Most countries are starting to slowly warm up towards crypto — G20 summit participants have recently agreed that “crypto-assets can deliver significant benefits” and cannot be seen as a major threat to the global financial system. Though it has been mentioned, that crypto assets ‘raise issues with respect to consumer and investor protection, market integrity, tax evasion, money laundering, and terrorist financing’, it finally looks like all the members are ready to benefit the digitalization trend and seek consensus-based solutions for those issues.
Nevertheless, there are still places in the world that we cannot recommend for crypto enthusiasts or entrepreneurs, or both. We have made a Top 10 list of the most crypto-hostile countries. It might be useful for those who operate with cryptocurrencies on a daily basis or rely on them in trips around the world.
China is what comes up to your mind first when you think of a crypto-hostile place.
Actually, this country’s attitude to crypto & blockchain can best be described as a ‘love-hate relationship’. Many business people see the opportunities suggested by this technology: for example, the Chinese e-commerce whales Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent collectively known as BAT are actively investing in the blockchain.
Though the ban remains, individuals and businesses are allowed to possess Bitcoins that are protected by law as any property. You can own and transfer BTC without breaking the Chinese law — some hotel chains have already integrated cryptocurrencies into their payment system.
Meanwhile, trading, crypto events, ICOs, and exchanges have been strictly prohibited since September 2017.
Bangladesh Bank banned the use of BTC, declaring that ‘transaction with this currency may cause a violation of the existing money laundering and terrorist financing regulations’. The Bank circular mentioned that Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency ‘are not authorized by any legal authority of any country and thereby no financial claims can be made against such currencies’. The citizens are urged to refrain ‘from performing, assisting and advertising all kind of transactions through the virtual currencies like Bitcoin to avoid financial and legal damages’.
Nevertheless, websites dedicated to this subject are functioning, and some local sources say that Bitcoin transactions are still being conducted.
The police are struggling to enforce this draconian law (the maximum penalty for a crypto-related activity is no less than 12 years in prison) but the investigation task is more complicated than it seemed at first.
Despite this fact, the government has not lost the hope to eradicate the evil innovation. The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit and Foreign Exchange Police Department have recently combined their resources in hunting for Bitcoin traders and users.
Another Asian country where the government remains more than skeptical towards the blockchain technology. It is not surprising as communist states tend to be over-suspicious of innovations giving their citizens too much financial freedom.
It’s a pity because Vietnam features a unique economic and social background that would benefit greatly from crypto & blockchain acceptance. It has one of the fastest developing economies, high Internet penetration rate and a lot of active, innovation-friendly young people. It has been reported that over 55% of the Vietnamese population is connected to the web and more than 80% use smartphones. At the same time, the great majority of the adult population has no access to traditional financial services and do not use bank accounts. Besides, there are millions of Vietnamese immigrants who work all over the world, sending money home through Western Union and similar services with hefty transfer fees.
Looks like a perfect opportunity for crypto integration, but local banks and financial institutions are banned from using blockchain as a medium of financial exchange, meaning all their crypto transactions would be illegal. At the same time, digital currencies themselves are not outlawed — the citizens may hold them or invest in them safely.
Another communist state that is not innovation-friendly at all.
As declared by Nepal Rastra Bank, the central regulatory authority of the country, trading, and transactions with cryptocurrencies are considered ‘illegal’ and as such banned. The official reason is that crypto transactions might be connected with the illegal outward flow of the national currency (the Nepalese rupee) from the country. In October 2017 several people were arrested in different districts for carrying out Bitcoin exchanges. They are now held in prison, in accordance with the law.
Some say, though, that if you do not convert your Bitcoins to local or any other fiat currencies to move money outside Nepal, it should be ok. But any exchange of value is seen as illegal and may be punished.
Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, coins and tokens are officially banned by State Bank of Pakistan. This news was published on April 6, 2018, on the bank website.
Citizens are not authorized for sale, purchase, exchange or investment in any crypto coins in this country, and apparently, the government has no intention to raise this ban. The people of Pakistan have been clearly warned that any such transaction will lead to ‘financial loss and legal implications’.
The authorities are worried that such currencies are very unstable and ensure a high level of anonymity. Therefore they may be used for illegal activities such a pyramid investment and other fraud schemes. Thus, the decision to prohibit the use of crypto as presented as a protective measure.
The ban was so abrupt that many users of Urdubit.com, Pakistan’s first Bitcoin exchange platform, had no time to get their funds back. Many comment the decision was made in haste and will not be beneficial for the country, currently suffering from severe inflation. Others argue that a politically and economically unstable country with low literacy rate is not ready to adopt crypto anyway.
Since 2014 the central bank of Bolivia considers BTC and other altcoins ‘pyramid schemes’. Thus, Bolivia can claim primacy in completely prohibiting ‘any kind of currency not issued or controlled by the government or an authorized state.
ASFI, the Bolivian Financial System Supervision Authority reminds the citizens that the use and circulation of virtual currencies are banned in the country. In 2017 sixty ‘cryptocurrency promoters’ were arrested. The ASFI director commented that ‘the only thing these people are doing is taking advantage of the population and deceiving people to appropriate their money’.
Despite the ban, Bolivian crypto enthusiasts were using Facebook groups like Bolivian Bitcoin to organize BTC trades, but the government is determined to put an end to it.
It created a hotline for active citizens to report on Bitcoin users, and ASFI promises it will track down and arrest anyone, who promotes or sells crypto through social media or any other website.
While many people may believe crypto trade and pyramid scheme to be synonyms, the truth, most likely, looks different. The Bolivian government might be afraid to lose its power in the country where fiat money is the king — most daily payments in Bolivia are made in cash, and using a credit card means a huge fee of 7 to 10%. Naturally, in this situation, many people would be fascinated by the idea of becoming their own bank.
Thailand is often added to the crypto-unfriendly list, too (though it is far from being a leader). On February 12, 2018, the national bank of this country issued a circular urging financial institutions not to do any business involving cryptocurrencies. Some crypto-related transactions were halted by major Thai banks.
The situation is not as harsh as it seems, though. The government just intends to develop new laws that will be regulating cryptocurrency activity including initial coin offerings. So far, the drafts of the related Royal Decree require all digital transactions, dealers and brokers are registered with authorities.
The countries that criminalize the use of crypto exists, but they are not many. In most cases, their decision to ban blockchain-based financial innovations do not affect the global crypto market. On the contrary, the crypto hostile governments themselves may be losing a great opportunity to make their people’s lives better.
But it their top priority? We are not sure.
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