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The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) suspects many sites around Leeds of hosting illegally operated crypto cash machines.
The action is said to be national first with the West Yorkshire Police.
Users can easily sell and purchase crypto assets such as Bitcoin by putting cash on the dedicated terminals that resemble regular cash machines. But no such cash machine is registered with the FCA, as reported by the authority. This makes operating these terminals illegal in the UK.
One similar service is registered with FCA, but its users can trade in crypto assets through an application or bank transfer and then withdraw the proceeds of transactions from these conventional cash machines.
The UK’s financial watchdog mentions that it is in discussions with multiple law-enforcement partners, such as local police to disrupt the supply from illegal cash crypto terminals located in shopping malls, pubs, restaurants, newsagents and post offices.
“Money Mules” were using these cash ATMs to launder illicit cash, also highlighted in the government report of 2020.
Det Sgt Lindsey Brants, of the West Yorkshire Police Force Cyber Team, said: “Having conducted intelligence-gathering work across West Yorkshire, we soon established the locations of several live crypto ATMs.”
The officers issued the letters to stop the operation of crypto machines several times, warning that any breach of AML regulation would result in an inquiry, she added, and then shared these measures with the Financial Conduct Authority.
The FCA issued a similar warning in March 2022.
“We are pleased to be able to work in partnership with the FCA in what we believe is a national first here in West Yorkshire,” Det Sgt Brants added.
Crypto-asset activity which is not registered with legal authorities falls under money-laundering regulations and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
The FCA’s Mark Steward said, “it would continue to identify and disrupt unregistered crypto businesses.”
Cryptocurrency products were “unregulated and high risk”, he warned, and investors should be prepared to lose all their money.