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Hodler’s Digest, March 11–17: Top Stories, Price Movements, Quotes and FUD of the Week

In this week’s Hodler’s Digest, Jay Clayton may not consider ETH to be a security, but the CBOE is over BTC futures contracts for now.

Top Stories This Week

U.S. District Attorney Charges OneCoin Founders With “Billions” in Alleged Fraud

The founders of international cryptocurrency pyramid scheme OneCoin have been charged by a United States district attorney. Both Konstantin Ignatov and his sister Ruja Ignatova were reportedly arrested on March 6 in Los Angeles after being accused of “wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering offenses” after luring investors into putting billions of dollars into the fraudulent OneCoin cryptocurrency. The crypto organization — established in 2014 and based in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria — works as a marketing network in which members receive commissions for attracting potential buyers to buy into the cryptocurrency, with reportedly over 3 million members globally.

U.S. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton Confirms ETH Is Not a Security

Jay Clayton, the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) chairman, has reportedly confirmed that Ethereum (ETH) and cryptocurrencies similar to it do not qualify as securities. Citing a letter written by Clayton in March, nonprofit crypto research organization Coin Center reported that Clayton has agreed that a digital asset’s definition as a security is “not static” and can change over time. While Clayton does not mention ETH directly, he states that he agrees that a digital asset transaction may not represent a security if the purchasers no longer expect a group to carry out entrepreneurial efforts.

Cryptocurrency Community Eyes Tether After Website Dilutes USD Backing Claims

Stablecoin Tether (USDT), which has always claimed to be backed 1:1 to the U.S. dollar, drew scrutiny this week from the crypto community when the description of its holdings on its website was subtly changed. A new update to the site, date unknown, now reads that each tether is backed by its reserves, which, “from time to time, may include other assets and receivables from loans made by Tether to third parties, which may include affiliated entities.” Tether has previously faced criticism due to their lack of an official audit, although bank documents from the entity last fall had seemingly confirmed the validity of Tether’s backing claims.

CBOE Will Not List Bitcoin Futures in March, Cites Need to Assess Crypto Derivatives

The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) will not add a new Bitcoin (BTC) futures market in March, the firm said this week in a statement. According to the CBOE, the entity is re-evaluating its approach to how it handles trading digital assets, noting that it does not intend to currently list additional BTC future contracts for trading. The contracts that are currently listed will expire in June, and CBOE noted that those futures are still available for trading. The CBOE had launched Bitcoin futures in December 2017, a move closely followed by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

U.S. State of Colorado Passes Crypto Exemptions Bill Into Law

Jared S. Polis, the governor of the state of Colorado, has signed the “Colorado Digital Token Act” into law this week. The legislation, which had initially been proposed in January and sponsored at the state Senate level by Republican Jack Tate and Democrat Steve Fenberg, allows for limited exceptions for securities registration and traders, including salesperson licensing requirements for those dealing in digital tokens. According to the language of the bill, a digital token is a digital unit that is secured through a decentralized ledger or database, and can be exchanged for goods or services and transferred without an intermediary.

Winners and Losers

The crypto markets are slightly up at the end of the week, with Bitcoin trading at around $4,031, Ethereum at $140 and Ripple at $.32. Total market cap is around $139 billion.

The top three altcoin gainers of the week are ZenGold, Ormeus Coin and SounDAC. The top three altcoin losers of the week are Freicoin, Indorse Token and MFIT Coin.

For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.

Most Memorable Quotations

“With anything that’s not financial, chances are there is some internet thing that does what you want, that’s just centralized. So it’s a bit of a harder pitch.”

Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum co-founder

“I think artists in the music industry on average capture about 11 or 12 percent of the value in the industry and those big record companies are sucking up 70 or so percent. We can replace those record companies with smart contracts on the Ethereum platform.”

Joseph Lubin, Ethereum co-founder and ConsenSys creator

“I think, again, these markets could regulate themselves if we lived in a world where we allowed that.”

Hester M. Peirce, commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

“I think Bitcoin is a technology rather than business opportunities.”

Justin Sun, CEO of blockchain developer network Tron

“I think this technology has and is already demonstrating pretty significant promise, but it’s demonstrating significant promise in the places where it’s consistent with our approach to capital raising in the past.”

Jay Clayton, U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) chairman

Prediction of the Week

Bitcoin Price Breakout Scheduled for August, Says Fundstrat’s Tom Lee

Thomas Lee, the co-founder of Fundstrat Global Advisors, said this week that he thinks that a Bitcoin bull run could return in the next six months, even after his December declaration that he would not give out crypto price predictions. Speaking in an interview this week, Lee noted that traders should look out for the 200-day moving average, adding that if Bitcoin can hold above $4,000 and crosses its 200-day moving average in August, “the outside window is five to six months before Bitcoin starts to look technically like it’s back in a bull market.”

FUD of the Week

Bloomberg: Key Indicators Show Bitcoin Price Could Be Losing Steam

Bloomberg reported this week that key price movement indicators have shown that Bitcoin could be heading toward another downward move. According to the report, the technical gauges that signal long-term purchasing demand for BTC are deteriorating, which means that buying pressure could increase. Bloomberg notes that the main crypto’s Moving Average Convergence/Divergence (MACD) indicator — which follows the relations between two moving averages of the price of a security — has been moving downward since mid-February. Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at eToro, suggested that people are moving away from Bitcoin to altcoins.

Ledger Discloses Five Reported Vulnerabilities in Two Models of Trezor Hardware Wallets

Major hardware wallets manufacturer Ledger released information this week about five vulnerabilities in its direct competitor Trezor’s devices. These were found by Ledger’s Attack Lab, which hacks into both its own and others’ devices in order to find security weaknesses. According to Ledger, both the Trezor One and Trezor T wallets face problems with the possibility to backdoor the devices with malware, as well as using side-channel attacks to guess the PIN value. Trezor has responded, noting that the vulnerabilities are not critical as they cannot be exploited remotely and all require physical access to the device.

Bitcoin Pioneer Jeff Garzik Subpoenaed in $4 Bln Lawsuit Against Craig Wright

A U.S. District Court has subpoenaed Jeff Garzik, a software engineer and Bitcoin pioneer, in relation to the $4 billion lawsuit against Craig Wrightself-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto. The suit, filed last February with the family of computer scientist David Kleiman, alleges that Wright stole up to 1.1 million BTC after Kleiman (rumored to be one of the original BTC developers) passed away. After Kleiman’s death in 2014, Wright had contacted the estate with the stated intention of helping to dispose the Bitcoin fortune, with Kleiman’s family now claiming that Wright did not return the funds.

Best Cointelegraph Features

The Tipping Point: Kroger, Starbucks May Ignite Retail Crypto

In this dedicated analysis, Cointelegraph looks at how big institutions like Kroger and Starbucks, which have shown an interest in cryptocurrencies, have paved the way for hope that crypto could eventually be integrated more seriously into retail payments.

Textbook Case of Crypto Hype: How Iced Tea Company Went Blockchain and Failed Despite a 289 Percent Stock Rise

During the crypto hype in 2017, a former iced tea company decided to change its name to include the word “blockchain,” seeing an immense jump in stock price even though the actual company had little to do in the crypto space. Cointelegraph examines what exactly Long Blockchain Corp. is doing after only recently leaving the beverage business.

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US District Attorney Charges OneCoin Founders With ‘Billions’ in Alleged Fraud

А U.S. District Attorney has charged the founders of a crypto pyramid scheme that involved the marketing of a fraudulent digital currency “OneCoin.”

A United States District Attorney has charged the founders of an international cryptocurrency pyramid scheme that involved the marketing of an allegedly fraudulent digital currency called “OneCoin.” The announcement was published by the U.S. Attorney Office of the Southern District of New York on March 8.

The founders and leaders of OneCoin, Konstantin Ignatov and his sister Ruja Ignatova, were reportedly arrested on March 6, 2019, in Los Angeles. The siblings were accused of “wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering offenses,” wherein they allegedly lured investors to contribute “billions of dollars in the fraudulent cryptocurrency.”

OneCoin was established in 2014 and is based in the capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia. The project operates as a marketing network through which members receive commissions for attracting other potential investors to buy cryptocurrency packages. OneCoin purportedly has over three million members worldwide.

When Ignatov was asked when OneCoin members could “cash out” their coins at a meeting with investors in Las Vegas, he said “if you are here to cash out, leave this room now, because you don’t understand what this project is about.” Commenting on the charges, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:

“As alleged, these defendants created a multibillion-dollar ‘cryptocurrency’ company based completely on lies and deceit. They promised big returns and minimal risk, but, as alleged, this business was a pyramid scheme based on smoke and mirrors more than zeroes and ones.  Investors were victimized while the defendants got rich. Our Office has a history of successfully targeting, arresting, and convicting financial fraudsters, and this case is no different.”

The investigation reportedly found that between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the third quarter of 2016 OneCoin generated 3.353 billion euros ($3.769 billion) in sales revenue and earned “profits” of 2.232 billion euros ($2.509 billion).

New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. stated that “these defendants [the Ignatovs] executed an old-school pyramid scheme on a new-school platform, compromising the integrity of New York’s financial system and defrauding investors out of billions.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a New York-based operator,  Randall Crater, of a purported cryptocurrency payment services firm My Big Coin Pay Inc. (My Big Coin) with wire fraud and unlawful monetary transactions. The indictment states that Crater conducted four counts of wire fraud and three counts of unlawful monetary transactions, as well as misappropriated more than $6 million in investor funds for personal use.

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UK Financial Watchdog Warns Against Firm Claiming to be Authorized With FCA

U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority has warned the public against illicit Bulgaria-based Next Coin, which claims to be FCA-authorized.

The British financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has issued a warning against illegal crypto-related firm Next Coin Market, according to an official statement released on March 6.

According to the FCA, Bulgaria-based Next Coin falsely claims to be authorized with the U.K. financial authority to offer cryptocurrency-related services to British residents.

The FCA elaborated that Next Coin was sending users a link to a fake website that gives the impression that the firm is officially authorized by the FCA. However, Next Coin is not registered with the authority, the FCA said, claiming that the firm is involved in criminal activity.

The financial regulator has asked the public to report cases associated with false claims of being authorized with the FCA. In case money was transferred, the authority advises the public to report concerns to U.K’s national reporting center for fraud and cyber crime, Action Fraud.

The FCA also emphasized that anyone who deals with an unauthorized firm is not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, and thus cannot complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the official U.K. Parliament’s expert in sorting out financial issues.

Recently, Swiss crypto bank Dukascopy warned customers against forex trading company GCG Asia, which fraudulently claimed to represent the bank’s authorized firm.

In early February, the FCA reported that losses from common investment scams — including those crypto-related — amounted totally to more than $255 million in 2018.

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Chinese Prosecutors Charge Final Suspects In $2.3 Bln OneCoin Investigation

The last four suspects in a two year case against alleged pyramid scheme OneCoin have been prosecuted in China’s Hunan Province, government-supported local news source the Justice Network reports Wednesday, May 23.

The Zhuzhou Country Procuratorate of the Hunan Province examined 106 people, publicly prosecuted 98, and recovered around 1.7 bln yuan (around $266 mln) from over 20 provinces across China in the course of the case. Those prosecuted have received up to 10,000  – 5 mln yuan in fines (about $1,500 – $782,000) as well as four years or less of prison time.

In 2016, Chinese authorities had already seized over $30 mln dollars during their investigation of the alleged pyramid scheme.

The Justice Network reports that OneCoin organization – “Weika Coin” in China – whose server is located in Copenhagen, Denmark, worked by “constantly induc[ing] new investors to realize imaginary high profits” by “deceptively advocating” the coins’ worth and “tempting others to invest huge sums of money into its established website.”

The pyramid scheme, or MLM organization, reportedly had 27 fund pool accounts, more than 140 member levels of varying costs, and a total of over 2 mln registered users located in China. In total, the funds involved in the scheme are more than 15 bln yuan (around $2.3 bln), according to the Justice Network.

Last fall, Italy imposed a €2.5 mln fine on OneCoin after the Italian Antitrust and Consumer Protection Authority (AGCM) branded the organization a pyramid or ponzi scheme.

More recently, in January of this year representatives of the Bulgarian law enforcement as well as European Union crime fighting units raided OneCoin’s office in Bulgaria at the behest of a German prosecutors office. While documents and servers were seized from the offices and 50 witnesses questioned, no arrests were made at the time.

Back in 2015, Cointelegraph warned readers to stay away from OneCoin, referring to it as likely to be a scam.

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Crypto Auctions: Where Do Arrested Bitcoins End Up?

From their early days, cryptocurrencies have been associated by many with black markets and illicit activities. Bitcoin’s feature of allowing direct payments to be made from one party to another without the involvement of financial institutions, has been also utilized as a way to avoid institutional controls and settle illegal transactions.

A recent study of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) found that “approximately one-quarter of Bitcoin users and one-half of Bitcoin transactions are associated with illegal activity”

On the other hand, given that there are almost 28.5 mln Bitcoin wallets that hold more than 0.001 BTC and many users own several wallets – with some inactive – the magnitude of this phenomenon is considerably reduced.

Regardless, it is a fact that some illegal activities are done with cryptocurrencies. While it seems quite simple to seize a fiat account or appropriate cash, the nature of cryptocurrencies makes this process much more complicated. Let’s analyze some cases where the government authorities seized cryptocurrency assets due to illegal activities and find out where they end up.

International authorities did not try to underestimate the issue. Europol recently recognized that “three to four bln pounds of criminal money in Europe is being laundered through cryptocurrencies”.

Europol’s Executive Director Rob Wainwright underlined that:

“Proceeds from criminal activity are being converted into Bitcoins, split into smaller amounts and given to people who are seemingly not associated with the criminals but who are acting as ‘money mules’. These money mules then convert the Bitcoins back into hard cash before returning it to the criminals”.

Silk road

In this complicated scenario, international prosecutors reacted by performing some important police operations. One of the most widely known operations was carried out in Oct. 2013 with the closure of Silk Road.

Silk Road was a website that operated as an online black market for selling illegal drugs, and used Bitcoin for settling the deals between site users. After two years of investigation, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested the founder and seized over 170,000 Bitcoins, which, at that time, accounted for about 1.5 percent of all the Bitcoins in circulation.

The closure of Silk Road was not the only activity carried out by international authorities to fight against illicit markets around cryptocurrencies. In Nov. 2014, the police of Hesse, Germany, together with Europol and the FBI, operated against illegal online shops Hydra and Silk Road 2.0, which were also engaged in the sale of drugs.

According to law enforcers, these shops were used by approximately 150,000 people, who each month used to buy drugs worth millions of euros using Bitcoins. This operation resulted in the seizure of of 126 Bitcoin from the owners of the websites.

Bulgarian case

But maybe the most impressive operation rolled out by international authorities has been done on May 19, 2017 by the Bulgarian police with the support of the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC). The joint forces stopped an organized criminal group that was recruiting corrupt customs officers in many European countries, with the purpose to infiltrate a virus in the customs’ computerized systems and avoid the payment of taxes.

The offenders choose the Bitcoin as a way of investing the money resulted by their activities, considering them rather difficult to be tracked. As a result of the police investigation, an impressive number of 213,519 Bitcoin has been seized.

Cryptocurrency auctions

The seizing of cryptocurrencies has been increasingly the result of international investigations, with examples of this measure taken in many countries including the US, Germany, Bulgaria and UK. National authorities have started thinking about what to do with the seized coins. The US was one the first countries to approach the issue and started organizing auctions selling the appropriated cryptocurrencies.

The United States Marshals Service (USMS), a federal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, auctioned different lots of Bitcoins catched by different state authorities. One of the most recent sale has been held on Jan. 11, 2018 where the USMS auctioned a total of 3,813 Bitcoin in three different lots respectively of A) 2,500; B) 500; C) 813.

Given the value of the Bitcoin at approximately 11,500 USD the closing day of the auction (Jan. 19), the result granted an amount of around $44 mln in revenue to the state. Similarly, in Germany, the authority of the state of Hesse hope to gain millions from the sale of the 126 seized Bitcoins.

What about Bulgaria? According to calculations, the value of the 213,000 seized Bitcoins would be enough to pay off one-fifth of Bulgaria’s national debt. At present, the proportion would be a little different as the debt of the country is around $16 bln whereas the value of that pot of bitcoins would be around $2 bln.

However today it’s not clear whether or not the authorities really possess these coins. The head of Bulgarian Special Prosecutor’s Office, Ivan Geshev, recently said that the Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry had not seized Bitcoins.

More auctions to come

The fight against the misuse of funds for financing black markets and illicit activities has to tie up more its activities towards the use of crypto currencies. Given the extreme rapidity through which cryptocurrencies can be moved between wallets, states, and continents, a stronger collaboration between international authorities would also be necessary to conduct special operations.

Seizing and then auctioning cryptocurrencies, in case of a confirmed illicit use, could be both a strong deterrent for criminal users and, in some instances, a good source of income for state revenues.                

Uniformity between the various international authorities on the approach regarding the auctioning procedures could be a desirable development, in order to guarantee a fair and transparent process around the redistribution of the cryptocurrency assets. A rigorous process of identification could also guarantee that the participants are not connected to any illicit activities, and to avoid the process to start over again.

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Bulgarian Police Raids OneCoin Offices, ‘Ponzi Scheme’ Servers Shut Down

OneCoin offices were raided and its servers seized in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Jan. 17 and 18, as yet another step in a series of international raids and court cases against the highly-controversial altcoin. Although the servers were shut down, OneCoin currently remains operational.

The raid took place at the request of the prosecutor’s office in Bielefeld, Germany, and was carried out by representatives of the Bulgarian law enforcement as well as European Union crime fighting units. OneCoin’s founder, Ruja Ignatova, is Bulgarian-born but has German citizenship.

OneCoin, which promotes itself as a “centralized model [that] protects its members’ safety and ensures compliance on AML [anti-money laundering],” does not fit the definition of a cryptocurrency, for it is not decentralized, does not run on open-source software, and does not have a public ledger.

The documents and servers were seized from “One Network Services” EOOD, a Bulgarian company serving as a representative and distributor of OneCoin, as well as 14 other companies. 50 witnesses were questioned during the raid, but no arrests have yet been made.

The company is registered officially in the United Arab Emirates as “OneCoin Ltd.,” but according to the Bulgarian police report, the company operates through

“Hundreds of affiliated companies on 4 continents […] [which] are being investigated in England, Ireland, Italy, the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and many other countries.”

A OneCoin representative faced charges of fraud in Kazakhstan in May 2017, and in India, police had arrested 23 people in connection with OneCoin’s pyramid scheme by July 2017.

More recently, in August 2017, the Italian Antitrust and Consumer Protection Authority (AGCM) branded OneCoin a Ponzi scheme and fined them 2.5 mln euros, the first financial fine on the company.

Cointelegraph has previously denounced OneCoin as a Ponzi scheme, warning readers to stay away from the coin.

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Bitcoin Bursary in Bulgarian University

Bitcoin’s ascension into the mainstream financial world has done wonders for its value, but its spiritual home still resides in the minds of IT aficionados.

Walk into any development studio and you are bound to find IT staff musing over Blockchain, Bitcoin and all things cryptocurrency related.

With that in mind, Varna University of Management in Bulgaria will become one of the first tertiary education institutions to offer bursaries in Bitcoin.

In 2018, ten software engineering students will be awarded scholarships in Bitcoin – to the value of €1000 per semester. The University will also give their candidates the option of taking the scholarship in either euros or Bitcoin.

While the lucky candidates will land themselves a share of the valuable virtual currency, the University is also working on plans to accept Bitcoin as a payment method for tuition fees.

Prospective software engineering students can also look forward to new modules in cryptocurrency and Blockchain technology, as the University looks to pioneer the way forward in education of Blockchain technology.

From humble beginnings

The launch of their Bitcoin bursaries is a product of  the budding community of cryptocurrency enthusiasts at the University. Weekly seminars covering the world of cryptocurrencies led to the idea of Bitcoin bursaries and innovative courses on Blockchain technology.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, VUM digital marketing manager Omer Ilyasli said the student body is at the cutting edge of Blockchain development.

“At our School of Computer Science, we have number of students who are working on Blockchain technology. We have quite a community here and we host seminars from time to time. The decision to offer Bitcoin scholarship came after a “Introduction to Blockchain Technology” seminar.”

The launch of the bursary program is just the tip of the iceberg for the ambitious University. Ilyasli insists that the community could become an educational hub for Blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

“We think pioneers in this field will be hugely rewarded, so we want to be pioneers, both individuals, our organization and our country. That is why we also urged Bulgarian government and local authorities in Varna to turn Varna into a hub. We still did not get an answer from the authorities yet.”

With the prospect of a scholarship in the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency and courses in Blockchain technology, the University hopes to attract some of the brightest young minds around the world.

The Bulgarian university offers full Bachelors and Masters degrees in business, software and hospitality, as well as an MBA programme.

Hopeful students looking to apply for their inaugural Bitcoin scholarships will have to meet normal entrance requirements, according to Ilyasli.

“The selection process will be done by academic commitee and they will select the students considering their interest in the subject and technology, and extra-curricular activities. But, first of all, all candidates should cover minimum entry requirements, such as high school grades and English-proficiency.”

Considering the Bulgarian government’s recent acquisition of Bitcoin through a criminal syndicate bust, the country could well be looking into developing the niche, but fast-growing industry.

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Bulgaria Seizes Enough Bitcoin to Pay Off 1/5 of National Debt

Following an undercover bust of an underground crime network, Bulgaria has seized enough Bitcoin to settle a fifth of its national debt.

According to ZeroHedge, the Bulgarian crime enforcement agency and the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center caught 23 Bulgarian criminals and confiscated a total of 213,519 Bitcoins – roughly valued at $3.5 bln.

The syndicate had hacked Bulgarian customs computers, effectively allowing them to import goods without paying the prescribed duties. With the help of a few corrupt officials the group installed viruses on customs computers in order to allow remote access.

SELC said the group included five Bulgarian customs officials, while others had ties to former  Yugoslavian states.

“The organized criminal group consisted of Bulgarian nationals with connections in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Romania, and Serbia” said SELC.

The most intriguing part of this story is the incredible value of Bitcoin and what the Bulgarian government plans to do with it. SELC confirmed that when they seized the wallets, Bitcoin was valued at $2354. It’s now well past the $16k.

“As well, found in the Bitcoin wallets of the main suspects was a total of 213,519 Bitcoins. As reference, the value of one Bitcoin is over $2354. The offenders choose Bitcoin’s way of investing/saving the money because it’s rather difficult to be tracked and followed.”

According to National Debt Clock, Bulgaria’s national debt is in the region of $16 bln – so they could take a big bite out of that if they use their new Bitcoin fortune.

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Bulgarian Banks Block Accounts of Crypto Exchanges

Yesterday afternoon several major banks in Bulgaria terminated accounts held by the country’s cryptocurrency exchanges. The banks are also blocking transfers to and from international Bitcoin exchanges. The country’s affected exchanges have temporarily suspended their services.

Crypto exchanges that offer crypto to fiat transactions very much rely on traditional fiat banking. But the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency means that it is riskier to transact in, given that transactions are difficult to reverse.

This week in Bulgaria major banks decided to do away with this risk by force. The swift move to block accounts held by Bulgarian crypto exchanges was evidently a coordinated decision made by Bulgaria’s top banks.

The move was unrelated to any explicit government decision or regulation. Participating banks appear to be trying to mitigate risk by not transacting in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

Who exactly is involved?

According to a post from the administrator of the Bulgarian Bitcoin forum, the banks closed the accounts of all companies whose activities are related to the purchase or sale of Bitcoin. In addition to Fibank, affected companies mentioned the United Bulgarian Bank (UBB) as one of the banks blocking accounts.

In a post in the same thread of the Bitcoin forum, the alleged managing director of an affected company, Neven Dilkov, wrote that though the UBB also blocked their accounts, not all banks in the country are taking this harsh stance:

“I spoke with Societe Generale and Piraeus separately [and] both banks do not have a problem with companies working with cryptocurrencies.”

Crypt exchanges affected by this week’s crackdown include Cix.bg, Crypto.bg, and Cryptobank.bg. According to their site, the latter is still open for trading but is accepting funds only via ePay.

Plus, in addition to Bitcoin, the exchange as has temporarily suspended trading in Ether due to overloads on the network caused by CryptoKitties.

Bulgarians looking to purchase Bitcoin for fiat can still do so via Coinbase and LocalBitcoins.

Separately, Bulgaria and Bitcoin recently made headlines because of a government raid made back in May. With the recent spike in Bitcoin’s price, the 200,000 Bitcoins seized in May in a series of raids made by Bulgarian law enforcement are now worth over $3 bln.

This sum is a six-fold increase from the time of the raids when the entire seizure was worth just $500 mln. It remains unclear what the Bulgarian government is planning to do with the seized funds.

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The Bulgarian Government Is Sitting on $3 Billion in Bitcoin

A crackdown on organized crime by Bulgarian law enforcement in May resulted in the seizure of more than 200,000 bitcoins – an amount worth more than $3 billion at today’s prices.

According to a press release dated May 19 from the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), a regional organization comprised of 12 member states including Bulgaria, a total of 213,519 bitcoins were seized that month. Twenty-three Bulgarian nationals were arrested during the operation, and officials said at the time that the arrests and subsequent asset seizures followed an investigation into an alleged customs fraud scam.

As of press time, the amount seized is worth approximately $3.3 billion, at a price of roughly $15,600, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

Authorities commented at the time:

“The offenders choose the bitcoin way of investing/saving the money, because it is rather difficult to be tracked and followed.”

They further alleged that those involved developed a virus which was used to hack into Bulgarian Customs computers, allowing the perpetrators to skip paying fees when transporting goods into the country. The virus was uploaded to government machines by bribed agents, according to the release. operation.

In all, the alleged perpetrators avoided paying some 10 million leva (Bulgaria’s national currency), worth roughly $6 million.

What remains unclear at this time is what the Bulgarian government is doing with the seized bitcoins.

According to a report from Bivol.bg, the Bulgarian government declined to release further details, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

Notable in the release is a notation that, at the time it was published, a single bitcoin was worth $2,354. The release stated that the total seized value was $500 million – less than one-sixth of its current value today.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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