The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached ₹936 crore as proceeds of crime and arrested five persons related to crypto frauds under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary informed Parliament on Tuesday.
Chaudhary said the ED is investigating several cases related to cryptocurrency frauds wherein a few crypto exchanges have been found involved in money laundering. The minister adds that more assets amounting to ₹289.28 crore have been seized for the violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) rules.
The minister in the finance ministry was speaking on the cases of money laundering and terror financing using cryptocurrencies. He said the central bank, via several public notices, has been cautioning users, holders and traders of virtual currencies, with potential economic, financial, operational, legal, and security-related risks. It has advised the regulated entities to continue to carry out customer due diligence processes for transactions in crypto.
On the question of the government's aim to boost the crypto sector in India, Chaudhary said the Centre has no such "plans" and that private cryptocurrencies remain "unregulated" in India.
Shedding light on the ED probe in the case of crypto exchange WazirX, operated by Zanmai Labs Private Limited in India, the minister said all crypto transactions between WazirX and Binance, its wallet infrastructure provider, were not even being recorded on the blockchains and these were cloaked in mystery.
"Accordingly, a Show Cause Notice (SCN) has been issued under the provisions of FEMA to WazirX for allowing outward remittance of crypto assets worth ₹2,790 crore to unknown wallets."
He added that another PMLA case, ₹64,67,42,053 lying in the different accounts of Zanmai Labs has been frozen. "Crypto is by definition borderless and requires international collaboration to prevent regulatory arbitrage. Therefore, any legislation for regulation or for banning can be effective only with significant international collaboration on evaluation of the risks and benefits and evolution of common taxonomy and standards," the minister added.
Notably, the RBI also launched the first pilot of the digital rupee (e₹-R) on December 01, 2022. On the RBI starting trials of the retail Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in five big Indian cities, the minister says: "The pilot is covering select locations in closed user group (CUG) comprising participating customers and merchants."
The minister said e₹ is being distributed through financial intermediaries, i.e., banks and it offers features of physical cash like trust, safety and settlement finality. "As in the case of cash, it will not earn any interest and can be converted to other forms of money, like deposits with banks."
Besides, the year 2022 was the biggest year ever for crypto hacking, with $3.8 billion stolen from cryptocurrency businesses, according to crypto research firm Chainalysis. It said the two biggest trends that dominated the year were 82% of all crypto stolen was hacked from DeFi services, and North Korean-linked hackers shattered their own records for theft, stealing an estimated $1.7 billion worth of crypto across several hacks.