In a significant legal development, Dutch crypto companies, including Bitvavo and Coinmerce, the successor to Binance, have emerged victorious in their battle against a substantial $2.3 million fee levied by Dutch regulators. A Rotterdam court ruled that the Dutch central bank (DNB) overstepped its legal authority by imposing charges on these companies for anti-money laundering registration.
The court’s verdict, handed down on Wednesday, declared that the DNB’s assessment of registration requests went beyond the scope of the registration obligation mandated for crypto service providers by European Union anti-money laundering regulations. Furthermore, the court highlighted that under existing crypto regulations, it is not permissible to lawfully impose supervisory costs for the year 2021 on crypto service providers.
However, it is crucial to note that the court’s ruling does not affect the costs incurred in 2020. Separate legal proceedings are ongoing to address the 2022 fees.
The Netherlands, which is preparing to implement the European Union’s stringent Markets in Crypto Assets licensing regime, has maintained a stringent stance towards cryptocurrency firms. This includes imposing substantial fines on Coinbase and Binance for their failure to register. Notably, crypto exchange Gemini recently announced its withdrawal from the Dutch market due to the strict regulatory environment, with Binance transferring its Dutch clientele to Coinmerce.
Patrick van der Meijde, President of the United Bitcoin Companies of the Netherlands (VBNL), the organization spearheading the complaint, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision. He stated, “We are pleased that the court has found that the registration obligation, as outlined in EU anti-money laundering legislation, has been violated in the Netherlands.” Van der Meijde further emphasized that the exorbitant costs associated with this registration should not have been passed on, as they fall beyond the DNB’s mandate.
In response to the ruling, a spokesperson for the DNB confirmed that they had taken note of the decision and would engage in further consultations with the finance ministry to address the matter. The spokesperson asserted that the central bank had consistently adhered to Dutch laws and regulations and reiterated that the ruling reaffirmed their authority to provide effective money-laundering oversight for the crypto sector and other financial institutions.
It is important to mention that financial regulators in Europe typically do not rely on taxpayer funding, opting instead to charge operational costs to the entities they supervise, in proportion to their size. In 2022, total crypto supervisory fees amounted to 2.2 million euros ($2.3 million), with this figure expected to rise annually, as noted by van der Meijde.