Blockchain technology firm Tembusu Systems has hit back at claims Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ role as its advisor represents a “conflict of interest” for the politician.
On Monday Greece’s weekly paper Proto Thema produced emails from a company representative claiming Professor Varoufakis was still “affiliated to Tembusu in an advisory role” as recently as March 2015.
This role “raises legitimate questions about a conflict of interest in Varoufakis’ support of an extreme albeit innovative method for financial transactions,” the paper said.
In a statement posted online, Tembusu said Varoufakis had helped the Singaporean firm build its key foundation strategy towards the end of 2014. As a result of that contribution the company continued to recognize him as an advisor, it said.
The finance minister has not played any active role for Tembusu since his decision to stand in Greece’s elections. His last contribution was in December 2014, it said.
Since the Proto Thema article appeared, Varoufakis’ name and photo have been removed from Tembusu’s team page.
Lack of bitcoin understanding
Proto Thema (translated as ‘Lead Story’) is a populist tabloid-style Greek newspaper published weekly. It is reportedly the highest-selling weekly in the country, with circulation often topping 200,000 in the small Greek market.
In its statement, Tembusu took issue with some areas of the paper’s reporting. Besides describing bitcoin as “obsolete and hazardous”, the English version of Proto Thema‘s article describes Tembusu as “a controversial Singaporean company that launched the digital currency Bitcoins”.
Tembusu clarified that it had not been contacted for the story:
“Proto Thema did not try to reach Tembusu Systems for comment at any time, which may explain many of the gaps in their reporting.”
The firm also denied it could be termed a ‘bitcoin company’, saying its role is developing “blockchain technology for commercial applications, including payment systems, remittance and digital wallets”.
“We do not deal with bitcoins or any existing cryptocurrency,” the company added.
Varoufakis and bitcoin
Varoufakis was a well-known economist, author, speaker and media figure years before becoming Greek finance minister in January. Once an economic advisor to former Greek prime minister Georges Papandreou, he now describes himself as a ‘libertarian Marxist’.
He has become a celebrity in his ministerial position in thanks in part to his outspokenness and anti-establishment style, which includes arriving at meetings on a motorcycle and wearing a leather jacket.
He has long been interested in, if not a particularly keen supporter of, bitcoin and cryptocurrency more broadly.
His thoughts on bitcoin re-emerged in February this year, when a Guardian article pointed to blog posts from 2013 and 2014, in which Varoufakis first described his concerns with a currency not controlled by government.
The latter post described bitcoin technology as potentially beneficial in building electronic payment systems, but “too deflationary by nature to act as a widespread currency alternative” to the euro or dollar.
Last month he tweeted a clearly-labeled April Fools’ joke in which he said Greece was prepared to ditch the euro and adopt bitcoin as its national currency if it could not secure a satisfactory deal in negotiations with the European Union over Greece’s dire national debt.
Tembusu Systems, which began as a company producing bitcoin ATMs, has since diverted its focus away from bitcoin and has built a new digital financial framework called TRUST.
The TRUST network is a non-bitcoin, blockchain-based system designed for the transfer and management of various assets instantaneously and worldwide.
It relies on real-life identities to build reputations and can link to existing financial institutions, remittance networks, government services, and other services for businesses and individuals.
Varoufakis image via Shutterstock