Decentralized Finance (DeFi) and AML implications
Decentralized finance, popularly known as DeFi, is an emerging finance domain that operates very distinctly from the traditional centralized financial system regulated and controlled by a country’s government.
With anonymity and lack of centralized governing authority, the money laundering risk around the same is also very grave. In this context, let us understand what DeFi is and what AML implications are around DeFi.
As apparent from the definition above and in the context of DeFi, the DeFi arrangement may fit in the definition of VASP as this technology-based network enables the users to enter if smart contract related to financial services using virtual assets. Thus, DeFi provides a platform to transfer virtual assets between parties by way of a transaction executed between the involved parties.
As mentioned above, though DeFi qualifies for VASP per se, it cannot be subjected to AML regulations as it is a technology solution or an application. It is essential to understand that even though the name suggests that such software operates on a decentralized ledger, these applications have an authoritative structure where any person or group of a few individuals influence or control DeFi. This control or influence may be related to enhancing the functionalities of the application, aspects related to user interfaces, say, over the governing protocols, or even earning profits out of this network.
In line with the FATF’s intent to apply the AML regulations to a natural or legal person, the person who is exercising control or has sufficient influence over the DeFi shall be construed as VASP for the purpose of implementing the AML provisions. Accordingly, the owners, developers, or the application operators have to ensure that they undertake due ML/FT risk assessment prior to operating the application as DeFi. This shall also include the implementation of adequate routine AML/CFT procedures and ongoing monitoring measures.