Russia Considering Draconian Rules for Illegal Crypto Operations

Harsh new rules for using and issuing digital assets without a license might soon become law in Russia.

AccessTimeIconMay 21, 2020 at 3:58 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:44 a.m. UTC
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Harsh new rules making many uses of digital assets punishable with fines or prison might soon become law in Russia. 

New draft bills setting out how Russia should regulate cryptocurrencies were sent to the country’s parliament, the State Duma, earlier this week. Although the official website for the planned legislation hasn’t been updated yet, the two documents have been published in the OrderCom Telegram channel and were confirmed as genuine by sources of Russian news outlet RBK. 

The legislative proposals were introduced by the author of the main bill, lawmaker Anatoly Aksakov, and sent to two think tanks by the Ministry of Economic Development for comment. They seek a new version of the bill on digital assets, which has been stuck in the Duma for more two years now, as well as crypto-focused additions to the country's criminal code.

The first draft bill would regulate digital currencies in Russia. Or, to be more clear, prohibit the issuance of, and operations with, digital currencies in the nation. Even distributing information about such activities would be banned.

Individuals and companies would not be permitted to accept digital currencies as payment, except if they are inherited, distributed to the debtors of a bankrupt company or confiscated as a result of a court decision. People owning cryptocurrency should declare it at the tax agency, as well as provide information on how it was purchased.

The second draft would introduce a new article into the criminal code bringing sanctions for illegal operations with digital assets.

If passed, issuing digital assets in Russia without being approved for listing on a yet-to-be created register at the country’s central bank would see a company fined for up to two million rubles (nearly $28,000). The same level of penalty is suggested for organizing operations with digital assets and cryptocurrencies without approval, while individuals would face a fine of up to $2,800.

Buying crypto for cash or via a bank transfer from a Russian bank would be subject to a fine up to one million Russian rubles ($14,000) or up to seven years in prison, depending on the scale of the deal. Similar punishment would be in store for those who accept crypto for goods and services.

If such a business brings "especially large" profit or especially large damage to the citizens and the state, the proposal would put the person(s) involved behind bars for up to seven years, or even forced labor. Facilitating crypto purchases, if such operations somehow "brought significant damage" to the state or individuals or "especially large profit" to the operator, could lead to five years in prison.

The mentions of a central bank register suggests legislators are providing leeway for some officially sanctioned entities to issue and use digital assets, while most general operations would be banned.

According to the RBK report, Anatoly Aksakov, chief of the Duma Committee on Financial Markets, confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but said they had not been finalized.

Edit (12:35 UTC, Sept. 24 2020): Corrected details of who authored the proposals in paragraph 3.


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