PM chairs meet on cryptocurrency; concerns raised over money laundering, terror financing risks

The PM's meeting comes in the wake of a rising number of advertisements, featuring even film stars, promising easy and high returns on investments in cryptocurrencies, which are not legally recognised in India.
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Amid concerns over misleading claims of huge returns on cryptocurrency investment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a meeting on the way forward on the issue, with government sources asserting that such unregulated markets cannot be allowed to become avenues for "money laundering and terror financing".

It was strongly felt in the meeting that attempts to mislead the youth through over-promising and non-transparent advertising should be stopped, the sources said, signalling that strong regulatory steps are in the offing.

"The government is cognizant of the fact that this is an evolving technology, it will keep a close watch and take proactive steps. There was consensus also that the steps taken in this field by the government will be progressive and forward looking," a source said.

The government will continue to proactively engage with experts and other stakeholders, sources added, noting that since the issue cuts across geographical borders, it was felt that it will also require global partnerships and collective strategies.

The meeting on the way forward for cryptocurrency and related issues was a very comprehensive one.

"It was also an outcome of a consultative process as RBI, Finance Ministry, Home Ministry had done an elaborate exercise on it as well as consulted experts from across the country and the world. Global examples and best practices were also looked at," the source said.

The RBI has repeatedly reiterated its strong views against cryptocurrencies saying they pose serious threats to the macroeconomic and financial stability of the country and also doubted the number of investors trading on them as well their claimed market value.

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das on Wednesday had reiterated his views against allowing cryptocurrencies saying they are a serious threat to any financial system since they are unregulated by central banks.

His comments come ahead of the RBI's internal panel report on the contentious topic which is expected next month.

The Supreme Court in early March 2020 had nullified the RBI circular banning cryptocurrencies. Following this on February 5, 2021, the central bank had instituted an internal panel to suggest a model of the central bank's digital currency.

The RBI had announced its intent to come out with an official digital currency, in the face of the proliferation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin about which the central bank has had many concerns.

Private digital currencies/virtual currencies/cryptocurrencies have gained popularity in the past one decade or so. Here, regulators and governments have been sceptical about these currencies and are apprehensive about the associated risks.

It can be noted that on March 4, 2021, the Supreme Court had set aside an RBI circular of April 6, 2018, prohibiting banks and entities regulated by it from providing services in relation to virtual currencies.

The Prime Minister's meeting comes in the wake of a rising number of advertisements, featuring even film stars, promising easy and high returns on investments in cryptocurrencies, which are not legally recognised in India.

The Congress had Saturday alleged a multi-crore Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, scam and its cover-up by the BJP government in Karnataka and demanded that an independent investigation be conducted into the matter by a Supreme Court-monitored SIT.

Former party chief Rahul Gandhi alleged that the scam is big but the cover-up is much bigger.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai called on former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa amid the opposition allegations that the BJP government was not doing enough to probe the alleged Bitcoin scam.

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