SEC to issue new anti-money laundering regulations for digital assets operators

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says it has developed new guidelines for licensing, registration and screening of digital and virtual assets service providers (VASPs).

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According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), VASPs are entities that conduct exchanges between virtual assets (cryptocurrencies) and fiat currencies, and transfers of virtual assets.

In a notice dated March 4, 2024, the SEC said the new measures would ensure that “criminals are not registered as operators” in the capital market.

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The CBN had lifted the ban on crypto transactions in the country on December 22, 2023, and issued operational guidelines on virtual assets service providers (VASPs) to all banks and other financial institutions (OFIs).

Based on the SEC circular, the new guidelines will serve as additional rules and regulations to the existing ones.

“In September 2020, the Commission released its treatment and classification of digital assets where it specified its regulatory purview over Crypto tokens traded on a recognised exchange, Utility tokens traded on a recognized exchange, security tokens that have features of securities and funds and derivatives of these three types of tokens” the circular reads.

The SEC outlined the existing guidelines issued in May 2022 to include; general requirements for VASPs, issuance of digital assets as securities, digital assets offering platforms (DAOPs), digital assets exchange (DAX), and digital asset custodians (DACs).

“In May, 2022 and April, 2023 SEC AML/CFT/CPF Regulations were amended and issued with the following specific requirements on VASPs: a. CDD/KYC for VASPs; b. The Travel Rule; c. STRs Rendition; and d. Record Keeping,” the circular further reads.

“In April 2023, procedures for implementing targeted financial sanctions on terrorist individuals and entities was issued.

“The SEC has also developed a new AML/CFT/CPF AML/CFT/CPF onboarding manual for licensing/registration and on-going screening of Digital and VASP beneficial Owners to ensure that criminals are not registered as operators in the capital market.

“The SEC is ready to interface with genuine VASPs based on these clear rules and regulations.”

The commission also said based on the recent engagement with CBN, additional comments are being incorporated into the rules that “will soon be exposed to the market for comment before final approval”.

The SEC added that relevant rules and regulations issued on the regulation of digital assets and VASPs have been collated for use by potential applicants and the public.

The proposed new rules may be linked to the federal government’s efforts to clamp down on crypto platforms in the country.

Binance, a cryptocurrency platform, is currently facing significant scrutiny by the Nigerian authorities over allegations of infractions in the country’s foreign exchange (FX) regulations.

The platform has been accused of arbitrarily fixing FX rates and was reportedly asked to pay $10 billion as retribution for profiting from “its illegal transactions” in Nigeria. Prior, the firm’s two top executives were detained.

On March 5, 2024, Binance announced that all services in naira, the country’s local currency, would be stopped from March 8, 2024 — signalling its potential exit from Nigeria.

 

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