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Iranian Authorities Disagree on Whether Bitcoin Is Legal

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:37 PM
Jose Antonio Lanz
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:37 PM

The crypto community in Iran is still riding a roller coaster as the country seeks to bring its economy forward. Even though the country has expressed its interest in digital assets, enthusiasts cannot be very optimistic yet.

According to recent statements by Nasser Hakimi, who serves as the deputy governor for new technologies at the Central Bank of Iran, crypto trading is illegal and banned by the government.

According to Nasser Hakimi, crypto is illegal in Iran

In an interview with the Iranian agency Tasnim News , Mr. Hakimi explained that the recent spike in the popularity of cryptocurrencies in Iran could be potentially dangerous for citizens because of their volatility – let alone the legal risks associated with their use. The expert also warned that victims risk losing the protection of the state if they fall for a fraud or scam:

“[Iranians should be cautious] against the advertisements and marketers of pyramid style network companies that promote Bitcoin like a tree with gold coins in the Adventures of Pinocchio … The Supreme Council on Countering Money Laundering has prohibited the sale and purchase of Bitcoin in Iran.”

In Iran, Bitcoin Is Legal —Or Not— Depending on Who You Ask

The current status of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in Iran is quite complex to explain, mainly because of the difference in criteria shown on the statements given by different public authorities in the country.

As an example, Mr. Hakimi clarified that it is essential to make a distinction between trading and mining. This idea could imply that the supposed ban ordered by the Supreme Council on Countering Money Laundering of Iran does not affect mining; however, just a week ago, the country’s authorities confiscated more than 1,000 ASICS located in different mining farms across Yazd province.

Also, in recent days, Aliakbar Karimi, a member of Iranian Parliament’s Economic Committee, issued statements that contradict what Nasser Hakimi just said. In an interview with Mehr News , the lawmaker explained that in Iran, cryptocurrencies are not illegal but instead alegal:  

“Unfortunately, there is no specific law to monitor activities around cryptocurrencies in the country and it is essential that the government prepares a specific bill for determining the fate of cryptocurrencies’ mining, such as bitcoin, and exchanging currencies using this digital money and submit the bill to the Parliament so that the power rate of those who are mining across the country would be determined.”

This concept provides an essential distinction from the point of view of national law: A situation of illegality implies the existence of a bill that expressly prohibits an activity, while alegality presupposes the non-existence of laws that regulate the matter, meaning there is no express government prohibition.

according to Aliakbar Karimi, Crypto is unregulated in Iran

According to a principle of international law, there is no crime without a law that directly declares it so. This precept known as the Nullum Crimen Nulla Poena Sine Lege principle would protect the trading of cryptocurrencies in Iran until the parliament passes a law on the matter. And even if that is the case, it would be from that moment on that the Iranians could not trade bitcoin in the country.

Even so, Iran is creating its own cryptocurrency, which makes things even more confusing.

In short, either Ali Akbar Karimi or Nasser Hakimi is wrong. This is but one example of how damaging the “war” of statements between politicians who do not agree on the legal status of cryptocurrencies could be.