British Authorities Seized NFTs For the First Time , In a $1.9 million Fraud Probe

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Tower Bridge, London, United Kingdom U.K.
Tower Bridge, London, United Kingdom U.K.

Britain’s tax watchdog has seized three NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in what is considered to be the first seizure of NFTs by a U.K. law enforcement agency.

Officials at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs say they seized the NFTs during an investigation into a suspected value-added tax (VAT) fraud case worth £1.4 million ($1.9 million). Three suspects have been arrested for allegedly attempting to defraud the taxman.

The suspects were accused of trying to claim back more VAT — a type of sales tax — than what they were owed by relying on a mix of stolen identities, false invoices, and unregistered phones to cover their tracks. The scheme involved 250 alleged fake companies, according to HMRC.

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“Our first seizure of a Non-Fungible Token serves as a warning to anyone who thinks they can use crypto assets to hide money from HMRC,” Nick Sharp, HMRC’s deputy director of economic crime, said in a statement Monday.

“We constantly adapt to new technology to ensure we keep pace with how criminals and evaders look to conceal their assets,” Sharp added.

The interest in NFTs has surged to record highs last year. The total sales of suck tokens topped the $40 billion mark in 2021 with assets sold for as high as $60 million. However, the market is still in its infancy and is still prone to scams and thefts.

David Carlisle, head of policy and regulatory affairs at crypto compliance firm Elliptic, said the NFT seizure shows that criminals “can’t hide in the world of crypto.”

“Enforcement agencies are able to track and trace criminals’ transactions, and seize NFTs and cryptoassets used in illicit activity, robbing criminals of their profits,” he said in an emailed comment Monday.