Belarus Ministry Cracks Down on P2P Crypto Exchange to Combat Cybercrime

In a move to combat rising cybercrime rates in Belarus, the Ministry of Finance and Administration (MFA) issued an official announcement on July 2, outlining new legislation that will ban peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto exchanges for individuals. The ministry emphasized the need to curb illicit activities facilitated by P2P platforms, citing recent efforts by local prosecutors to suppress the operations of 27 citizens involved in “illegal crypto exchange services” since the start of 2023. These individuals collectively generated illicit revenues amounting to approximately 22 million Belarusian rubles, equivalent to $8.7 million.

According to the ministry, P2P crypto services have become increasingly popular among fraudsters who seek to cash out and convert stolen funds, ultimately transferring the money to organizers or participants involved in various criminal schemes. To address this issue and crack down on such illicit activities, the ministry plans to restrict individuals from engaging in P2P exchanges, permitting only the use of cryptocurrency exchanges registered with Belarus Hi-Tech Park (HTP). In their official statement, the regulatory body clarified:

“The MFA is working on legislative innovations that prohibit crypto exchange transactions between individuals. For transparency and control, citizens will be allowed to conduct such financial transactions only through the HTP exchanges.”

Furthermore, the authority disclosed its intention to adopt a practice similar to the procedures implemented for exchanging foreign currencies. This approach aims to make it “impossible to withdraw money obtained from illegal activity.” By implementing such measures, the ministry hopes to create unfavorable conditions for information technology fraudsters to operate within the country.

Crypto Enthusiasts Doubt Enforcement of Belarus Legislation 

Belarus, a country known for its evolving stance on cryptocurrency, is now facing questions about its ability to ban peer-to-peer (P2P) cryptocurrency trading. Crypto enthusiasts have expressed doubts about the government’s enforcement capabilities in response to the recent news.

P2P exchange, which allows direct transactions between individuals without the need for intermediaries, was originally conceived by Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, as outlined in the cryptocurrency’s white paper. Advocates of Bitcoin, such as Jan3 CEO Samson Mow, argue that prohibiting P2P trading is a challenging task if not an impossible one. Mow pointed out that even in China, where all crypto transactions were banned for users in 2021, many individuals still resort to P2P channels to exchange their digital assets. 

The latest developments in Belarus seem to contradict the legislative actions taken by the country in recent years. In 2022, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree affirming the nation’s formal support for the unrestricted circulation of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.

The juxtaposition of these events raises concerns among cryptocurrency enthusiasts regarding the practicality of enforcing a ban on P2P cryptocurrency trading in Belarus. As one observer remarked on Twitter, “Good luck enforcing it.” 

The decentralized nature of P2P exchanges and the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies make it challenging for any government to effectively prohibit these forms of transactions.

While the stance on cryptocurrencies in Belarus remains uncertain, the cryptocurrency community continues to closely monitor the developments in the country. The ability of the government to enforce its proposed ban on P2P trading will undoubtedly have significant implications for the crypto industry within Belarus and may serve as a case study for other nations grappling with similar regulatory dilemmas.