Crypto Asset Recovery: UK’s New Strategy

In an era when digital currencies are as common as traditional banknotes, the specter of crypto crime looms large, casting a shadow over the burgeoning world of blockchain and digital assets. Enter the realm of crypto asset recovery, a critical yet Herculean task that pits law enforcement against the cunning of cybercriminals.

Unlike recovering funds from a local bank heist, retrieving stolen or laundered, cryptocurrency is akin to chasing shadows across a global, decentralized network that respects no borders or jurisdictions.

The challenge isn’t just technical, involving complex blockchain forensics, but also legal, navigating a labyrinth of international laws that often conflict or lag behind the rapidly evolving digital frontier.

The urgency for effective solutions has never been more acute, as demonstrated by the UK’s groundbreaking response. The upcoming legislation marks a pivotal shift in the fight against crypto crime, granting unprecedented powers to seize digital assets directly linked to illicit activities.

This move not only underscores the seriousness with which the UK regards the threat of cryptocurrency-related crime but also sets a precedent for other nations grappling with similar challenges.

Through this lens, the new laws not only aim to disrupt the financial underpinnings of digital-age criminality but also herald a new era of international cooperation and legal innovation in pursuing justice and security in the digital world.

Please note: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Crypto Asset Recovery: UK's New Strategy to Curb Crypto Crime

Enhancing Crypto Asset Recovery: Navigating the Challenges and Legislative Changes in the UK

Tracing digital assets lost to crypto crime is one thing. Recovering said assets is an altogether different and much more difficult job.

Soon-to-be-enacted UK legislation aims to change that, allowing law enforcement to recover a wide range of crypto assets used for criminal activities.

Unlike fiat currencies, cryptocurrencies and other digital assets are decentralized peer-to-peer assets no one controls. Thus, their recovery presents law enforcement with unique challenges. The lack of a well-defined regulatory framework that guides law enforcement doesn’t help in this sense.

Until now, the Proceeds of Crime Act of 2002 has provided a framework for crypto asset recovery in the UK. According to the POCA’s provisions, authorities can only recover cash and listed assets from online criminals. The POCA addresses both civil and criminal regimes.

Updating these regulations has long been a necessity.

The Future of Crypto Asset Recovery: UK Legislation Changes

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 gives UK law enforcement new powers to seize crypto assets connected to crime. The crypto-facing gist of the legislation is in its details. More specifically, it is in the recently approved secondary legislation that fleshes out some of the provisions of the said bill.

The law, which takes effect on April 26, 2024, expands the scope of previous legislation and the definitions of assets authorities can seize in connection with criminal activities. Under the new provisions, law enforcement can seize “items of property that are or contain or provide access to information that may assist in the seizure of any crypto asset.”

The changes introduced through the new regulation affect the criminal and civil regimes.

Inside the Process of Crypto Asset Recovery: UK’s New Regulations

Looking to curb economic crime and the financing of illicit activities, the new rules give law enforcement sweeping powers in connection with digital assets.

Criminal Regime

Authorities will exercise their seizure and confiscation powers in four new ways within the confines of the criminal regime.

  • Preemptive seizure. The new rules allow law enforcement to seize digital assets before they arrest suspected parties. This step enables them to confiscate the seized assets more easily should the process require it later. Given how easy it is for criminals to move crypto assets and obfuscate their paths, this provision is a practical game-changer.
  • Expanding powers. By tweaking law enforcement agents’ search, seizure, and detention powers, the law allows them to treat digital property similarly to physical property. Specifically, agents can reconstitute digital wallets and their contents based on information they gain through investigation and transfer them to wallets they control.
  • Selling seized assets. The new law looks to endow the magistrates’ court with powers to sell seized digital property as they sell tangible assets identified as proceeds of criminal activities.
  • Destruction. In some cases, keeping digital assets in circulation may result in greater harm to the public than their disappearance. In such cases, authorities will have the power to destroy these assets as the technology allows it.

Civil Regime

The new regulation aims to provide more agencies with forfeiture powers over digital assets and related items.

  • Recovery when executing a search warrant. Law enforcement will be able to seize and recover crypto assets in self-custody when they execute a search warrant. For the recovery to happen, the magistrates’ court must deem the assets in question as linked to unlawful activities.
  • Recovery from exchanges. Law enforcement will be able to seize crypto assets directly from exchanges and custodial wallet providers.
  • Crypto conversion. Authorities can convert to cash the crypto assets they seize to guard against significant asset depreciation as investigation and legal proceedings unfold.
  • Asset destruction. In special cases, when they have reasonable cause to believe the assets they have seized may be used for crime in the future, authorities can destroy them.
  • Asset recovery. The new rules allow law enforcement to release crypto assets recovered from criminals to victims at any stage of the legal proceedings. The purpose of this measure is to minimize the effects of crime.
  • Future-proofing. Crypto is a fast-evolving industry. Rules that make practical sense now can become obsolete. To prevent obsolescence, the law will delegate powers to allow for definitions to be updated. Affirmative orders can be used to update the most basic definitions, such as what constitutes a cryptocurrency, what a wallet is, etc.

The new regulations significantly expand the forfeiture powers of authorities, allowing them to seize and potentially return crypto assets to their rightful owners more easily.

The Urgency Behind Updating Crypto Asset Recovery Laws

According to UK authorities, with the increasing adoption of tokenized assets and cryptocurrencies, organized crime and economic criminals are increasingly turning to the digital space to store and transfer the proceeds of criminal activities.

To keep up with these shifts, law enforcement needs updated powers and competencies.

Enhancing Effectiveness in Crypto Asset Recovery: UK’s Legal Advances

Expanding law enforcement’s powers regarding cryptocurrencies allows for faster and more effective asset recovery. Liaising and working with law enforcement are integral parts of the jobs of asset recovery specialists like CNC Intelligence Inc. Expanded law enforcement powers translate to significantly more effective asset recovery in the cryptocurrency arena.

Freezing and forfeiture orders will hopefully be easier and quicker to obtain. More effective and timely action will deny criminals the chance to dissipate the stolen assets.

The Nature of Seizure Orders

Seizure orders do not permanently deny asset ownership. Rather, they are part of a temporary mechanism meant to ensure that assets linked to criminal activity do not disappear or lose their value during the asset recovery proceedings and investigation.

According to the UK authorities, crypto assets can only be frozen and seized if a court establishes a strong likelihood of eventual confiscation or civil forfeiture.

When the court obtains evidence and decides that certain crypto assets are the proceeds of crime, it recovers the assets with the primary goal of compensating the victims. In some cases, the funds resulting from asset recovery may be reinvested to fight economic crime.

Victims of crypto crime must apply to a court for the release of their recovered crypto assets.

Similar Laws in Other Countries

In other countries, the legal definitions of crypto seizure and recovery are murkier. They leave ample room for state overreach and don’t adequately address the needs of crypto crime victims.

Some countries define digital currencies as money and allow for the recovery of digital assets as they do for currency.

Other countries do not classify digital assets as money. Thus, their existing laws about asset recovery do not cover the recovery of digital assets.


Nigeria’s SEC has recently cracked down on crypto firms in the country. It has updated its guidelines for such operators and has already blocked access to exchanges like Kraken, Binance, and Coinbase.

The goal of the guideline update is to prevent criminals from registering as operators in the financial markets. It is currently unclear how the updated rules would address crypto crime and economic criminality.

According to the Nigerian government, Binance has enabled the country to process $26 billion in illicit funds. As a penalty, the government wants $10 billion from the crypto exchange.

The new guidelines include an AML manual and rules meant to address the financing of terrorism.

The Nigerian government’s stance on crypto assets is ambiguous. The Central Bank has recently overturned a legal measure that denies local banks the ability to provide services to crypto firms.

United States

  • Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Amendments: The United States has amended the Bank Secrecy Act to include virtual currency as a monetary instrument. This requires cryptocurrency exchanges to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), implement anti-money laundering (AML) programs, and report suspicious activities.
  • Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Passed in 2021, this act includes provisions that expand the definition of brokers for IRS reporting purposes, which could include some actors within the cryptocurrency space, indicating a move toward greater transparency and reporting.

European Union

  • Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5): The EU’s AMLD5, which member states were required to implement into national law by January 2020, extends anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing rules to virtual currencies, fiat currency exchanges, and wallet providers. It mandates that these entities perform due diligence on their customers.
  • Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation (MiCA): Proposed legislation aiming to regulate crypto-assets, including stablecoins and other digital tokens, to protect investors and preserve financial stability within the EU.


Amendments to the Payment Services Act (PSA) and the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act (FIEA): These amendments, effective from May 2020, tighten regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges and related services.

They include enhanced AML/CFT measures, improved governance, and requirements for managing customer assets.


Payment Services Act (PSA): Singapore’s PSA, enacted in January 2020, regulates payment systems and service providers, including those that deal with digital payment tokens.

The act requires cryptocurrency businesses to obtain a license and comply with AML/CFT regulations.


Amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006: These amendments bring cryptocurrency exchanges under the purview of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and require them to register, adopt AML/CFT programs, maintain records, and report suspicious and large transactions.


Canada has taken proactive steps in regulating cryptocurrencies under its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) regulations.

The country’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) requires businesses dealing in virtual currencies to register as Money Services Businesses (MSBs). This includes compliance with AML and CTF reporting, record-keeping, and identity verification requirements.

Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) in 2019 brought virtual currency exchanges and payment processors under the scope of Canadian AML/CTF laws.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the regulatory stance on cryptocurrency has been focused on ensuring compliance with existing financial regulations. The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (AML/CFT Act) has been a significant tool in this regard.

Cryptocurrency exchanges operating in New Zealand must comply with the AML/CFT Act, which includes conducting due diligence on customers, monitoring transactions, and reporting suspicious activities.

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) provides guidelines for businesses involved in cryptocurrencies, emphasizing the need for compliance with regulatory standards.


Israel has demonstrated a keen interest in regulating the cryptocurrency market, particularly for AML/CFT purposes. The Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority (IMPA) requires virtual currency service providers to comply with AML regulations, which include comprehensive customer due diligence, transaction monitoring, and reporting suspicious activities. In 2018, the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) also recommended regulations to manage and oversee Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), reflecting a broader interest in safely integrating crypto assets into the financial system.

These examples illustrate the diverse approaches countries are taking to regulate cryptocurrencies and facilitate the recovery of crypto assets tied to criminal activity.

While the specifics vary, there is a clear trend toward increasing regulatory oversight, enhancing legal frameworks for asset recovery, and improving international cooperation to effectively combat crypto crime.

Each country’s approach to regulation and asset recovery in the context of crypto crime reflects its unique legal and economic environment, but all share the goal of mitigating the risks associated with digital currencies.

The Bottom Line on Boosting Crypto Asset Recovery: A New Era in the UK

From the perspective of cryptocurrency recovery, the legal developments in the UK are positive. By granting law enforcement new powers and room to maneuver, the new regulations will likely lead to more successfully recovered assets.

They may even put a significant dent into crypto crime, denying criminals the safe havens some digital assets have thus far allowed.

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