China is grappling with an increase in bribery and corruption cases linked to cryptocurrencies, according to recent reports from local media. The use of digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, in illicit financial activities has raised significant concerns.
This reflects a new chapter in China’s complex relationship with cryptocurrencies, once a booming sector in the country. As authorities intensify their crackdown on these illegal practices, the legal and financial landscape continues to evolve. This development highlights the challenges nations face in regulating the burgeoning digital currency market.
Cryptocurrency and Corruption
The Chinese government is sounding the alarm over emerging internet-era payment methods that offer clandestine avenues for fund transfers among officials. This concern was highlighted at the 2023 annual meeting of the China Integrity and Legal Research Association.
Zhao Xuejun, an associate professor at Hebei University Law School, has identified a worrying trend where corrupt individuals increasingly resort to the ‘cold storage’ method of encrypted digital currency to dodge online scrutiny. This method not only facilitates corruption but also raises significant concerns about its use in money laundering, especially in the context of cross-border transfers.
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In their report on the burgeoning issue of cryptocurrency-linked corruption, the paper cited Liao Tianhu, the deputy dean of the School of Law at Southwest University of Science and Technology.
Tianhu noted the emergence of modern payment methods, such as virtual currencies and electronic gift cards, as hidden conduits for bribe transactions. He emphasized the dual challenge posed by these methods: while they hold tangible property attributes and material value, their inherent anonymity significantly complicates the detection and investigation of corruption.
China Tightens Legal Grip on Emerging Corruption Forms
China is actively revising its criminal laws to better control increasingly hidden forms of corruption, with recent amendments including punishment for individuals who offer bribes.
Peng Xinlin, a professor at Beijing Normal University Law School, pointed out that the indirect and concealed nature of new corruption forms, such as those involving cryptocurrencies, makes them particularly challenging to detect. Despite stringent anti-corruption measures, he noted that systemic gaps still permit personal enrichment.
During the meeting, experts called for broader bribery crime legislation and enhanced anti-corruption technologies. Their recommendations include focusing on areas vulnerable to corruption and closing digital loopholes to prevent illicit activities.
The Chinese government has been stringent in its efforts to eliminate “financial misconduct,” especially in the crypto sector. This firm stance was recently exemplified by the case of Zhao Dong, a well-known figure in the Chinese cryptocurrency sector.
Zhao was sentenced to a seven-year prison term by China’s Supreme Procuratorate for his involvement in illegal cross-border cryptocurrency transactions.