The UK’s tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), has seized GBP 5,000 (~RM 28,340) worth of crypto assets along with three NFT artworks, according to BBC News. This resulted in the arrest of three individuals related to a GBP 1.4 million (~RM 7.9 million) fraud case involving 250 fake companies.
The news outlet says that the suspects allegedly used fake addresses, prepaid phones, VPNs, false invoices, and stolen identities to hide their activities from the HMRC. Rather than taking control of the NFTs, it is reported that the authority instead issued a court order to prevent them from being sold to would-be buyers. The exact values of the digital collectibles has yet to be disclosed.
HMRC deputy director of economic crime Nick Sharp said this seizure “serves as a warning to anyone who thinks they can use crypto assets to hide money” from the authority. “We constantly adapt to new technology to ensure we keep pace with how criminals and evaders look to conceal their assets,” he added.
While this in particular is a first for the UK authority, high profile seizures related to NFT and cryptocurrency-based money laundering have recently become increasingly common. Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice has seized US$ 3.6 billion (~RM 15 billion) worth of Bitcoin and arrested two individuals linked to the major Bitfinex hack which occurred in 2016.
For a while now, NFTs are not considered a security, which exempts them to be subject to laws that prevent practices including wash trading, plagiarism, and money laundering. However, the recent increase of fraudulent cases related to digital assets will inevitably change this and would eventually see involvement from various authorities around the world.