With the sign "Bitcoin accepted", traders advertise their customers' cryptocurrencies.
The federal government would now like to understand this flow of money
Photo: Andy Clark / REUTERS
The word should sound as negative to the ears of Bitcoin fans as a bad-tempered tweet from Tesla founder Elon Musk: With the "Crypto Value Transfer Ordinance", the federal government wants to get better insights into the payment flows of Bitcoin and Co. in the future.
As heise online reports, the first conditions against so-called "crypto custodians" who manage virtual currencies for their customers have been in effect since January 2020.
With the new regulation, however, the federal government wants to sharpen it significantly.
As a justification, the Federal Ministry of Finance refers, among other things, to the high damage caused by criminal gangs.
"Ransom demands for extortionate ransomware attacks in the economy and in the public sector are increasingly being processed via crypto payments," says the draft of the bill.
At the same time, the federal government wants to fight terrorist financing and money laundering in accordance with international standards.
Pseudonym, not anonymous
Contrary to the cliché, Bitcoins are by no means anonymous, but only pseudonymous: All transactions can be tracked on the public blockchain. Once it is known who owns a "wallet" - a kind of digital numbered account - the entire account statement of this person is available for the public to download. Although users can constantly create new crypto accounts, the handling is complex. This is where the service providers come into play, who are to be obliged to keep data under the new ordinance. If you want to convert your Bitcoins, you will find it difficult to hide your own identity. Even criminal professionals sometimes have problems with it, as the FBI recently demonstrated by posting back a large part of the extortion money paid in Bitcoin.
This is where the new ordinance comes into play: The bodies obliged under the Money Laundering Act should not only monitor the payments of their own customers, but also determine the names and addresses of those who receive or send conspicuous Bitcoin payments. With bitcoins and other crypto currencies, however, this is not easy: If you do not want to entrust your secret key to a service provider, you can open a wallet without giving your own name.
The Federal Ministry of Finance is already facing headwinds for the draft. The FDP member of the Bundestag Frank Schäffler accuses the Federal Ministry of Finance of obstructing the crypto industry in Germany. A secure legal framework is important, but the government's proposal is going in the wrong direction: "The regulation is so impractical that customers will switch abroad or into the unregulated market," Schäffler told SPIEGEL.
The industry association Bitkom is also warning of a "full brake on crypto values", although the federal government is actually pursuing the opposite with its blockchain strategy. "However, some of the obligations of the regulation cannot be fulfilled in practice, so that German crypto-value service providers can no longer perform central functions of their business model," warned Patrick Hansen, Head of Blockchain at Bitkom. Instead of recording payments in crypto currencies centrally, the federal government should rely on the use of analysis tools that try to assign the payments retrospectively.