Virtual assets, cryptocurrencies risky for Nigeria – ICPC boss



The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, on Tuesday said virtual assets and cryptocurrencies are risky for implementation in Nigeria.

Prof. Owasanoye made this known in his presentation to the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions during its hearing on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s decision to stop financial institutions from transacting in cryptocurrencies and matters arising therefrom.

He said, “Virtual and cryptocurrencies pose serious legal and law enforcement risks for Nigeria. The current National Identification Number registration and linking with SIM cards is a pointer to the fact that insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, bandits, and drug merchants have used the anonymity of unregistered SIM cards to commit their crimes with relative ease.

“Cryptocurrencies guarantee similar anonymity and can easily be used as leverage for terrorist financing and other crimes. With the NIN registration, cryptocurrencies may become an alternative payment platform for kidnappers and this would be impossible for law enforcement to agencies to trace.”

“While the persons whose accounts were used have been located, the criminal mastermind has remained invisible and unidentified.

“This real ongoing case is a glimpse into the world of anonymity of virtual or digital transactions. With cryptocurrencies, the wallet of the user of the cryptocurrency system only stores information, or encrypted links in the Blockchain where transaction confirmation can be found.

“There is no movement of any ‘currency’ in the real sense of the word. By their very nature, they provide considerable anonymity that is almost impossible to be accessed by unauthorized persons, including law enforcement authorities.”

Prof. Owasanoye identified the use of virtual assets and cryptocurrencies for criminal activities as a major risk associated with them.

“The use for criminal activities is the most obvious risk of virtual assets and cryptocurrencies. It has been reported that ‘criminally associated bitcoin addresses sent over $3.5 billion worth of bitcoin in 2020,” the ICPC chairman said.

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