Russia’s Ministry of Finance (MinFin) has proposed jail sentences for the use of cryptocurrency, strengthening its opposition to the technology.
According to a press release, those found guilty of using so-called “money surrogates” could face up to four years in prison. Current sentences are limited to a fine of up to 500,000 rubles or 2 years’ community service.
The latest revision to the law has received the support of the Ministry of Economic Development and will be put before the Duma in the coming months, finance journal Vesti reports.
The assistant to the minister of economic development Elena Lashkina meanwhile reiterated the official stance to local publication Izvestiya:
“The use of money surrogates, including cryptocurrency, carries a high level of risk [...] [and] creates the conditions for the involvement of citizens and companies in illegal activity, including the legalization (laundering) of financial proceeds from criminal and terrorist operations.”
The renewed push to criminalize cryptocurrency usage outright by MinFin still runs in contrast to the position of the Central Bank, which has thus far advocated a wait-and-see approach to any legislation.
Russian attitudes towards the legal status of cryptocurrency have in general been mixed, creating a patchwork of uncertainty with industry players unable to speculate on what the future might hold.
Speaking during a televised forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin conversely stipulated that Bitcoin could be used “in some account,” leading to rumors of an ultimate softening of the official position.
“[… ][A]s an accounting unit, these 'coins' or whatever are they called, they can be used, and their adoption becomes wider and wider,” Putin said. “As some kind of unit in some account, probably, it's possible.”
Meanwhile, payment processor QIWI announced it was developing a blockchain-tech based Bitcoin alternative known as the ‘Bit-Ruble,’ which it says will likely launch in 2016 for use in payment of services attached to its mobile wallet, Vesti adds.