Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has, on numerous occasions, called for Malta to embrace cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology underpinning them. However, this message has clearly not been well received by Bank of Valletta – which has now banned people from transferring money to cryptocurrency exchange platforms.
A spokesperson for BOV confirmed with Lovin Malta it is now the bank’s policy not to allow any SWIFT payments to cryptocurrency exchange platforms – including the vastly popular Coinbase.
People are still allowed to purchase cryptocurrencies with their credit cards, but exchanges like Coinbase limit such transactions to a maximum of €500 a week.
The spokesperson refused to explain the rationale behind the policy, but two people who commented on a Facebook forum for Maltese cryptocurrency users said they had heard from people within BOV the reason is because the bank associates cryptocurrencies with money laundering.
Cryptocurrencies have shot up in popularity this past year, and indeed Coinbase had 11.7 million users at the end of October – up from 4.7 million last year. Its fans see it as the future of money, but critics such as JP Morgan Chase chairman Jamie Dimon and the European Central Bank’s vice president Vitor Constancio have compared it to ‘Tulip Mania’ – the Dutch speculative bubble of the 17th century.
A spokesperson for digital economy parliamentary secretary Silvio Schembri said the government will contact BOV to find out exactly why its policies on cryptocurrencies have changed.
He added the bank’s move will not deter the government’s plans, adding that the legal framework for the regulation of cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings will be launched in the coming year.