UK Police Raid Sites of Unregistered Bitcoin ATMs

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  • British police yesterday raided several sites suspected of illegally operating Bitcoin ATM machines
  • Bitcoin ATMs are essentially illegal in the UK, with no operator been awarded a license
  • The raid was in the northern town of Leeds and is a first for the country

British police have raided several sites in the northern city of Leeds and taken away illegally operating Bitcoin ATM machines, 11 months after the country’s financial watchdog warned that many were not licensed. As part of what is thought to be the UK’s first effort to clamp down on the illicit use of crypto ATMs, the sites suspected of housing the were raided by West Yorkshire police force’s digital intelligence and investigation unit police and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), in a sign that the FCA is taking unlicensed Bitcoin ATM operation seriously.

British Bitcoin Cashpoints Illegal Since 2022

British Bitcoin cashpoints were essentially declared illegal in March 2022 when the FCA announced that no firms running Bitcoin cashpoints in the UK had been awarded licenses to operate. Although the FCA does not regulate cryptocurrencies, it mandates that all firms engaged in cryptocurrency transactions must register with it and demonstrate the effectiveness of their anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing controls. Since there are no crypto ATMs registered with the FCA, any such machines in operation in the UK are doing so in violation of the law.

No Firms Registered

If there was any doubt that the FCA would take such measures seriously, this was put to bed yesterday when the sites were raided and the machines confiscated. Operators had been warned by the cyber team at West Yorkshire police which issued a warning letter instructing them to cease the use of the ATMs or risk being investigated under the UK’s money laundering regulations. The findings of the West Yorkshire police were then shared with the FCA, with the authority saying in the wake of the raids, “The FCA will examine the evidence obtained during these visits and explore further potential enforcement action.”

As part of its ongoing efforts to uncover and disrupt unregistered crypto firms operating in the UK, the FCA is collaborating with several law enforcement partners, including other local police forces, according to a statement. Mark Steward, the FCA’s director in charge of enforcement and market oversight, confirmed that the agency will continue to identify and disrupt such businesses.