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Antigua & Barbuda to Accept Bitcoin for Government Services

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:56 PM
Justin OConnell
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:56 PM

Antigua & Barbuda might go “full bitcoin” and accept the digital currency for government services.

The Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda instructed  the Attorney General, Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, to draft news laws for the possible implementation of Bitcoin throughout the various level of government on the twin-island nation, which include numerous smaller islands.

The move comes after the Cabinet met with an Antigua Leisure & Gaming Association on Wednesday, to discuss the benefits of using Bitcoin on Antigua. The Cabinet, apparently seeing an opportunity to put Antigua ahead of the curve on this new technology, made the move.

“Here in Antigua & Barbuda we know we are always very much front and center of new developments; we are leaders, trendsetters in the Caribbean,” Minister of Trade and Consumer Affairs, EP Chet Greene said at the post-Cabinet briefing.

That “this new currency is immutable, [and] you can always go and trace transactions; so, in the context of allegations of our country being involved in tax havens, it allows for better traceability”, contended Minister Greene.

The minister added: “The currency benefits us in Antigua & Barbuda with respect to our Internet gaming sector. It will allow us the satisfaction needed as a jurisdiction with respect to questions that would be asked of us in the Global Environment.”

Particularly, the minister is referring to the Caribbean’s reputation as a global hub for money laundering, especially after the U.S. led lawsuits to put an end to old school “Swiss bank account practices” in Switzerland and Austria.

The minister has encouraged the public to conduct online searches on Bitcoin to learn more about the digital currency.

Antigua hosted the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Week and Symposium where Prime Minister Gaston Browne delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony. The 15th Caribbean Ministerial Strategic ICT Seminar focussed on ICT in financial services, and explored, among other things, the use of cryptocurrencies towards innovation in the region’s ICT development.

The gaming mogul who might have edged the cabinet towards their decision is likely Calvin Ayre, who has long championed the benefits of Bitcoin for the island.

Ayre, who reportedly is working with self-proclaimed Bitcoin creator Craig Wright made a similar pitch in October at a sod-turning ceremony for a $25 million USD call center to operate in Antigua. “I’m a major enthusiast and advocate of Bitcoin and Blockchain technology,” he said at the time. “I see a growing convergence to bitcoin online gaming…and progressive countries like Antigua are poised to take advantage of this convergence by developing a truly global service industry.”

He said cryptocurrency represented “[a] vast untapped potential in the Antiguan market” for BPO firms.

The mogul added: “A similar phenomenon happened in Manila [Philippines] where I was one of the first people to open a BPO offering service to the online gaming industry, and today, just about all the major online gaming companies … have established their BPO operations there.”

On CalvinAyre.com , Hon. Melford Nicholas, Minister of Information Technology, Telecom & BROA Antigua, and Barbuda, echoed Mr. Ayre’s vision for cryptocurrency in Antigua & Barbuda. 

“It is absolutely delight for us here. I, too, from the minister responsible for information technology, [am] responsible for the bitcoin work and to see cryptocurrency as it emerges and put Antigua to the forefront of this development. So I’m delighted. I welcome this development and I’m looking forward to the project’s implementation in every step,” he said.

Mr. Ayre has become a large figure on the island thanks to its controversial Citizenship-by-Investment program, a common scheme in the Caribbean for the small countries there to create additional income for government services.

Well-known Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver launched a website called Passport for Bitcoin, which helped individuals buy citizenship for the cryptocurrency on the island of St. Kitts, but the island quickly ensured the service was shut down and made a statement that it did not accept Bitcoin for Citizenship.

The U.S. State Department has had its eye on Antigua and Barbuda. “Antigua and Barbuda is an offshore center which continues to be vulnerable to money laundering and other financial crime,” writes the Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement in the U.S. State Department. “Its relatively large financial sector and internet gaming industry adds to its susceptibility. According to the Antiguan Office of National Drug Control and Money Laundering Policy (AONDCP), the collaborative efforts between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States law enforcement agencies have brought about a decrease in drug trafficking activity.

Featured image of Antigua Port from Shutterstock.