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Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs is reportedly working toward implementing a new law that would allow law enforcement to seize Bitcoin and other digital assets, beginning in 2021, according to Russian news outlet RBC.
Specifically, the new law would allow police to seize computers, hard drives or mobile devices containing cryptocurrency wallet addresses from individuals suspected of a crime. From there, authorities could then search through the contents of the devices and see about accessing the wallets and the cryptocurrencies they might contain.
The law would also allow Russian law enforcement to go after cryptocurrency exchange accounts. Granted an active wallet is discovered, authorities could request a freeze on the account and ask that the funds contained be transferred to a government-controlled wallet. Aside from Russia’s Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General’s Office, Customs Service, the Justice Ministry and the Federal Financial Monitoring Service are all backing the new proposed law.
Russia’s relationship with crypto has been all over the map. In 2017, the country’s government announced plans for a “CryptoRuble,” a digital version of the nation’s official currency.Russia’s Minister of Communications Nikolai Nikiforov commented at the time that the state-backed crypto’s creation was designed to give Russia a competitive edge over its European neighbors.
“I confidently declare that we run CryptoRuble for one simple reason: if we do not, then after two months, our neighbors in the EurAsEC [Eurasian Economic Community] will,” Nikiforov said.
But despite those public comments, President Vladimir Putin has since been very vocal about the potential problems associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Putin has called digital money a magnet for criminal activity, and said that all crypto would soon be blocked by Russia’s central bank.
“The usage of cryptocurrencies carries serious risks… Cryptocurrencies are issued by an unlimited number of anonymous bodies. Thus, buyers of cryptocurrencies could be involved in unlawful activities,” Putin said.
According to Bloomberg, in 2016, Russia even considered implementing laws against all cryptocurrencies broadly, potentially even leading to jail time for Bitcoin users, because of their ability to “finance the shadow economy and crimes.”