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Belgium’s justice minister, Koen Geens, has advised the government that the country’s laws need to cover virtual currencies like bitcoin, according to HLN. He wants the legal obligations that apply to the financial sector to apply to virtual money, which to date has not been subject to the established law.
Geens is reportedly trying to determine how the government can liquidate bitcoins seized in criminal cases. These include 1,050 bitcoins seized in two separate drug cases, valued at more than $1.2 million.
No Established Law For Bitcoin
While most of the bitcoins could be immediately liquidated, officials do not have an established way to sell the bitcoins. Geens said the law does not offer the guidance needed to address cryptocurrency seized from criminal activities because the laws were established prior to bitcoin’s creation.
“All of our anti-abuse legislation is based on the responsiveness of an intermediary in the financial sector and networks that we know like banks,” Geens told VRT news. “The legislation provides nothing virtual about the sector because it was not there at the time that legislation was written. It is necessary to change the law so that we can deal with abuse bitcoins.”
Virtual money is gaining popularity among small investors who are looking for an alternative to their savings accounts in Belgium, reported deredactie.be, a Belgian news source.
Virtual currencies also attract scammers who seek to extort money by promising high returns with digital coins. Moreover, the exchanges that virtual currencies are traded on are completely anonymous, making them an ideal tool for criminals to fund seedy business and conduct money laundering.
First Foray Into Bitcoin Governance
This marks the first measure the Belgian government has taken to tackle abuse of digital coins. “The European Commission believes such a rule at European level. We take all that ahead,” said Geens. “Crime must evolve with this new technology. And the rules also.”
Last year, the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority issued a warning about a lesser-known altcoin called OneCoin, to the effect that certain OneCoin promoters were lying about their recognition and relationship with the Belgian authority.
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