Belarus Chief Investigator claims to seize hundreds of millions of Belarusian rubles (millions of U.S. dollars) in crypto because of drug trades.
Cryptocurrencies are becoming a popular payment method in Belarus.
According to the last TripleA company data, 3,7% of Belarussians own crypto.
On December 21, 2017, the President of Belarus signed into law ‘The Development of a Digital Economy’.
Since coming into effect on 22 March 2018, businesses based on blockchain technology have become legally regulated in the Republic of Belarus.
But recently the Belarussian police investigated one of the first crypto-criminal cases.
Considering the authoritarian nature of power in Belarus, there could be a lot of variables in this story.
Drugs and crypto in Belarus
According to the head of the Belarus Investigative Committee Dmitry Gora, the country had to deal with cryptocurrencies seizure. As digital assets were firstly used in the drug trade and later economic crimes.
Gora confirmed that local law enforcement agencies confiscated tokens and have already seized crypto worth hundreds of millions of Belarusian rubles or millions of U.S. dollars.
“Based on this, I set the task: our state needs money to compensate for the damage caused. Let’s think about how to make money out of trash. I will not go into details, but we have learned how to do it… There are mechanisms that allow us to deal with these issues, and quite successfully,” he stated.
Both government agencies and commercial organizations could have reportedly participated in the crypto seizure process.
As a result, ‘good and normal’ money were transferred to the Investigative Committee accounts, Gora said. We can suppose, that by the ‘good and normal money’ he meant fiat assets.
Belarus authorities began to treat crypto disparagingly after President Alexander Lukashenko’s statement about the possible tightening of the country’s digital assets regulations.
Previously his government legalized various crypto activities, introduced tax breaks, and other incentives for crypto businesses operating as residents of the Hi-Tech Park in Minsk.
That was part of the efforts to develop the country’s digital economy.
But after the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests the laws have been tightened, and a lot of businessmen were forced to flee the country.
So right now Dmitry Gora says that cryptocurrency is a ‘digital trash’.
Unrealized Belarussian dream
The pretty sad fact is that after 2018 the role of Bitcoin trading in Belarus’ economy was growing significantly.
The country’s authoritarian government somehow had been supportive of digital assets and had even created a field framework for their use.
For that reason, during some period Belarus was one of the most attractive countries for crypto businesses across Europe.
As for now, Bitcoin trading volume in Belarus is around $100 million per month. Still, this makes Belarus one of the leading countries in terms of BTC trading volume.
The majority of trade is going on LocalBitcoins platform, with over $60 million worth of BTC changing hands each month.
But as the Belarus state owns large sections of the country’s economy, the role of bitcoin trading in Belarus is still undefined.