richard Marley
  • August 04, 2022
  • 3 minutes read
  • 9
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ECB has released a paper that reveals the financial risks associated with cross-border payments, suggesting possible solutions via crypto, blockchain or internlinked payments.

In a report examining the present inefficiencies of cross-border payments, the European Central Bank (ECB) makes suggestions for potential solutions using blockchain, cryptocurrency, or connected national payment rails.

The paper, titled “Towards the holy grail of cross-border payments,” discusses the problem that the friction of anti-money laundering (AML) systems is one of the main barriers to tackling payment difficulties. The study asserts that one of the six routes it proposes may be on the verge of achieving the ideal result (the so-called “holy grail”), which is that payments should be prompt, affordable, widespread, and settled in a safe medium like central bank money.

However, ECB experts emphaize that in order for this to happen, it is crucial to make progress in addressing AML and CFT compliance inefficiencies in order to make the outcome attainable.

According to the ECB document, Bitcoin was one of the potential options that the G20 considered. The layer two alternatives for micropayments, the Lightning network, are also explored in the study in addition to the Bitcoin network. The authors see the existence of one large network and the lack of middlemen as relevant advantages in resolving Bitcoin custody issues for end users.

Despite its shortcomings, such as its high energy consumption and uneven application of AML/CFT compliance, Bitcoin is nevertheless seen as a reliable alternative. Not to add, according to the ECB study quoted, “its price volatility impairs its acceptability of means of payment – both for local and cross-border” transactions.

Although less innovative than Bitcoin, the ECB considers stablecoins to be a workable alternative. Due to its possible impact on financial stability, the potential for monopolies to be created, and the opportunity for market exploitation, stablecoins are viewed with scepticism as an all-encompassing answer to cross-border payments.

Given the variance of national CBDC pilots across Europe and the fact that the availability of digital currencies is far from complete at the EU level, the research views multi-CBDC solutions as one of the more theoretical options. Nevertheless, interlinking domestic payment systems and multi-CBDC were ranked as the two most promising directions to pursue.

The ECB also used the opportunity to assess current cross-border payment rails, such as Nexus, a plan for connecting instant payment systems across national borders, TIPS RIX-EUR, which links the Swedish and Euro area TIPS platforms, and P27, as well as the alliance between EBA Clearing and The Clearing House, which aims to link the Euro zone with the US.

Suggested Read: “Crypto Should Be Regulated, Not Prohibited”, Says ECB Vice President