Last week, the Central Bank of Bangladesh issued a statement that anyone caught using Bitcoin would be subject to a prison sentence of up to twelve years, essentially forcing the Bitcoin community underground as the Bank is enforcing the nation’s money laundering laws.
According to one source, the Central Bank made its decision after a number of local media reports talked about Bitcoin transactions on several online exchanges. The Central Bank explained the decision:
“Bitcoin is not a legal tender of any country. Any transaction through Bitcoin or any other crypto currency is a punishable offence.”
Cointelegraph has tried contacting S M Monir Uz Zaman Sazeeb (aka “Sazeeb”) President and Founder of Bitcoin Foundation Bangladesh with no success. But due to their association with Bitcoin, members may be subject to official scrutiny and any connection could be viewed as a criminal offense by government officials. The Bitcoin Foundation, however, has not been silent on the matter. In a statement on their blog published on September 19, Executive Director Jon Matonis wrote:
“Until more information is obtained on the current situation, Bitcoin Foundation Bangladesh has temporarily suspended educational and membership efforts. The Banks statement spooked the Bitcoin community, particularly in Bangladesh, and those with loved ones in the country. Now, we all know how this goes – one Bitcoin story with a misleading headline is released and its message ripples across the news wire. As a result, Bitcoin’s promising social and economic benefits for the people of Bangladesh have been put on pause for the time being.”
- Jon Matonis
While Bitcoin Bangladesh has, at least temporarily, suspended its operations with the public and press, the Bitcoin Foundation is scrambling to get as much information as possible on the situation. The Foundation said that as far as they could determine, the announcement seems to be more of a warning than a threat or outright ban on Bitcoin, which seems a strange conclusion considering the threat of a twelve year prison sentence for anyone using Bitcoin now.
While the real reasons for the Bank’s recent decision are still unclear, it is certain that at least some banks in various countries have taken to the offensive with regards to Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Could this be a harbinger of an inevitable conflict between legacy institutions and disruptive tech? Cointelegraph will continue to monitor the situation in Bangladesh and report as the situation develops.
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