Two people arrested on suspicion of running illegal £1bn crypto exchange

Police have arrested two people on suspicion of running an illegal crypto exchange which traded more than £1 billion-worth of cryptocurrency.

Two people, aged 38 and 44, had their London offices searched by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), while the Metropolitan Police seized several digital devices during searches of two residential properties in the capital.

Both suspects were interviewed under caution by the FCA and released on bail. The authority’s investigation into the case is ongoing.

Therese Chambers, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “The FCA has an important role to play in keeping dirty money out of the UK financial system.

“These arrests show we will do everything in our power to stop crypto firms from operating illegally in the UK.”

It comes after a global crackdown on crypto companies of late, following the collapse of several industry giants which led to millions of people losing money they had invested in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum.

The most high profile was the implosion of FTX, the crypto exchange run by Sam Bankman-Fried, which saw the mogul sentenced to 25 years in prison in the US for defrauding customers and investors.

Meanwhile, Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao, the founder of crypto exchange Binance, was sentenced to four months in prison in April for allowing criminals to launder money on his platform.

Mr Zhao resigned from Binance in November. He pleaded guilty to breaking US money-laundering laws.

Binance is still operating, and remains the biggest crypto exchange in the world by transaction volumes.

The FCA has a register of so-called authorised crypto companies which are allowed to operate from the UK.

The regulator also forces registered crypto firms to prove they comply with UK money-laundering regulations in order to operate legally.

Crypto crime amounted to more than 24 billion US dollars-worth (£19 billion) of transactions last year, according to intelligence firm Chainalysis.

The list of authorised crypto firms numbers 45.

Meanwhile, a separate FCA list of crypto companies it suspects of operating illegally in the UK has more than 13,000 businesses on it.

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