The Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance recently conducted a consultation on a draft decree, aimed at imposing registration requirements on virtual currency operators.

These measures reflect a decree passed last year, in the context of implementation of Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, whereby Italian lawmakers anticipated some of the topics that were still under discussion at EU level, by extending the application of anti-money laundering obligations to the crypto-currency sector, at least in connection with exchanging fiat currencies against virtual currencies and vice versa.

According to the draft published for consultation, the new decree would require “providers of services relating to virtual currencies” to make a notification to the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance and then subsequently register themselves in a newly established register.

The draft decree has been broadly criticised particularly in respect of its potentially very broad scope of application, that may encompass not only exchanges and digital wallet providers, but (in light of certain possible interpretations) merchants who simply accept virtual currencies as consideration for their goods or services.

In addition, the draft decree is not clear on whether the notification (and later registration) obligation will apply to providers established in Italy, only, or potentially to any provider active on the Italian market, even on a cross-border basis.

It seems likely that the draft decree will be amended in order to deal with the concerns that the market has raised during the consultation and to align it with the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive which was recently published in the Official Journal of the EU. However, the precise detail of the changes to the draft decree remain to be seen.