The Regulation was issued banning the use of cryptocurrency for payments. As reported in the government’s official newspaper, the purpose of the regulation is so that cryptoassets will not be used for payments, directly or indirectly. In addition, companies that handle payments and electronic fund transfers are prohibited from processing transactions involving cryptocurrency. The Regulation goes into effect on April 30, 2021.
On April 16, 2021, the Turkish Central Bank issued a statement relating to crypto assets. It said that cryptoassets entail significant risks because;
- they are neither subject to any regulation nor supervision mechanisms nor a central regulatory authority,
- their market values can be excessively volatile,
- they may be used in illegal actions due to their anonymous structures,
- wallets can be stolen or used unlawfully without the authorization of their holders, and
- transactions are irrevocable.
Because of these risks, a Regulation was issued banning the use of cryptocurrency for payments. As reported in the government’s official newspaper, the purpose of the regulation is so that cryptoassets will not be used for payments, directly or indirectly. In addition, companies that handle payments and electronic fund transfers are prohibited from processing transactions involving cryptocurrency. The Regulation goes into effect on April 30, 2021.
Accordingly, pursuant to the authority vested by the Law No:1211 on the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) and the Law No. 6493 on Payment and Securities Settlement Systems, Payment Services and Electronic Money Institutions, the CBRT has introduced “Regulation on the Disuse of Crypto Assets in Payments”.
The Regulation prohibits the following:
- Use of crypto assets, directly or indirectly, in payments
- Providing services for the use of crypto assets, directly or indirectly, in payments
- Provision by payment and electronic money institutions of intermediary services to the platforms offering the trade, deposit, transfer or issuing of services relating to crypto assets or fund transfers from these platforms
- Development by payment service providers of business models enabling the use of crypto assets, directly or indirectly, in the provision of payment services and electronic money issuance, and provision by payment service providers of any services related to such business models
“Crypto assets” are defined by the Central Bank Regulation as “assets created virtually using distributed ledger technology or a similar technology and distributed over digital networks, but are not considered as money, fiat money, electronic money, payment instruments, securities or other capital market instruments“. This definition distinguishes crypto assets from capital market instruments, requiring them subject to different legal regime.
After the Turkish central bank announced on the 16’th April 2021 that cryptocurrency is to be banned as a means of payment, April 2021 has not been a kind month to crypto in Turkey. The criminal investigations against Thodex and now Vebitcoin has been immediately initiated. Turkish authorities blocked all onshore bank accounts of cryptocurrency exchange platform in the country.
The action late Friday, 23’th April 2021 came after crypto exchange Vebitcoin announced that it stopped all of its activities citing financial strains. The Turkish Financial Crimes Investigation Board has launched an investigation of the exchange and its managers. The move against Vebitcoin comes a day after police detained 62 people in connection with criminal complaints filed against crypto exchange Thodex.
Thodex crypto exchange
The Thodex crypto exchange went offline April 18 with its CEO subsequently going missing, fleeing the country according to reports. Users have reportedly filed a complaint alleging hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen. Turkish police have detained 62 people as part of an investigation into a cryptocurrency exchange that is being accused of defrauding investors, fraud, money laundering, and membership of a criminal organization. Prosecutors issued detention warrants for 16 more people linked to the Thodex cryptocurrency exchange and the detentions took place in eight provinces. It is thought to have affected some 391,000 investors and an estimated $2 billion in investments.
The founder of Turkish cryptocurrency exchange, Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, has been arrested at 20 April 2023 after two years on the run. The 27-year-old is facing charges of fraud and money laundering relating to allegations of an exit scam involving at least $2 billion worth of cryptocurrency stolen from Thodex. Interpol subsequently issued a red notice for Ozer, who reportedly ran to Albania. About a year after Thodex collapsed, Ozer was arrested in Albania in August 2022, and Turkish authorities issued a warrant for his extradition. After several months of legal proceedings, Ozer was finally extradited to Turkey to face charges. Turkish authorities have been working with international law enforcement agencies to track down the missing funds, which have been reported to be in various cryptocurrency accounts and exchanges.
The Thodex saga highlights the risks associated with investing in unregulated cryptocurrencies, particularly in countries where the legal and regulatory framework is still evolving. The collapse of Thodex and the subsequent arrest of Ozer has sparked a debate in Turkey about the need for greater oversight and regulation of the cryptocurrency industry. The Turkish government is reportedly working on a new regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, which is expected to be unveiled later this year. While the recovery of the stolen funds remains a challenging task, the arrest of Ozer sends a strong message to other would-be cryptocurrency fraudsters that they cannot evade justice indefinitely.
Alternative method of payment?
The ban is being enacted at a time when crypto use was soaring as the Turkish lira has faced significant outside selling pressure. Many people have turned to cryptocurrency as an alternative method of payment in order to circumvent the issues plaguing the lira.
With exchange rates skyrocketing and inflation in the Turkish economy running high, many citizens have entered the cryptocurrency markets to protect the value of their cash and thus their purchasing power. Cryptocurrencies and their exchange platforms have recently come into sharp focus with many domestic and foreign investors because of their many advantages, including low transaction fees, 24/7 transaction capability ease of international money transfers.
Categories of crypto tokens
Crypto tokens can be divided into the three most common different categories;
- Payment tokens: These include the so-called cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether. They are private-law instruments of payment that can be used to purchase goods and services. Their power for purchasing or exchange is based solely on the market participants’ expectation of their future usability as a means of payment.
- Investment tokens: Via these tokens, assets such as membership rights or debt claims become tradable. They grant their acquirer a claim to future payments or rights. They have a profound investment component and therefore, are comparable to shares or debt instruments.
- Utility tokens: also called usage tokens. They grant their acquirer a right to goods or services. Due to the complexity of the possible services that can be reproduced, the legal structures are very complex and multi-layered.
The preparation and execution of such tokenizations and corresponding transactions are currently still poorly regulated in the World and therefore associated with many uncertainties and queries. In addition to capital market law issues and the resulting regulatory obligations, companies face also numerous civil law and tax law challenges that require careful consideration.
Huge Business Potential
The blockchain technology on which these currencies are based offers much more potential. A whole universe of new, decentralized financial instruments is currently emerging, giving rise to new services and business models. Assets are mapped as entries in the blockchain via so-called crypto tokens. These crypto tokens are an important component of the so-called Decentralized Finance (DeFi) movement. It stands for the effort to provide financial services without human intermediation and without central instances such as central banks, solely via blockchain technology.
Crypto tokens may be defined as a digitized reproduction of assets stored in a decentralized manner on a blockchain. A transfer occurs technically in the form of a computer code from one participant to another. Such a transfer is documented by a cryptographically signed transaction in the blockchain. Nonetheless, how crypto tokens and related transactions are to be legally classified is by no means yet clarified or assured.
Crypto tokens are no longer just digital instruments of payment. Any marketable right, unless there are specific formal requirements, can be digitized and made tradable via such tokens. Financial instruments such as shares and loans, but also (future) claims to goods or services can be represented by them.
These digital reproductions of assets are registered in the blockchain and can be bought and sold via it – similar to what we know from securities today. The technology’s claim is that it can do without central authorities such as banks, stock exchanges, and regulators. With this approach, the technology offers enormous disruptive potential.
- It eliminates the need for intermediaries and brokers, thus reducing transaction costs,
- It reduces barriers to entry and makes even the smallest shares of large assets tradable,
- It has the potential to make the availability of assets accessible to a larger target group and thus make previously non-transparent markets more efficient.