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国际资讯监管与政策

入境携带超1万美元比特币需提前申报 美国国会新提案惹众怒

就在上个月,有美国立法者提出了一项名为《2017:打击洗钱、恐怖主义融资和伪造》的法案提案。如果该法案获得通过,那么未来一系列数字货币服务都要受到美国联邦执法机构的审查。

对于一直期待宽松监管环境的加密货币从业者来说,这个法案当然不是什么好消息。而这其中一项关于入境海关检查的提案更是让加密货币从业者感到不满。因为根据这条天,如果某人在出入美国边境时携带价值超过1万美元的比特币,携款人必须提前向有关部门报备。

入关现金持有额度申报制度已经实行多年,而随着公众对比特币等数字货币的认知不断上升,再加上政策制定者认为数字货币可被用于资助恐怖主义活动,导致立法者开始考虑这项法案。

资产没收政策争议不断

过去一周,不少人在社交媒体上对这项可能的新规定都表达了不满。

在美国有一项名为“没收公民财产”的政策。也就是说,如果公民被怀疑涉嫌犯罪活动,执法人员有权依法没收其财产(特别是现金)。

支持者认为,该规定能够阻止洗钱活动,并为美国警察部队提供了一种资助手段。而根据这项新法案提案,加密货币也将包含在定义当中,海关人员有权没收涉嫌犯罪活动的资金。

但是近年来这一政策却已经引发了不少公众意见,因为有不少无辜者被没收了资金,如果他们想要取回这些资金,可能需要走长达数个月的法律程序。

比如2015年时,一名美国男子在试图搬迁到好莱坞时,其随身携带的16000美元现金被没收,然而,他并没有被怀疑犯有具体的犯罪行为。据芝加哥论坛报在本月早些时候公布的数据表明,该政策往往针对的是那些收入较低的居民,即便是触犯了法律,他们的罪行严重程度也是较低的。

加密货币参与者积极奔走呼吁

公共记录显示,到目前为止该提案并没有取得显著的进展。5月25日,这项法案已提交给参议院司法委员会作进一步审议。

据悉,目前该提案已得到了参议员John Cornyn和Sheldon Whitehouse的支持。而截至发稿时,参议员Chuck Grassley和Diane Feinstein都没有立即回应记者的置评请求。

Theo Chino曾针对纽约州金融服务监管部门的BitLicense监管框架进行了长时间的反对抗议运动,而他对这次的“资产没收”新政也是坚决反对。

他表示,提案者过分夸大了比特币的风险,基于大众对这项技术及其经济本质所持有的常见误解,这难免会引起比特币和相关技术社区成员的担心。他为那些支持这项法案的参议员建立了一个网站,并在上面提供了相关的联系信息并尝试上门说服监管者。

据悉,华盛顿特区的两大主要的数字货币宣传组织(数字商会和 Coin Center)正在和国会办公室的相关人士联系。虽然拒绝就此事发表评论,但Coin Center却通过Twitter表示已经开始与政策制定者进行接洽。

A group of US lawmakers wants to see cryptocurrency holdings declared at the nation's border – and advocates of the tech are pushing back.

Introduced last month, the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Counterfeiting Act of 2017 – which is actually the third iteration of a bill that debuted in 2011 – would bring a range of digital currency services under federal scrutiny, including those that provide transaction mixing services.

Yet, the provision that has attracted the particular ire of cryptocurrency advocates – especially those who prefer a regulation-light environment – is one that would make such holdings subject to disclosure requirements at US customs checkpoints. This means if a person trying to enter the country has more than $10,000 worth of bitcoin in their possession, under the proposed legal change, they would need to inform the relevant authorities.

Such requirements are already in place for payment methods like cash. But given the rising public profile of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, coupled with the perception among policymakers that they could be used to fund terrorist activities, is driving legislative efforts like the bill currently under consideration.

One observer, Joe Ciccolo of Canada-based BitAML, remarked that cryptocurrency has become the "new face in an old debate", going on to say that policymakers and law enforcement officials have long sought to expand the definition of what constitutes a "monetary instrument".

Ciccolo told CoinDesk:

"Earlier this decade, we saw a push to include 'prepaid access' such as gift cards. Law enforcement went so far as to pursue card readers to scan prepaid access devices for their balance. Now that digital currencies have gained traction, they've been included in the same conversation. As in the past, I suspect there will be strong opposition from across the financial services community."

Perianne Boring, president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a blockchain trade advocacy organization, said the legislation is "not necessary" given the existence of regulations from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which require exchanges services to register as money transmission businesses and adhere to federal reporting requirements.

"While we encourage thoughtful and meaningful study of the prevention of cross-border financial crime, the storage of virtual currency carries different and complex considerations than those attributable to prepaid access," she told CoinDesk.

Asset grab

It's clear from the response that the frustration toward the measure isn't going anywhere. That anger surfaced in earnest over the past week or so in social media postings and fiery blog entries about the move.

One of the points of concern is a policy called 'civil asset forfeiture'. In the US, law enforcement officials have faced strong opposition to the rules, by which assets, particularly cash, can be seized if they are suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Proponents say it deters money laundering and – controversially – provides a funding means for police forces in the US.

Under the proposed bill, cryptocurrencies would be included in that definition, subject to confiscation by border agents.

The practice has drawn fire in recent years over instances in which innocent people have their funds taken from them, triggering legal processes that can play out for months or longer before any money is returned.

In one high-profile example in 2015, a US man had $16,000 in cash taken from him while he tried to relocate to Hollywood despite the fact that he wasn't suspected of a specific crime. And data published earlier this month by the Chicago Tribune illustrated how the policy tends to target lower-income residents who, if anything, are guilty of crimes of lower severity, if at all.

Investor and writer Simon Black, who pens the Sovereign Man blog, took aim at this aspect of the bill by declaring that, in the eyes of the US government, "bitcoin is evil" and should be up for grabs by border agents.

"So, theoretically if you leave the US with more than $10,000 in bitcoin or ether, you'd have to confess this fact to the authorities or otherwise face the aforementioned penalties, ie prison time, civil asset forfeiture, etc," Black wrote.

"HOORAY FREEDOM!" he added.

Fighting on

Thus far, the bill hasn’t advanced significantly since being introduced last month, public records show. On 25th May, the measure was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

At press time, representatives for Senators Chuck Grassley and Diane Feinstein hadn't responded to CoinDesk requests for comment. The bill is also being sponsored by Senators John Cornyn and Sheldon Whitehouse, constituting a group of two Republicans and two Democrats.

But at least one person is moving to wage a war against the bill’s provisions: Theo Chino, who as profiled by CoinDesk last November, has waged a persistent campaign against the New York State Department of Financial Services BitLicense regulatory framework.

He told CoinDesk in an email that he has set up a webpage with the relevant contact information for the senators who are sponsoring the bill. Chino himself has been reaching out to offices in an effort to educate lawmakers on what he described as "misunderstandings of the technology".

"This 'over-criminalization' of bitcoin, based on common misunderstandings of the technology and its economic nature should be worrisome to the bitcoin and technology communities," he told CoinDesk.

The two main advocacy groups in Washington, DC – the Chamber of Digital Commerce and Coin Center – are said to be in contact with the relevant Congressional offices. Though it declined to comment on this story, Coin Center indicated on Twitter that it's reaching out amid the furor.

"We are aware of S 1241, are in touch with the relevant folks in Congress, and will post an analysis soon," executive director Jerry Brito wrote on Twitter.

Chino – who in an email called the bill a "sham" – spoke to the grassroots effort taking place, and said that he’s still reaching out to people who have posted on Reddit as part of a broader bid to get constituents to contact the senators involved.

"One call from a constituent has so much impact," he said.


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