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Customs inspection turns up illegal cryptocurrency transactions worth $2 bil.

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An official from Seoul Regional Customs speaks during a press briefing in Seoul, Tuesday. Newsis
An official from Seoul Regional Customs speaks during a press briefing in Seoul, Tuesday. Newsis

By Anna J. Park

Seoul Regional Customs uncovered a total 2.7 trillion won ($2 billion) worth of illegal foreign exchange transactions related to cryptocurrency trading during its special inspections, the agency announced Wednesday.

The special inspections focusing on cryptocurrency-related illegal foreign exchange transactions began in February. Most of the foreign exchange violations caught during the inspections were related to purchases of digital assets through overseas cryptocurrency exchanges.

For instance, nearly half of the money ― or 1.3 trillion won ―- was found to be illegal remittances to overseas accounts, aiming for arbitrage opportunities on cryptocurrency exchanges. The funds were sent via commercial banks disguised as payment for trade businesses.

Altogether 16 people were apprehended during the inspections. Two of them were referred to the prosecution, while seven were penalized. A further seven are still under investigation.

"Foreign exchange transactions aiming to take profits through arbitrage from price differences at cryptocurrency exchanges face are a major violation of the country's foreign exchange regulations," a Seoul Regional Customs official said, adding that the customs office will continue to respond sternly to illegal acts of foreign exchange.

The customs agency explained that the continual increase in the number of illegal foreign exchange transactions, despite last year's large-scale busts, led it to launch the special inspections early this year in cooperation with the Korean Financial Intelligence Unit (KoFIU).

The customs office, meanwhile, is currently looking into 23 companies referred by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), which are related to suspicious remittances involving local commercial banks. The customs office is cooperating with the prosecutors' office and financial authorities in its investigations.

Park Ji-won

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