New French Bill Could Give Authorities Powers to Seize Crypto Assets

In France, suspected criminals could have their crypto assets frozen under a new law presented by the country's government Wednesday.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government wants to join the U.K. in handing the police greater power to freeze assets that could otherwise escape their clutches and be laundered away.

“Too often, criminals convert the fruits of their wrongdoing into crypto-assets, which can be more easily dispersed and therefore concealed,” said a report annexed to the government’s draft law.

The measures, which largely repeat those first tabled in March, would extend the rules that already apply to conventional bank account holdings – when authorized by a public prosecutor or investigating judge – to crypto assets.

While much of the bill is dedicated to online crime – such as requiring ransomware payments to be reported to the authorities – it covers a range of other issues under France's Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin’s purview, like creating 200 new rural police squads and modernizing the handling of domestic violence cases. June elections saw President Emmanuel Macron re-elected, and Darmanin keeping his job in the cabinet.

The plans are due to be first discussed by the French Senate’s constitutional law committee, responsible for reviewing changes to the criminal code, at a Sept. 14 meeting.

In the U.K., the government led by Boris Johnson promised new powers to seize and recover crypto assets as part of its Economic Crime Bill back in May. On Wednesday, ministers reiterated their commitment to those plans, despite the subsequent change of Prime Minister.

Read more: UK Promises New Laws to Promote, Seize Crypto