Back Conference “Preventing Abuse of Virtual Assets Service Providers for Evasion of EU Sanctions”

Valletta, Malta 13-14 March 2023
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Representatives from twenty-two EU Member States participated in the Conference on “Preventing Abuse of Virtual Assets Service Providers for Evasion of EU Sanctions” convened in Valletta, Malta, on 13-14 March 2023 by the Council of Europe’s Economic Crime and Cooperation Division in cooperation with the European Commission, Directorate General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM), together with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta.

The Conference was organised in the framework of the joint Technical Support Instrument (TSI) initiative “Effective and uniform implementation of the sanctions’ regime in EU member states”, through which the Council of Europe is supporting the national competent authorities from the Czech Republic, Latvia and Malta, but also of other EU Member States, in strengthening their capacities to effectively implement the EU restrictive measures against the Russian Federation.

During the Conference, which brought together over 80 representatives of the National Competent Authorities responsible for sanctions’ implementation and for licensing and supervision of Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs), including representatives of the Financial Intelligence Units, Central Banks, and other supervisory authorities, the Council of Europe presented and discussed with participants the initial results of its analysis of the market entry and supervisory measures of the Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) sector. Conference participants shared their experience on practical approaches and discussed their common challenges in preventing the abuse of VASPs for sanctions evasion, as well as possible avenues for informal and formal co-operation.

Furthermore, the event provided participants with additional insights on Maltese coordination framework for implementation of EU sanctions as well as on licencing and supervision of VASPs in Malta, which was followed by exchanges between the practitioners from EU Member states on current trends and common challenges and opportunities across the EU. The participants further benefited from presentations of the Council of Europe experts on managing risks of circumventing EU international sanctions through abuse of VASPs as well as on sanction evasion scenarios with VASPs and the interconnection with other sectors.

In addition, the Council of Europe experts delivered presentations on suspicious transactions reporting and risk mitigation practices, including on tools for analysing and monitoring transactions through blockchain as well as on good practices of tracing, freezing and seizing of virtual assets. Moreover, the participants had the opportunity to see a presentation and discuss the practical implementation of the regulatory requirements with a VASP representative. The discussions during the Conference will further inform a series of studies currently being produced by the Project to identify good practices for the effective and harmonised implementation of the sanctions’ regime across the EU. 

The Conference was followed by a Workshop with VASPs from across the EU, as well as banks and legal professionals to discuss their role in the implementation of the regulatory requirements of EU sanctions. 

The activity was organised within the framework of the Technical Support Instrument (TSI) initiative on “Effective and uniform implementation of the sanctions’ regime in EU Member States”, funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe, and implemented by the Council of Europe.