Asim and Ricardo’s article was published in The Times, 23 November 2023, and can be found here.
It is critical for regulators, officials and the public at large to differentiate between the technology of cryptoassets and its potential misuse. A broad-brush approach due to the actions of a few is misleading, short-sighted, and indicates a limited understanding of the technology, thus hampering its development as a powerful force for progress and financial inclusion.
Collaboration should be key in any strategy to combat crypto’s misuse, and UK authorities should more actively engage with other regulatory bodies overseas in order to share insights and intelligence to address crypto-related crimes, while fostering the growth of legitimate crypto businesses. The misuse of cryptoassets should not overshadow its broader, legitimate applications.
Contrary to common misconception, it is crucial to understand that most blockchains are inherently pseudonymous, rather than anonymous. Every transaction on public blockchain is recorded on a transparent ledger, making the transaction history traceable. This traceability can serve as a powerful tool for law enforcement. This perpetual audit trail enables authorities to trace illicit activities back to their source.
The UK’s ambition to position itself as a global hub for crypto innovation is commendable, and is one of the main reasons that growth of crypto in the UK has far outpaced the likes of the US, Germany and Japan in recent years. However, striking a balance between robust regulation and fostering innovation is crucial. Overly stringent regulations, arguably like we are seeing with the new cryptoasset financial promotions regime, might stifle the growth of the sector, pushing innovators and investors towards more accommodating jurisdictions instead.
The emergence of crypto-related crimes underscores the need for a comprehensive educational push. Regulatory bodies, in conjunction with the industry itself, need to work towards educating law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, and the general public in what is a nascent and constantly developing technology.
It is also crucial to recognise that the relevance and utility of cryptoassets differ across global contexts. For someone in a developed, politically stable country, the urgency or use case of crypto may not be plainly obvious. However, for individuals in countries with economic instability, hyperinflation, or restrictive financial systems, crypto offers a lifeline and can serve as an alternative financial system, providing financial inclusion and allowing people to preserve their wealth against devaluing local currencies. Dismissing crypto merely based on their irrelevance to certain regions or occasional misuse overlooks their broader potential and global impact.
Understanding and leveraging the technology of cryptoassets and their underlying blockchains require a nuanced approach that recognises their potential use cases as well as the need for adequate regulation to mitigate misuse.