Suspicious transactions of virtual assets spike nearly 49% in 2023

An electronic cryptocurrency trading board at Bithumb displays price changes of Bitcoin, in Seocho District, Seoul, Feb. 13. Yonhap

An electronic cryptocurrency trading board at Bithumb displays price changes of Bitcoin, in Seocho District, Seoul, Feb. 13. Yonhap

Suspicious transaction reports (STR) involving virtual assets, such as cryptocurrency, rose sharply from a year earlier in 2023 while the number of cases referred to the prosecution nearly doubled, the financial regulator said Wednesday.

The number of STR cases involving virtual assets came to 16,076 last year, up 48.8 percent from a year earlier, while the total number of STRs only gained 10.2 percent over the cited period, according to the Financial Services Commission (FSC).

The number of virtual asset cases sent to legal authorities for formal investigation also jumped nearly 90 percent on-year, the FSC said, without disclosing the actual number of cases due to confidentiality obligations.

It, however, added that the suspected cases included illegal or unfair trading, illegal diversion of foreign currency and drug trafficking.

“More specifically, we have informed law enforcement of virtual asset providers that caused damage to a large number of investors through unfair trading, those suspected of illegally sending foreign currency to other countries and those suspected of trafficking drugs using virtual assets,” the FSC said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the financial regulator said the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit has also referred some 100 loan shark cases to the prosecution.

The cases involving illegal private lenders were exposed during a special inspection conducted between December 2023 and January. (Yonhap)

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