In a court proceeding watched closely in tech and financial circles across the United States and the world, an economist testified last week that bitcoin isn’t really money and thus not subject to money-laundering laws. The judge’s decision—not expected for several weeks—could have a major impact on the future of the cryptocurrency.
Charles Evans, an economics professor at Barry University in Miami, was called upon Friday to testify as an expert witness for the defense in the case of Michel Espinoza, who stands accused in Florida of laundering $1,500 in bitcoins and selling them to undercover FBI agents who claimed they would use the bitcoins to buy stolen credit card numbers. Espinoza’s legal team has sought to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that Bitcoin isn’t really money and thus the money-laundering charges against their client don’t really apply, reports the Miami Herald.
“Basically, it’s poker chips that people are willing to buy from you,” Evans told the court, saying Bitcoin is less a currency than something collectors assign value to, like baseball cards and comic books. Evans’ expert witness fee—$3,000—was paid in Bitcoin.