Panama’s “bitcoin (BTC) and crypto-friendly” bank Towerbank says it will bar its customers from making use of crypto mixers – in the wake of the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)’s move to sanction Tornado Cash earlier this month.
As previously reported, the OFAC has added the Ethereum (ETH)-powered crypto mixing service to its Specially Designated Nationals list, with Dutch police arresting a suspected Tornado developer who “facilitated money laundering” this week.
Latin American parties are also responding – with Towerbank apparently taking the lead in Panama. Experts, however, have stated that it is likely that the Panamanian banking regulator will follow up with a move of its own.
CriptoNoticias reported that Towerbank users who use Tornado could face sanctions such as account suspensions or further punitive measures.
The media outlet quoted the head of the bank’s crypto and blockchain division, Gabriel Campa, as stating that crypto mixers are “often used for illicit activities.”
He suggested that the bank agreed with the OFAC’s move, but indicated that the ban would not necessarily be retrospective.
“If you are someone who made use of mixers years ago, we would have to analyze [your case], because it may not have constituted illegal behavior at the time.”
Towerbank has positioned itself as the bank of choice for crypto investors, and offers dedicated crypto accounts and a Visa debit card that allows users to “operate with digital assets.”
But Campa dismissed the notion that Towerbank could move away from the crypto space, stating:
“Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are here to stay, so our bank has to be part of that.”
Rodrigo Icaza, the Executive Director of the Panamanian Chamber of Digital Commerce and Blockchain, claimed that the banking regulator, the Superintendency of Banks of Panama (SBP), would likely be spurred into action by the Towerbank move.
Icaza opined that the SBP would likely “swing the ax” at coin mixers and told the crypto community to “be aware and act carefully” in order to win the “trust” of the banking sector.
He added that the bitcoin community needed “to be formalized” and should work “with regulations,” rather than seeking to get around them.
Icaza urged the community to self-regulate by producing annual statements of crypto holdings and crypto-related income. This, he said, would allow banks to build up profiles of would-be crypto customers – and would let crypto holders gain more trust from banks.