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Bitcoin and modern alchemy: in code we trust

Jeffrey Simser (Government of Ontario, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 5 May 2015




This paper aims to explore the challenge posed by Bitcoin to regulators, particularly anti-money laundering regulators. Bitcoin is a crypto-currency based on open-source software and protocols that operates in peer-to-peer networks as a private irreversible payment mechanism. The protocol allows cross-border payments, for large and small items, with little or no transactional costs.


Case studies and case law are examined as are relevant reports by regulators.


Bitcoin is based on complex computer code supported by a robust community in a peer-to-peer network. Unlike other virtual currencies, Bitcoin appears to have obtained purchase and as such poses unique challenges to regulators.

Research limitations/implications

Bitcoin is at a nascent stage and the evolution of the virtual currency is difficult to predict.

Practical implications

Those who study financial systems, anti-money laundering regimes and asset forfeiture laws will have an interest in this topic.


This is a new and emerging currency; there is limited literature on the implications of this currency to anti-money laundering systems.



The views expressed in this paper are the personal views of the author and do not represent the views of the Government of Ontario. The author ( is a co-author of Civil Asset Forfeiture in Canada (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 2012). The author is grateful for the thoughtful suggestions of his friend and colleague Michael Ryan, BBA, LLB, retired police Inspector and currently a senior associate with Toddington International Inc., although any errors in the paper are the author’s.


Simser, J. (2015), "Bitcoin and modern alchemy: in code we trust", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 156-169.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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