Estonia’s Supreme Court Decision Criticized as Anti-Bitcoin

Estonia’s Supreme Court Decision Criticized as Anti-Bitcoin

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BTC.ee owner Otto de Voogd has hit back at Estonian Supreme Court legislation calling it “heavy-handed” compared to normal fiat currency regulations. 

Also read: Estonian Health Records to Be Secured by Blockchain

Estonian Supreme Court: Bitcoin has ‘Financial Value’

De Voogd, whose exchange was shut down by law enforcement in 2014, was facing legal action over AML practices while BTC.ee was still active.

estonia supreme court
Estonian Supreme Court

In a decision Monday, The Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court reiterated that Bitcoin “had financial value,” local broadcaster ERR reports. This would mean Bitcoin and other virtual currency transactions being subject to the same legislation applied to trading activities involving fiat currency.

ERR states that the decision “is in line with the decision of the European Court of Justice regarding bitcoin.” Speaking to Bitcoin.com, however, de Voogd disagreed, describing the authorities’ choice as “enforcing heavy-handed restrictions that now irrevocably apply to Bitcoin and other blockchain tokens in Estonia.”

“I think we can now say that Estonia is officially the worst country in the EU to start a Bitcoin or blockchain business,” he added. In a Facebook post following the court decision, de Voogd highlighted the differences in treatment virtual and fiat currency due to be applied in Estonia. He wrote addressing the ERR article:

The court did NOT decide to treat it like ‘any other economic activity,’ it decided to apply extra regulation to Bitcoin trading that does not apply to other economic activities.”

“Including the requirement to meet customers in person (face to face), as well as the requirement keep IDs of ALL customers and report those who trade more than 1,000 Euros more per month,” De Voogd continued. “No other economic activity is subject to such strict requirements, the normal reporting limit is 15,000 Euros.”

Mixed Fortunes

Estonia had previously been an innovative environment for e-government, leading some to remain optimistic about an eventual lenient stance towards Bitcoin in the country. Last month, the government announced it was securing over 1 million public health records using the blockchain via a partnership with Guardtime using keyless signature infrastructure.Bitcoinist_E-Estonia Logo

The country also offers so-called e-Residency, a program which recently partnered with Bitcoin governance startup Bitnation to facilitate blockchain-based notary services to Estonian residents.

“We’re truly living in exciting times when nation states and virtual nations compete and collaborate with each other on an international market, to provide better governance services,” e-Residency program director Kaspar Korjus stated following the move in November 2015.

The supreme court decision in the de Voogd case, which upholds an earlier decision made by Tallinn Administrative Court, may thus come as a surprise.

“The Estonian supreme court ruled against me (and effectively also Bitcoin),” he summarized to Bitcoin.com.

Will this decision negatively impact Bitcoin adoption in Estonia and beyond? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of wikipedia.org, news.err.ee