The Estonian regulators have revoked licenses of 500 cryptocurrency firms, roughly 30 percent of total approved providers, as it continues to tighten its grips on risky activities.
The move comes as a series of scandals in Europe have undermined trust in authorities’ ability to tackle money laundering.
Estonia, a Baltic state in north-eastern Europe, came under the spotlight after Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest lender, was accused of watching $230 billion through a tiny Estonian branch.
Estonia was among the first jurisdictions in Europe to legalize crypto-related activities back in 2017. In less than three years since the country introduced licensing for companies operating in the cryptocurrency industry, the number of licenses issued has surpassed 1400.
The Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the regulator issuing the licenses, said the regulatory crackdown is not meant to curb cryptocurrency industry but rather regulate the field more thoroughly to prevent risks related to money laundering.
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So far, the FIU dropped the hammer largely on crypto firms that failed to start operations in Estonia within six months of getting a permit, Bloomberg reported, quoting Madis Reimand, who heads the Baltic country’s intelligence unit.
“This is a first step in tidying up the market, allowing us to take care of the most urgent issues by permitting operations only for companies that can be subjected to Estonian supervision and coercive measures,” Reimand added.
The regulator said that authorities in the Baltic country have learned lesson from the banking sector the hard way, and that they must now deal with new international risks, and cryptocurrencies are amongst the most urgent of these.
Furthermore, the Estonian government has passed a bill that tightens the regulation on granting licenses to crypto providers. Among other things, the application processing time was extended from 30 to 90 days, and the license fee has been increased from EUR 345 to EUR 3,300.
Crypto entities registered in Estonia will also need to incorporate in the country or open an Estonian branch of a foreign company.