For the first time in Europe a legal action was taken against illegal exchange of virtual money. According to a recent press release the French Police arrested two individuals who were running an illegal Bitcoin exchange website. One of them is a 27-year-old Tunisian who operated the website. He was previously convicted in a case of organized fraud. The other one is a 36-year old Frenchman who is the supplier of bitcoins.
They were arrested after a raid conducted by a branch of France’s armed forces, National Gendarmerie. The police seized 388 bitcoins worth 180,000 Euro along with cash, credit and hardware worth 9000 Euro.
According to the French law, any exchange operating on Bitcoins or Euro must be registered with the Prudential Control Authority and Resolution (ACPR). The persons were operating the exchange without registering with the ACPR.
Different charges have been put up on them based on their activities. Both Tunisian and the Frenchman are charged with illegal practice of the profession of banker. While the former is also charged with illegal employment and illegal gambling offer (for setting up a virtual casino dedicated to virtual currency) the latter is charged with undeclared work also.
The website BestXchanger, operated by the Tunisian allowed purchase of Bitcoins using Ukash and Paysafecard vouchers. The website was well received and lauded by many users but the maintainers being regularly paid almost half the transacted money brought it under the scrutiny of the Police.
The news received mixed reactions from the public. Many are pressing the need to ban Bitcoins citing the many concerns over the credibility and volatility of Bitcoin economy. Others welcome this news as such actions shall help in legalizing the use of bitcoins and bring them under legal jurisdiction. They say it is an attack on money laundering and not on Bitcoin.
This is at the backdrop of increased acceptance of bitcoins and setting up of Bitcoin ATMs in certain parts of the world. In past governmental actions or statements against bitcoins have led to shutting down of exchanges and discontinuing of miners. Examples of China and India are before us. We have to wait and see if the news is taken positively and boost the popularity of bit or it happens the other way around.
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