Russia’s Largest Bank Scraps Crypto Plans Even with Pro-Bitcoin CEO

Journalist:
May 30, 2019

By CCN: Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia, is scrapping its crypto plans, citing the anti-bitcoin sentiments of government regulators. Ironically, the CEO of Sberbank, Herman Gref, is a bitcoin proponent.

However, others at Sberbank are not convinced of the merits of virtual currencies, so they’re suspending all cryptocurrency-related projects. Andrey Shemetov, the global markets head at Sberbank, made the announcement at a May 30 press conference, Tass reported.

“We waited for legislation that allows you to trade cryptocurrencies. Since the regulator is currently looking negatively [at bitcoin], we decided to suspend our cryptocurrency plans.”

Russia Delays Roll-Out of Regulations

This news is not surprising considering that Russia postponed the roll-out of long-awaited crypto regulations last week. In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the government to adopt crypto regulations by July 1.

However, those plans were abruptly suspended last week. At the time, a top official with the Russian State Duma warned that bitcoin can “ruin governments” by facilitating the offshoring of massive amounts of money.

Putin: Bitcoin Is a Magnet for Criminals

The Russian Parliament’s anti-bitcoin stance echoes the viewpoints espoused by both President Vladimir Putin and the Central Bank of Russia.

Specifically, Putin said bitcoin’s anonymous network attracts criminals and facilitates money-laundering (video below).

“[The risks include] opportunities to launder funds acquired through criminal activities, tax evasion, even terrorism financing, as well as the spread of fraud schemes.”

Similarly, Russia’s central bank has dismissed bitcoin as a Ponzi scheme.

“We have seen how bitcoin has transformed a payment unit into an asset, which is bought in order to obtain a high yield in a short period of time. This is the definition of a pyramid.”

CEO of Russia’s Largest Bank Is Pro-Crypto

Despite the negative consensus among top government officials, Herman Gref — CEO of Sberbank — is a vocal bitcoin proponent.

As CCN reported, Gref has called cryptocurrency a “great technology,” and he’s very bullish about blockchain.

Gref has urged Russian authorities to be patient with decentralized currencies by not banning bitcoin until its uses are better understood. However, Gref does not believe that cryptocurrencies will replace fiat money in today’s centralized financial system.

In October 2018, Gref expressed skepticism about the near-term future of crypto, saying it could be another decade before it gains mainstream adoption.

Gref says a 10-year timeline for mainstream acceptance is more realistic because the crypto industry is still in its infancy. He says:

“I’m optimistic about 10 years. So far, it’s not likely that any state is ready to part with the centralized money-supply model.”

This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.

Last modified (UTC): May 31, 2019 03:46

Samantha Chang @Samantha_Chang

Samantha Chang is a New York City-based financial editor who writes about crypto and business at . She is a law school grad and an alum of the University of Pennsylvania. You can reach her on Twitter at or email her at schang121@juno.com.