Dutch Official Downplays Law Enforcement Need for Bitcoin Ban

Pete Rizzo
Mar 17, 2014 at 20:39 UTC
Updated Mar 18, 2014 at 02:42 UTC

The Netherlands’ Minister of Justice and Security Ivo Opstelten has issued statements suggesting that the digital currency should not be banned due to its connection to criminal practices.

The statements, published by Dutch news source Coincurant, come in light of recent high-profile, bitcoin-related arrests made by the country’s law enforcement officials, as well as concern about the Internet’s role in gun violence.

In comments the wider digital currency community is likely to find encouraging, Opstelten said that while the digital currency is used for illegal means, this concern can apply to other, more mainstream currencies and payment types.

Informal translations of the text indicate that Opstelten said:

“Financial transactions for criminal activities are not reserved for cryptographic payment forms.”

The statement was made in response to parliamentary questions about the 21st January arrest of a US citizen who sold a semi-automatic pistol to Dutch law enforcement officials.

The sale was facilitated by a black market website protected by the Tor network.

More details

The questions were issued by two Dutch politicians, Peter Oskam and Eddy van Hijum, both members of the Christian Democratic Appeal party, who stressed the importance of scrutinizing the issue in the wake of this arrest, as well as the suicide of a Dutch teenager who purchased a firearm online.

The lawmakers were seeking to address the steps being taken by Opstelten and his agency to limit the purchase of firearms online. The correspondence suggested potential bans on bitcoin and the anonymous software system Tor as solutions to the stated concerns.

Opstelten’s full remarks also indicated that international cooperation, for now, remains the best possible defense against bitcoin and its potential criminal uses.

The Ministry of Security and Justice is a government body responsible for maintaining the rule of law in the Netherlands. Its tasks include providing for fair and effective punishment of criminals and coordinating counter-terrorism.

Community reaction

While promising, at least one prominent community member, who runs a financial newsletter serving the Netherlands and Belgium, was skeptical that such statements represented any larger thinking on behalf of the government.

Tuur Demeester, owner of financial research firm Adamant Research, cited how Opstelten also mentioned that the G7’s Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) is preparing to investigate virtual currencies, and implied such findings could trump any individual country’s preliminary assessments.

Demeester indicated the most notable statement may have been Opstelten’s mention of cooperation with the US on bitcoin issues.

“My hunch is that going forward, the Dutch government will take a similar stance to that of the US: tolerance of Bitcoin, but with the attempt of taxing, controlling and steering it through a system of licenses and other regulations.”

His business partner at Debitcoin.org, Paul Buitink did not comment on the larger impact of the statements, but said he agreed with Opstelten’s statements.

Bitcoin in the Netherlands

Research from the US Law Library of Congress indicates that the Netherlands has been among the more active countries when it comes to debating the impact of bitcoin on existing laws and regulation.

Bitcoin, nonetheless, has been growing in popularity in the Netherlands. Most recently, an entire Dutch street rebranded as “Bitcoin Boulevard” in order to attract bitcoin-using tourists, while the country’s largest food delivery network began accepting bitcoin in November.

Sourceforge indicates that the Netherlands ranks seventh in terms of the number of official downloads of the Bitcoin-Qt wallet worldwide, trailing Canada with more than 128,000 downloads as of press time.

Image credit: jan kranendonk / Shutterstock.com