DNB, Norway’s largest bank, has dismissed Norges Bitcoinforening, a recently-formed, non-profit bitcoin association, over concerns about terrorist financing and money laundering, according to e24.no, a Norwegian news site. Norges Bitcoinforening has since decided to take its business elsewhere.
The association opened a bank account in August to receive dues and donations which can be made in bitcoin. DNB advised the association within three weeks that they were no longer a customer. The notice said, “DNB can not be confident about the association’s money has no connection with money laundering or terrorist.”
Association Wants Answers
The association asked the bank what rules it broke, but it has not received a response, according to association leader Stephan Nilsson.
The association has 832 million crowns in its account, mostly in bitcoin through the association’s bitcoin wallet. The association accepts bitcoin through Stripe, the U.S.-based payment service.
The bank asked Nilsson on September 5 what the account will be used for and for confirmation that dues can be paid in bitcoin. The next day, the bank said its relationship with the association would expire after 14 days and that the funds had to be withdrawn.
In an email, the bank asked Nilsson to clarify some safeguards, such as how it ensures member identity and what procedures prevent money derived from terrorism and money laundering.
Why The Bank Is Wary
The bank noted in an email that bitcoin has characteristics that indicate it can be used for money laundering and terrorist financing.
Stripe, the payment service the association uses, operates in 25 countries and is used by well-known service and enterprise providers such as Twitter. Stripe is supported by traditional payment industry players and some of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture funds and investors. Investors include American Express, Elon Musk, Sequoia Capital, Visa and Peter Thiel, a group that has invested $300 million in the company.
Nilsson said DNB is demonstrating “monetary xenophobia.”
DNB has branches in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands, Nilsson said, meaning there is a reason to suspect the bank is involved in tax evasion and money laundering.
He said the association is switching to another bank that understands what bitcoin is. He said there are many banks with a more updated approach to bitcoin.
Bank Defends Its Decision
When e24.no asked the bank if it does not allow online payments from companies like Stripe, a bank spokesperson said there is no principle not to accept bitcoin from such services, but bitcoin is generally associated with risk and many banks do not accept bitcoin payment.
The spokesperson said it is hard to make international payments in the current market, so the bank needs documentation about customers and business partners.
The association has 20 registered members who pay an annual fee of 300 crowns per head.
Images from Shutterstock and Norges Bitcoinforening.