The Indian government is doubling down on its already public skepticism of cryptocurrencies.
In a new statement issued Dec. 29, India's Ministry of Finance warned residents against the risks associated with trading cryptocurrencies, going so far as to compare blockchain-based assets like bitcoin to "Ponzi schemes." The statement is the third warning this year from a government body in India, indicating a growing level of concern among top regulators in the country.
As reported by CoinDesk, the Reserve Bank of India has issued two similar warnings in 2017, one in February and another earlier this December, to people who hold and trade cryptocurrencies.
Yet, the new statement from the Finance Minister again shows how the government is responding to the worldwide spike in the price of various cryptocurrencies.
"The price of bitcoin and other [virtual currencies] therefore is entirely a matter of mere speculation resulting in spurt and volatility in their prices. There is a real and heightened risk of investment bubble of the type seen in Ponzi schemes... Consumers need to be alert and extremely cautious as to avoid getting trapped in such Ponzi schemes."
Elsewhere in the notice, the Ministry emphasized that India doesn't recognize any cryptocurrency as a legal tender and that no license is issued in the country to authorize any cryptocurrency exchange. Therefore, users will bear the potential financial, operational, legal and security related risks when investing in cryptocurrencies, it said.
Such a note may be directly addressed to existing traders of cryptocurrencies in India, as data from CoinMarketCap shows that a more prominent cryptocurrency exchange in India, Koinex, currently sees a $115 million trading volume within 24 hours.
Warning asides, though, what's also notable is the ongoing discussion in India whether and how cryptocurrencies should be regulated in the country.
India's Supreme Court has previously urged various government agencies to respond to an online petition that demands a proper regulation over bitcoin.
In fact, in August, it was noted that a cryptocurrency regulation proposal had been submitted to the Finance Ministry, but that the content and timeline of such regulation still remained unclear. As such, the new statement from the government body may still signal a more restrictive rule.
India map via Shutterstock