Transactions in “virtual currencies” are a violation of foreign exchange regulations and subject to penalties and fines, according to the central bank of Morocco. However the country’s government added it remains interested in the technology.
Use ‘Authorized Currencies’ or Face Penalties: Morocco Government
Bank Al-Maghrib and Morocco’s Office des Changes (Foreign Exchange Office) issued a public statement on November 20th, stating “penalties and fines” would apply to anyone engaging in transactions with foreign countries that do not go through “authorized intermediaries” — or in foreign currencies not listed by Bank Al-Maghrib.
The statement added the now-familiar central bank warning that investing in virtual currencies is risky, and that none enjoy the backing of governments or banks. However, it concluded the institutions are interested in studying the technology. It said (machine-translated from French):
As a hidden payment system that is not backed by a financial institution, the use of virtual currencies entails significant risks for their users.
The Office des Changes, in collaboration with Bank Al-Maghrib and the Professional Group of Banks of Morocco, follow with interest the evolution of virtual currencies in Morocco.
How virtual currencies could have any “evolution” in Morocco — if using them is banned and subject to punishment — is unclear.
Moroccan blockchain expert and Mchain CTO Bellaj Badr told Bitsonline the tone seemed harsh:
“Bitcoin is very popular in my country, and such official announce was expected. Unfortunately, I am very disappointed by the content of this press release which is close to be a threat against all the bitcoin users. We will continue to claim our right to use such currency, hopefully bitcoin is unstoppable.”
Bitcoin’s Many Bans, Warnings, and Occasional Arrests
Since Bitcoin first gained widespread mainstream popularity in 2013, central banks around the world have periodically cautioned users of the investment risks, and lack of government backing. Many have contained similar wording.
However, in some countries the warnings have carried a further threat of punishment for anyone transacting in “virtual currencies”. These higher-level warnings have come over the years in places like Vietnam, Ukraine, Russia, Iceland, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nepal.
To date there have been only isolated accounts of Bitcoiners being arrested simply for using the currency. Even in those cases, full details of the surrounding circumstances were murky — and the arrests may have involved other issues, like unauthorized use of electricity for miners, or alleged investment fraud.
Do you think Morocco’s warning will hinder virtual currency development in the country? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Pixabay, Bank Al-Maghrib