Police in Russia have seized 22 crypto ATMs installed in shopping malls, restaurants, and stores across nine cities. According to Sarkis Darbinyan, a lawyer from Digital Rights Center (DRC) who is representing the affected company in the legal case, all the machines are operated by Bbfpro, a company with a network of Bitcoin ATMs across Russia. DRC specializes in offering legal representation to entities like crypto startups and blockchain firms operating in the digital industry.
However, Bbfpro’s manager said that the company had not received any communication from the Russian authorities before the ATMs were seized.
Instead, Artem Bedarev was informally made aware by the authorities that the investigations into the matter would likely drag on for about 6 months, and that the machines would not be released before all legal issues were cleared.
One of the officers involved in the action said that the order for the seizure came down from the office of the Prosecutor General at the behest of the Central Bank of Russia.
An official from the CBR declined to divulge more information about the matter, saying that the CBR normally works to prevent illegal operations within the financial market. The official explained that the risk of using cryptocurrencies in illegal activities via cross-border transfers and ATM withdrawals posed a serious threat if left uncontrolled. The Prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Interior declined to respond to inquiries.
Company To Lodge An Appeal
In defense of the client company, lawyer Sarkis said that it’s not illegal to acquire cryptocurrencies in Russia, further noting that Bbfpro adheres to all legal requirements, including paying taxes and identifying users. The company is currently assessing damages as a result of the seizure as it prepares to appeal against the action.
Bbfpro’s crypto ATMs facilitate purchase of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The company works with other entities like Exmo, an crypto exchange operation in Russia. It also provides technical assistance for the ATMs and charges 1% of the proceeds. One ATM terminal costs about 155,000 Rubles (roughly $2,300) to install.
At the moment, activities like crowd-funding, trading, and mining of cryptocurrencies is still not legal in Russia, but that is expected to change when the State Duma returns to session in September. In fact, 3 bills passed the first reading back in May, and Deputies were still trying to reconcile them when the Parliament went on summer recess.
The bills are expected to be back on the agenda. The bills touch on “Digital Financial Assets,” “Digital Rights,” and “Attracting Investments Using Investment Platforms.”