Malta's First Bitcoin ATM Vanishes From Sliema
Government appoints taskforce to draft plan of action to embrace blockchain technology
Malta’s first Bitcoin ATM was installed two months ago in Blanche Huber Street, Sliema amid much fanfare, but it has now silently been plucked out out of its location.
The ATM had already been disconnected two weeks ago, but its founder - Romanian national Gabriel Cretu Torica - had promised to re-install it in the first weekend of September, this time without a malfunctioning problem which had blighted its early days.
Lovin Malta could not contact Torica as his phone is switched off, but he has been telling people he has left Malta.
The ATM had allowed people with eWallets on their smartphones to check their account balance and purchase the Bitcoin cryptocurrency at a 8% transaction fee by holding QR codes on their phones in front of the ATM. However, the ATM started eating the money of clients who couldn't afford the amount of Bitcoin they had keyed in, forcing Torica to buy the Bitcoin for them out of his own pocket - often at a loss.
Torica has blamed General Bytes, a leading ATM machine producing company, for not having told him about this glitch in advance. However, General Bytes said the problem seems to be that Torica hadn't configured the ATM properly while a number of people who have been following the case have accused him of outright amateurism about the cryptocurrency.
These include Bitcoin trader Marten Jensen, Torica’s former business partner, who had supplied him with Bitcoin for the ATM.
“When I first met Gabriel, he had already ordered the ATM but it was clear he had no experience in Bitcoin whatsoever,” Jensen told Lovin Malta. “He suggested I supply him with Bitcoin and the two of us split the profits from the ATM. I was a bit concerned he’d just take my Bitcoin and run away with it, but he gave me the password and physical keys for the ATM so I thought I’d be quite safe.”
There were no problems when Jensen supplied Torica with the first Bitcoin (worth around €3,450), but when he gave him the second Bitcoin, Torica sold it to a friend in France and promised Jensen the friend would refund him via bank wire. However, according to Torica, the French bank blocked his friend’s transaction and closed down his account because of its stringent limitations on Bitcoin fund transfers.
“I had given Gabriel until 13th September to return the money to me or I’d go public,” he told Lovin Malta two days ago. “However, his phone is now switched off and I have no idea where he is. He stole my money and he won't repay me."
Jensen showed Lovin Malta a SMS Torcia had sent him, using explicit language, which this website is reproducing in full.
"Suck my dick again, ugly motherfucker, you can go to all police stations in Malta and to all newspapers," he said. "The newspapers can suck my dick too. Fuck both of you. You will never seen the Bitcoin again, and what more money do you want, you ugly motherfucker? The money which you have stolen from the people?? Suck dick, you and whole Bitcoin land and your newspapers. Hahaha...you're too stupid for me!"
Slovenian news outlet delo.sl reported last year a certain Gabriel Cretu Torica had failed to turn up to court to answer to charges of damaging an ATM while attempting to install a skimming device on it. However, the Gabriel Torica who set up the Sliema ATM has repeatedly denied it was him.
Government Appoints Blockchain Taskforce
This afternoon, financial services parliamentary secretary Silvio Schembri appointed a taskforce to advise the Maltese government on the implementation of a national strategy on blockchain - the technology underpinning Bitcoin.
The taskforce will be chaired by Schembri’s permanent secretary Vince Muscat, and will include blockchain experts Steve Tendon and Louie Mercieca, lawyer Ian Gauci, Malta Gaming Authority executive chairman Joseph Cuschieri, MITA enterprise architect Wayne Grixti, finance expert Carlo Stivala, and economist Mario Borg.
The taskforce will review blockchain proposals from seven major financial services advisory companies, and recommend a clear plan of action for the government to implement its blockchain strategy.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has repeatedly said he wants Malta to become one of the first countries in the world to fully embrace blockchain and Bitcoin.