The Argentine government is cracking down on cryptocurrency trading in the country to end money laundering and other illegal activities. But the country's most recent measures against Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may, in fact, have more to do with an attempt to prevent further devaluation of its national currency, the peso, according to analysts.
According to a report in the Argentine newspaper El Cronista, the country's Financial Information Unit (FIU), a government agency that monitors compliance with anti-money laundering laws, is seeking stricter controls over the cryptocurrency trade.
"Recently, we have seen an increase in operations carried out through virtual assets," said FIU President Carlos Alberto Cruz in a statement last week. These transactions "can be carried out by people who intend to circumvent international standards and avoid regulation (anti-money laundering)," he said.
The FIU said it plans to gather more information about individuals and entities involved in cryptocurrency trading and has ordered a wide range of institutions, ranging from banks and credit card companies to exchanges and mutual funds, to report suspicious activity. Other entities, such as postal companies, stock brokers, NGOs and even art galleries and sports leagues, will be under greater scrutiny by the FIU.
But the moment of change is revealing. As El Cronista noted, the FIU's order comes at a time when the government is facing “parallel foreign exchange markets” that see Argentine citizens pouring pesos into more stable foreign currencies.
As Franco Amati, founder of the Buenos Aires Bitcoin Center, explained on Twitter, the Argentine government is essentially trying to stop the practice of citizens buying Bitcoin with Argentine pesos and converting these Bitcoins into US dollars on foreign exchanges.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin trading volume in Argentina is on the rise, increasing at almost the same speed as its economy is declining. In fact, Argentina started 2020 with a significant increase in Bitcoin trading on p2p platforms, and BTC traded at various times of the year with a premium within the country. (Interestingly, the same thing also happened briefly with the stablecoin DAI, which is also very popular in Argentina.)
Other analysts also took to Twitter to express their concerns. Venezuela's crypto trader and analyst, David Battaglia, condemned the measure as a maneuver designed to "confiscate the little wealth that the Argentines left".
Mexican lawyer and investor Micky Sierra He also warned that the situation could become dangerous for investors in Argentina, if the FIU starts to seek the seizure of cryptocurrency funds that it suspects are involved in illegal activities.
* Translated and republished with authorization from Decrypt.co
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