The U.S. senator who presided over the recent hearings on bitcoin and other virtual currencies said federal agencies feel they are able to monitor with their current resources any “bad stuff” — such as money laundering tied to cryptocurrency transactions.
But Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., told CNBC on Tuesday that he also sees a positive side of the virtual currency system, apparently giving bitcoiners a key moral boost from the halls of Congress.
Carper, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman, told CNBC that the theme emerging from the hearings in November was this:
“Some people say it (bitcoin) has some upside potential; some people say it has some downside potential (such as money laundering)…the message is — let’s keep an eye on the bad stuff.”
Carper said that federal agencies are doing a good job of working together to weed out any illicit activities tied to bitcoin and that the agencies say they don’t need any new legislation to assist them with enforcement.
Carper went to say some good things that could emerge from the wider acceptance of bitcoins and other virtual currencies.
“There is some upside potential… but it’s not altogether clear,” Carper said. “We know there is some bad stuff that can happen, but we also know there is some good things that can happen. It can enhance transactions between sellers and buyers. It can actually help the Internet and international trade. It can lower the cost of transactions.”
Since the U.S. hearings, which helped push the price of bitcoin higher at the time (its price is in the $800-$900 range across most exchanges Tuesday), U.S. regulators have kept a low profile, allowing existing legal framework to enforce any potential money laundering.
The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has sent “industry outreach” letters to several bitcoin business, regarding potential anti-money laundering compliance obligations.
Administrators or exchangers of virtual currencies must register with FinCEN, and institute certain recordkeeping, reporting and anti-money laundering control measures, unless an exception to these requirements applies.
The U.S. regulatory requirement is a far cry from the strict actions of other foreign governments, led by China, which has prohibited financial institutions to work with bitcoin exchanges or other bitcoin-related businesses such as third-party payment providers.
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