DEC 30, 2023
India’s FIU moves to block overseas exchanges
In a widening crackdown on overseas crypto exchanges operating illegally in India, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has issued “compliance show-cause” notices to some of the leading global crypto platforms.
In a statement published by the FIU on Thursday, the agency outlined that it has issued compliance show-cause notices to nine offshore virtual digital assets service providers. These include Bitfinex, Bittrex, Binance, Bitstamp, Gate.io, Huobi, Kraken, Kucoin and MEXC Global.
Request to block URLs
The FIU has also called on the information ministry to block the URLs of these entities, citing their non-compliance with Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Financing of Terrorism (CFT) frameworks. The FIU is a national agency tasked with receiving, analyzing and disseminating information to enforcement agencies where suspect financial transactions are concerned.
The move comes as part of India’s broader efforts to tighten oversight of the digital asset sector. Earlier this year, the government imposed money-laundering provisions on the crypto industry, aligning its regulations with those of other nations. In 2022, local crypto exchanges were dealt a significant blow with the introduction of a transaction tax, leading to a sharp decline in trading volumes.
According to the FIU statement, offshore entities, despite serving a substantial number of Indian users, were operating without proper registration under AML and CFT frameworks. To address this, the FIU issued show-cause notices — a formal request for entities to demonstrate compliance with Indian laws when suspected of misconduct.
It emerged earlier this month that in excess of 28 crypto platforms had registered with the FIU. Those compliant platforms were largely native Indian businesses. If the FIU’s recommendation is followed and in due course, URL access to the cited overseas exchanges is blocked, this could potentially be a boon for complaint platforms like WazirX, CoinDCX and ZebPay, at least in the short term.
India’s actions against Binance, in particular, are not new. In 2021, the country’s anti-money laundering agency was reportedly investigating Binance’s potential involvement in a case related to betting apps. Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, has faced increasing regulatory pressure globally. In November, the company agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement, pleading guilty to anti-money laundering and U.S. sanction violations. As part of the settlement, CEO Changpeng Zhao agreed to step down.
News of this development has caused some disquiet among Indian crypto advocates. However, taking to social media, Web3 marketer Abhinav Kumar wrote:
“This isn’t a sign that crypto trading is suddenly going to be banned. . . . It’s a routine thing. The government wants to make sure foreign companies play by the same rules as Indian ones. That’s fair enough! Also remember India has over 20 million crypto investors now.”
Leading crypto adoption
Despite regulatory challenges, India has emerged as a significant player in the global crypto market. Chainalysis’ 2022 global crypto adoption index ranked India as the top country by raw estimated transaction volume, second only to the United States.
Responding to the growing crypto adoption, India is actively working on a regulatory framework based on joint recommendations from the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Board. The government’s actions underscore its commitment to ensuring compliance within the crypto sector and aligning with international standards.