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Regulations for Dealers in Virtual Currency – June 2020

Effective June 1, 2020, entities engaged in Virtual Currency activities are considered as Money Services Businesses (MSBs), and are required to register with FINTRAC and comply with MSB obligations under amendments made to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) that were released on July 19, 2019. Those amendments also require, as of June 1, 2021, reporting large virtual currency transactions. The Department of Finance has since made further amendments to those amended regulations, published in the Canada Gazette on June 10, 2020.

To make reading these changes a little easier, we have created a redlined version of the regulations, with the most recent changes showing as tracked changes, which can be found here.

Dealers in Virtual Currency

It’s important to start by understanding what’s being regulated. This is best done by considering some of the definitions that have been added to the regulation.

fiat currency means a currency that is issued by a country and is designated as legal tender in that country. (monnaie fiduciaire)

funds means

(a) cash and other fiat currencies, and securities, negotiable instruments or other financial instruments that indicate a title or right to or interest in them; or

(b) a private key of a cryptographic system that enables a person or entity to have access to a fiat currency other than cash.

For greater certainty, it does not include virtual currency. (fonds)

virtual currency means

(a) a digital representation of value that can be used for payment or investment purposes that is not a fiat currency and that can be readily exchanged for funds or for another virtual currency that can be readily exchanged for funds; or

(b) a private key of a cryptographic system that enables a person or entity to have access to a digital representation f value referred to in paragraph (a). (monnaie virtuelle)

virtual currency exchange transaction means an exchange, at the request of another person or entity, of virtual currency for funds, funds for virtual currency or one virtual currency for another. (opération de change en monnaie virtuelle)

In terms of who will be regulated, businesses (whether or not the business is incorporated) that conduct transactions on behalf of their customers, including:

  • Exchanging digital currencies for fiat currencies; and
  • Exchanging between virtual currencies.

Current Obligations

Client Identification:

Dealers in Virtual Currency must identify individuals and confirm the existence of entities when they:

  • Remit or transmit funds (see definition above) of $1,000 or more at the request of a customer;
  • Conduct a foreign exchange transaction of $3,000 or more;
  • Enter into an ongoing service agreement with a customer (conduct transactions for a customer that is an entity);
  • Conduct a large cash transaction; and
  • Must take reasonable measures to identify individuals who conduct or attempt to conduct a suspicious transaction.

As of June 2021, there will be an additional requirement to identify virtual currency exchange transactions valued at CAD 1,000. This will include exchanging fiat and virtual currency, as well as exchanges between virtual currencies.

Information on acceptable methods to identify clients can be found on FINTRAC’s website. 

Reporting:

For reporting, there are two important dates. By June 1, 2020, dealers in virtual currency will need to report the same types of transactions that MSBs are currently required to report. These are:

  • Electronic Funds Transfers: if you send or receive international electronic funds transfers (EFTs), including wires, valued at CAD 10,000 or more, by or on behalf of the same customer, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 5 working days.
  • Large Cash Transactions: if you receive cash (this means fiat in the form of bills and/or coins) valued at CAD 10,000 or more in the same 24-hour period, by or on behalf of the same customer, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 15 calendar days.
  • Suspicious Transactions: if there are “reasonable grounds to suspect” that a completed attempted transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing, it must be reported to FINTRAC “as soon as practicable” of the discovery of a fact that led you to determine that the transaction was suspicious.

FINTRAC defines “as soon as practicable” in its Glossary as follows:

A time period that falls in-between immediately and as soon as possible within which a suspicious transaction report (STR) be submitted to FINTRAC. In this context, the report must be completed promptly, taking into account the facts and circumstances of the situation. While some amount of delay is permitted, it must have a reasonable explanation. The completion and submission of the report should take priority over other tasks.

FINTRAC has released more specific guidance on what “measures” enable reporting entities to have “reasonable grounds to suspect”.

More information on suspicious transaction reporting can be found on FINTRAC’s website.

  • Terrorist Property: if you’re in possession of property (which includes funds and virtual currency) that belong to a terrorist or terrorist group, it must be reported without delay, and the property must be frozen. In addition to reporting to FINTRAC, these reports are also sent to the CSIS and RCMP – by fax. In order to know if customers fall into this category, it is important to screen against the United Nations Security Council consolidated list. We’ve worked with some friends on a tool to make this easier, which you can try here (use the code Free100 for a free trial).

If you are required to report transactions valued at CAD 10,000 or more in a 24-hour period, you must have a mechanism in place to detect reportable transactions which is described in your compliance documentation.

By June 1, 2021, a new report will be introduced:

  • Large Virtual Currency Transactions: if you receive virtual currency valued at CAD 10,000 or more in the same 24-hour period, by or on behalf of the same customer, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 5 working days.

Amendments to the Amendments

The amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) that were published in the Canada Gazette on June 10, 2020 create the following obligations for dealers in Virtual Currency:

Travel Rule

One of the most significant changes that will impact Virtual Currency Dealers as MSBs relates to a new requirement for records to be kept on all virtual currency transfers of CAD 1,000 or more.

The record must contain the following:

  1. include with the transfer, the name, address and, if any, the account number or other reference number of both the person or entity that requested the transfer and the beneficiary; and
  2. take reasonable measures to ensure that any transfer received includes the information referred to in paragraph (a) above.

Where the information required was not obtained, MSBs must have written risk-based policies and procedures for determining if the transaction should be suspended, rejected, or if another follow-up measure should be taken.

PEP

In addition to the existing requirement for MSBs to take reasonable measures to determine whether a client from whom they receive an amount of CAD 100,000 or more is a Politically exposed person (PEP), the amendments will require MSBs to make a PEP determination when they establish a business relationship with a client.

A reminder that a business relationship is defined as:

If a person or entity does not have an account with you, a business relationship is formed once you have conducted two transactions or activities for which you have to:

  • verify the identity of the individual; or
  • confirm the existence of the entity.

MSBs will also periodically need to take reasonable measures to determine whether a person with whom they have a business relationship is a PEP. We will have to await guidance from FINTRAC on this, but our guess is the frequency for determination will align to the frequency for customer information and identification updates.

Given the definition of a business relationship, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome. If you currently conduct list screening, PEP screening could easily be added to that process. You are also able to ask the customer directly, while presenting the definition of a PEP, and record their response.

If a positive determination is made, the following records must be kept:

  1. the office or position, and the organization or institution, in respect of which the person is determined to be a politically exposed foreign person, a politically exposed domestic person or a head of an international organization, or a family member of, or a person who is closely associated with, one of those persons;
  2. the date of the determination
  3. the source, if known, of the person’s wealth;
  4. the risk rating; and
  5. the name of the member of senior management who reviewed the client, and the date the client was approved.

Other Relevant Blog Posts for Dealers in Virtual Currency

What’s happening in the VC community? 

Messaging Standard Overview

In October 2018, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) adopted changes to its Recommendations to explicitly clarify that they apply to financial activities involving virtual assets (VA), effectively expanding the scope of the Recommendations to apply to virtual asset service providers (VASPs) and other obliged entities that engage in or provide covered VA activities.

“There exists a need for VASPs to adopt uniform approaches and establish common standards to enable them to meet their obligations resulting from the FATF Recommendations as they apply to affected entities”.

The implementation of obligations such as the travel rule for virtual currency transactions, in the majority of cases, would require an accompanying technology. To tackle issues such as this, a cross-industry, cross-sectoral joint working group of technical experts was formed in December 2019 and a new technical standard developed by the group.  The Joint Working Group on interVASP Messaging Standards (JWG) was established  by three leading international industry associations representing VASPs:
Chamber of Digital Commerce
Global Digital Finance
International Digital Asset Exchange Association 

We will have to wait for FINTRAC guidance to see if such a standard is provided as an example.

More information on the working group can be found here.

To download a copy of the standard anonymously, use this link:

DOWNLOAD THE STANDARD

We’re Here To Help

If you would like assistance in updating your compliance program and processes, or have any questions related to the changes, please get in touch!

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