September 17, 2021
Laos has authorized the mining and trading of cryptocurrencies, in a policy shift by the South-east Asian nation that positions it to profit from the crackdown on digital currency mining in China, according to a report in the Financial Times that cited the Laotian Times.
The office of the prime minister this week said six companies, including construction groups and a bank, had been authorized to begin mining and trading cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin.
Government ministries will now work with the Bank of Laos and Electricité du Laos, the national power utility, to regulate the industry, according to a report in The Laotian Times. The findings of the research and consultation are set to be discussed at a government meeting this month. The move into crypto comes as Laos contends with a loss of tourism revenues caused by the Covid-19 crisis, which has also dented demand for hydropower, a cornerstone industry in a country that has borrowed heavily to build dams on the Mekong river and its tributaries. Analysts said the move was a logical step for the landlocked, communist-ruled country of 7m, which produces a surplus of hydroelectric power, but some warned that criminal gangs could seek to profit from the trade.
The Laos government has also vowed to step up efforts to fight money laundering recently, after coming under scrutiny from the Financial Action Task Force, the US and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The US Treasury in 2018 placed sanctions on what it said was a transnational criminal organization run largely out of a casino in Laos’s Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, operated by Hong Kong-based Kings Romans Group. Washington said the network stretched throughout south-east Asia and was involved in “horrendous illicit activities”, including human trafficking, child prostitution and trafficking of drugs and wildlife.