Last week, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of the United Kingdom announced it had investigated multiple locations in East London suspected of housing illicit Bitcoin automated teller machines (ATMs) as part of its ongoing campaign to eradicate these devices.
According to a statement made on March 8 by the FCA, the financial regulator, it has been working with the Metropolitan Police to examine a number of locations in the East London region and will continue to find and disrupt unregistered crypto ATM operations in the UK.
The FCA and West Yorkshire Police’s Digital Intelligence and Investigation Unit conducted similar searches in Leeds earlier this year as part of their continuing campaign against illicit ATM operators. This is the latest step in that campaign.
A notice released a year ago by the FCA reflected that none of the Bitcoin ATMs currently in use in the UK have registered with the appropriate agencies, making all of them unlawfully operational. Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Supervision at the FCA, emphasises that they will keep track of and shut down unregistered crypto firms in the UK.
Coinciding with the soaring cryptocurrency market in 2021, when Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the whole crypto market value reached record highs, the use of Bitcoin ATMs skyrocketed. Throughout the summer of 2021, more than 2,000 Bitcoin ATMs were erected per month all around the world.
With 1,054 Bitcoin ATMs closing their doors between February and March of 2023 alone, that trend has recently reversed. Just 18 of the 1,469 Bitcoin ATMs now active in Europe’s area, according to data from CoinATMRadar, are located in the UK. Just in the United States there are 32,164 Bitcoin ATMs, making up 86% of the total globally.
Rishi Sunak, the current prime minister of the UK, presented a thorough strategy to establish the country as a “global crypto asset technology centre” in early 2022 while he was still the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since then, the UK government has sponsored a bill called the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill that gives authorities the authority to seize, freeze, and reclaim crypto assets in an effort to stop money laundering.
Following FTX’s demise last year, a number of UK-based banks have stepped up their enforcement of user usage policies regarding cryptocurrency, with many now refusing to handle crypto transactions. The UK government’s efforts to establish itself as a global leader in the crypto industry, combined with the FCA’s ongoing campaign against illicit ATM operators, demonstrate the country’s commitment to ensuring a safe and regulated crypto market.