The Philippine central bank is looking at regulating bitcoin operators in order to crack down on money laundering, said a deputy governor in a speech on Saturday.
As reported by Reuters, Nestor Espenilla, who is in charge of banking supervision at the central bank, said policymakers were also considering toughening rules for remittance companies and money changers, in addition to beefing up cyber security surveillance to help enhance banks’ defenses.
Espenilla said bitcoin users more than doubled in the Philippines in the first half of 2015 from the year before, while bitcoin transactions purportedly passing through registered businesses in the nation range from an estimated $2 million to $3 million a month.
“That is what we are looking to do, whether it is now time to impose hard regulations for virtual currency operators. Right now, we look at them as akin to remittance companies,” said Espenilla, as reported by Reuters.
The news agency said the central bank removed the license of Philrem Service Corporation, a remittance business that anti-money laundering investigators allege was used to transfer some of the $81 million hackers stole from the Bangladesh central bank in February.
In a complaint filed in late April, the Anti-Money Laundering Council alleged Philrem hid the money trail through a series of transfers and currency conversions through Philippine bank accounts, before funneling the cash through casinos in Manila and junket operations. Reuters said the company has denied any wrongdoing.