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Russian Official Calls for Criminal Liability for Bitcoin

Russia’s Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin has, once again, opined that virtual and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are money substitutes or surrogates that need to be outlawed. He also claimed that virtual currencies are “often used” for the financing of terrorism.

In a sweeping, wide-ranging column on Russian publication Kommersant, Alexander Bastykin – chairman of the Investigative Committee of Russia and General of Justice of the Russian Federation wrote about extremism in Russia and the ways to curb it.

He speaks of a “hybrid war”, one “unleashed” by the United States and its allies on Russia and “a number of other countries” over the past decade. This war, Bastykin adds, is being waged on multiple fronts including the political, economic, legal and informational spaces.

“And in recent years, it has moved into a qualitatively new phase of open confirmation,” he added.

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Russian President Putin with Alexander Bastrykin

The write-up covers a variety of factors concerning extremism, including everything from migrants at an increased risk of being radicalized to calling for libraries, schools and other educational institutions to restrict public access to the internet, specifically toward extremist websites.

It is here that he calls for an effective means to counter the “ongoing information war against Russia”, which primarily involves cutting off financial support for terrorism.

Remarking that virtual currencies are directly tied in with the financing of terrorism, the Russian official states:

As experience has shown, the financing of terrorism is often [achieved] using virtual cryptocurrency that has no central issuer or a single point of control over transactions. Payments are characterized by anonymity.

The Russian official’s statement that cryptocurrencies have been previously shown to be used in financing terrorism makes for marked contrast from the findings of an official report from the European Union’s law enforcement agency – Europol.

Following a researcher report into terrorism financing, the findings read:

Despite third party reporting suggesting the use of anonymous currencies like Bitcoin by terrorists to finance their activities, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement.

Furthermore, Bastykin listed another reason to call for the ban of cryptocurrencies and bitcoin, whilst opining that criminal liabilities should be inforced among those who partake in using bitcoin.

As a result of the widespread use of these [crypto]currencies that can displace the market of legal money, they threaten the financial stability of the state.

It is therefore suggested to introduce criminal liability for illegal issuance and turnover of cryptocurrencies and other money substitutes.

Bastykin has previously spoken about the “threat to the financial stability of the state” posed by cryptocurrencies as money surrogates, citing Bitcoin specifically.

“The need to introduce criminal responsibility for the act in in question has seen widespread [use] in recent years, the trafficking of so-called virtual cryptocurrencies, the most famous of which is Bitcoin,” he said in a recent interview earlier this year.

Citing experts’ estimates, Bastykin stated that the turnover of money surrogates account for 1 percent of Russia’s GDP. The threat to Russian economy, he claims, will occur when Bitcoin and other surrogates exceed a figure of 10 percent of the country’s GDP.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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