The Bitcoin Foundation has issued a new statement suggesting that it is currently investigating whether bitcoin and digital currency transactions are now illegal in Bangladesh.
However, citing general uncertainty surrounding this week’s statements from the Bangladesh Bank, the Bitcoin Foundation Bangladesh, the organisation’s first Asia-based affiliate, will suspend operations.
In a post entitled “The Case for Bitcoin in Bangladesh“, executive director Jon Matonis suggested that the comments from the bank don’t read like other bitcoin bans. This perception has proliferated since earlier this week, when Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported the South Asian nation’s central bank had stated that using bitcoin is a “punishable offense“.
Matonis took aim at the article which he called “misleading”. Further, he updated the community on the work the Bitcoin Foundation has been conducting since the initial report, clarifying that the original statement is a “standard issue of caution”, similar to others that have been issued by many countries globally.
“The Bangladesh Central Bank is alerting consumers of the risks involved with using bitcoin and reminding them that bitcoin is not government issued or sanctioned.”
Matonis went on to affirm that bitcoin’s use is not prohibited by domestic laws such as the Foreign Currency Control Act of 1947 and the Money Laundering Control Act of 2012, though those who seek to use bitcoin for illicit transactions are punishable under these regulations.
Still, Matonis suggested that the organisation continues to seek clarity on the additional implications of the law.
“What has been left unclear is if there are any other official statements or conditions under which transacting or even educating others on bitcoin could be considered a punishable offense,” he added.
In the meantime, the Bitcoin Foundation Bangladesh has updated its official website to include an English-language statement addressing the country’s central bank.
“We respect our country’s specific laws regarding this issue and oblige thereby,” the statement reads.
A sensible approach
In his remarks, Matonis went on to confirm his organisation’s stance that bitcoin is an emerging technology that brings real risks to users, though it holds long-term promise that could drastically impact global finance.
Further, he argued Bangladesh would be wise to consider how bitcoin may be able to address some of its own economic issues, stating:
“The sensible approach for Bangladesh is to understand and examine bitcoin and its promise for improving lives of its citizens, creating jobs and economic opportunity.”
In particular, he cited bitcoin’s potential ability to lower costs in the remittance market. A popular financial tool in Bangladesh, residents receive roughly $14.5bn through remittance services annually.
Correction: A previous version of this article suggested that the Bitcoin Foundation had said that bitcoin is not illegal in Bangladesh. The organisation is currently seeking more clarity on this issue.
Bangladesh capital of Dhaka via Shutterstock