French MEP asks regulator to justify Binance approval, cites Reuters report

FILE PHOTO: Zhao Changpeng, founder and chief executive officer of Binance, attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

LONDON (Reuters) -A French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) urged France's market regulator to review its decision to register the Binance cryptocurrency exchange, citing a recent Reuters investigation into money laundering on the platform.

In a June 13 letter, Aurore Lalucq, also a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, asked the AMF regulator to justify its "incomprehensible" decision to register a Binance unit as a digital assets service provider.

As a basis for her concerns, Lalucq cited a statement from Britain's financial regulator last year which said Binance was "not capable of being effectively supervised," and the Reuters report, published in June, which found Binance served as a conduit for the laundering of at least $2.35 billion in illicit funds.

Binance, the world's largest crytpo exchange with about 120 million users worldwide, said at the time it did not consider Reuters' calculation to be accurate and it was building "the most sophisticated cyber forensics team on the planet."

Asked about the letter, Lalucq told Reuters that the crypto sector needed more regulation to prevent it being used for "criminal practices." She said the AMF promptly replied to her, but did not detail how it did so. The AMF declined to comment on the letter, which was previously reported by the Financial Times.

Binance did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment. The company told the FT it "will continue to meet all requirements set by regulators".

Binance, which processes crypto trades worth hundreds of billions of dollars a month, in May hailed the French registration as a "milestone achievement", saying it was its first to provide digital asset services in Europe. Binance has said it wants to open a regional headquarters in France.

Since Binance's 2017 launch in Shanghai, over a dozen financial regulators have issued warnings about the crypto giant, ranging from its anti-money laundering compliance and consumer risks to how it was operating without a licence.

A Reuters article in January found Binance withheld information from regulators while saying it welcomed oversight. Binance said in response it was driving industry standards higher.

In her letter to the AMF's chairman, Lalucq questioned what the criteria for Binance's acceptance were and whether it was possible to withdraw its registration "in the event of serious and proven breaches".

Lalucq noted that many other regulators had refused to give any registration or approval to Binance. The AMF's decision had given Binance "a guarantee of respectability," she said.

The cryptocurrency sector globally is facing calls for tighter regulation, with the European Union agreeing groundbreaking rules last week to tame a volatile market.

(Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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