Despite recent suggestions that its top financial bodies would not take any action against troubled bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, Japan’s senior regulators are now saying they would seek to regulate bitcoin, but only as part of an international effort.
Aichi suggested that this type of large-scale coordination is needed to prevent criminals from exploiting loopholes or weak points in international law.
“If we regulate [bitcoin], international collaboration would be necessary.”
Further, Japan stepped up its rhetoric on Thursday regarding Mt. Gox, suggesting that it would intervene “if necessary” to determine what wrongdoing occurred. Japanese law enforcement officials were earlier reported to be looking into the developing Mt. Gox case, along with US regulators.
The news follows the release of more documents detailing the exchange’s long-term business plans, and mounting evidence that internal financial mismanagement was a core issue that plagued the once-prominent company.
‘Not a currency’
Aichi released a few additional details about the actions that could take space, and indicated that more government agencies could become involved in the investigation.
He also stated that bitcoin does not meet the definition of currency under Japanese law, but did not say how this could affect any future developments. Aichi added:
“As for its legal position, a currency (under Japan’s jurisdiction) would be coins or notes issued by the Bank of Japan. At the very least, we can say bitcoin is not a currency.”
The Bank of Japan had earlier indicated that it was researching digital currencies, but stopped short of making any statements about their use.
Media take notice
Sources in Tokyo suggest news from Mt. Gox has filtered through to the mainstream, and that bitcoin is starting to receive attention from the general public, with newspaper articles appearing nearly every week.
Invading TV crews have begun to so annoy the manager of the Tokyo Bitcoin Meetup group’s favourite restaurant that, on Thursday, at least two networks were forced to wait outside and conduct one-by-one interviews.
Whether or not the increased coverage will be positive or not remains to be seen. Japanese media tend to play up the ‘dangerous hacker’ angle on any story involving bitcoin or even peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, sources say, and a recent special report on bitcoin by NHK, the national broadcaster, dedicated 15 minutes of the programme’s half-hour timeslot to discussion of Silk Road.