Just when it appeared that the Russian Central Bank was relaxing
its position on cryptocurrencies, the Russian Duma quickly dispelled such illusions. Russian lawmakers toughened the requirements for electronic money transfers during a new law’s second hearing – and prohibited “currency surrogates.” The new legislation is set to make anonymous payments between individuals illegal, Itar-Tass reported.
In addition, the Duma introduced new measures that would make it easier to identify individuals transferring funds.
Simplified identity verification
The new legislation introduces a simplified identification process that now requires mandatory input from clients. Clients must present their passport information via telephone or the Internet, as well as his individual tax or pension fund number, which is similar to a social security number in the US.
It is also possible to present a compulsory medical insurance number as well as a mobile telephone number. Fulfilling the “simplified” identification requirement is also possible using electronic signatures.
Simplified verification will not be enough if:
1) the operation is subject for review under the law and evidence exists that the client is complicit in extremist or terrorist activities;
2) there is suspicion that the client’s goal is to launder money or finance terrorism;
3) the operation appears to be unusually complex or unconventional and has no economic character or a clear legitimate objective.
New regulations, however, will not limit transfers to 1,000 rubles – a proposed measure that came under heavy criticism when first suggested.
Based on the new law, anonymous electronic transfers must not exceed 15,000 rubles per day and 40,000 rubles per month.
Under the simplified identification process, transfer limits for individuals will be increased to 60,000 and 200,000, respectively. Anonymous transfers between private individuals are completely prohibited.
Citizens will also not be able to transfer funds anonymously to non-profit organizations, aside from religious and charity organizations where the limits remain 15,000 rubles per day and 40,000 rubles per month. Anonymous transfers to foreign-based companies are also prohibited.
It will also no longer be possible to transfer funds from anonymous wallets to a bank account without going through an identity verification process.
The law will come into effect 10 days after it is passed, while measures allowing increased electronic money transfer amounts for private individuals will go into effect starting November 1, 2014.
The following actions are now prohibited under Russian law:
- anonymous transfer of funds between private individuals
- anonymous transfer of funds to non-profit organizations
- anonymous transfer of funds to foreign-based companies
- anonymous transfer of funds to bank accounts without identity verification
What of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
Unlike in the US where it could be argued that they are property and not currency and, thus, not subject to the new regulations, Russia has made its stance clear in clause 27 of the new federal law: “the transmission of money surrogates is prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
It can be inferred that the Russian government is concerned that virtual currencies can potentially be used to fund “terrorism” and illicit activities such as the funding of non-profits critical of the government, which were largely blamed for the anti-government protests in Moscow in 2012.
Bitcoin enthusiasts meanwhile claim that as the popularity of cryptocurrencies snowballs, no one will be able to stop recognition of such currencies, and it is a matter of not if but when.
What do you think? Is the Russian government scrambling to plug the holes in a dam that will inevitably collapse? Let us know in the comments below.