Bangladesh: Trying Yet Failing to Curb Cryptocurrency Use

Despite threats of some of the planet’s harshest punishments, police in Bangladesh are struggling to stamp out the use of cryptocurrency in accordance with their legislation. Several different groups have recently combined resources at the behest of the central bank. As yet, there has been little progress towards eradicating the use of digital currency.

Harsh Penalties for Cryptocurrency Trading are Nothing New

Bangladesh’s draconian attitudes towards the rapidly expanding cryptocurrency space are hardly a recent development. Back in September 2014, the government made it illegal to transact in any form of digital currency. The maximum penalty for doing so is an unfathomably strict 12 years of jail time.

Late last year, the inefficacy of the threat of such harsh sanctions was revealed. A notice from the Bangladeshi Central Bank entitled “Caution on Bitcoin Transaction: Warning against online transactions in Cryptocurrency (eg. Bitcoin, Litecoin)” proved that the rampant use of digital currency in the nation was still a concern for the central financial institution. The document stated:

“As these are not legal tenders issued by any legal authorities of the country, no one can make any financial claim against these.”

The notice went on to state that those trading in digital currencies may be violating the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2012. In addition, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1947 was cited, along with a general plea from the bank for people to “not make transactions in virtual currencies.”

The latter request, along with recent multilateral efforts from various government and non-government departments to track down cryptocurrency users highlight how difficult the issue is to police.

The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) and Foreign Exchange Police Department are currently searching for cryptocurrency traders. They have also drafted in the assistance of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

Nazmil Islam, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Cyber Crime Unit, told the Dhaka Tribune:

“We have already located a few bitcoin users, and are on the hunt for more, along with a few web pages which are being checked for authenticity. Investigating cryptocurrency trading is a complex matter.”

Bangladeshis working in the freelance sector and those who frequently travel outside of the nation are amongst those most likely to trade digital currencies, or so the BFIU believe. They also suggest that some notable cricket players have become involved with the space.

Despite the recent step up in operations against those dealing in cryptocurrencies, several factors point to a general failure by the authorities to curb the perceived problem. LocalBitcoins Bangladesh still has active traders offering to buy and sell BTC and another peer-to-peer platform, Paxful, offers Bangladeshi citizens over 300 different payment options for trading the digital currency. Meanwhile, a Facebook page called “Bitcoin Exchange: Bitcoin Buy and Sell Bangladesh” has also been created.

Finally, it’s rare to see governments and central banks issuing pleas like the one of December 2017 for people to stop committing crimes that are easily policed. If it was a simple task for authorities to track down and prosecute those who flout the law, an example would have surely been made by one unfortunate victim of the draconian legislation by now.

Meanwhile, there are also calls for the Bangladeshi authorities to stop wasting their scant resources on such “crimes”. A reporter for the Dhaka Tribune argued that the nation was in no position to be unsuccessfully chasing Bitcoin users:

“… crime rates are through the roof, corruption is omnipresent within our government, and terrorists are getting bail with impunity, our police force would do well to focus its efforts elsewhere… A quick glance at the streets is enough to betray the lawlessness which has overtaken our roads: Laws continue to be broken with little to no consequences, and police are often too happy to look away.”

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