Business 25 October 2018

Erik Gibbs

Police seize India’s first crypto ATM, arrest Unocoin co-founder

That didn’t take too long. The keypad on India’s first crypto ATM wasn’t even broken in and the money machine has already been removed. According to a report by the Times of India, police have seized the ATM and arrested the co-founder of the Unocoin crypto exchange, which had installed the device in Bangalore.

Harish B.V., the 37-year-old co-founder of Unocoin, was taken into custody by police this past Tuesday, only four days after news broke that the ATM had been installed. The other co-founder, Sathvik Viswanath, has not suffered the same fate as his partner and no information pertaining to the arrest was available.

The ATM was seized because the country’s Central Crime Branch claimed the company did not have permission to install the machine and because it is “dealing in cryptocurrency outside the remit of the law.” Law enforcement officials also took two laptops, a cell phone, five debit and three credit cards, a passport, cash and other items.

The machine was installed, but not operational. In a tweet from October 20, Unocoin indicated, “Our Machine didn’t go well with few mainstream media reports who projected it under a negative light. The machine is still under final testing mode and it will be up and running in the upcoming week. The machine has been temporarily moved from its original place of installation.”

There is still a lot of debate regarding cryptocurrencies in India. Some individuals—unfortunately those that are wielding the power—have tried to prevent cryptocurrency from coming to the country. The Reserve Bank of India has banned banks from working with entities in the crypto space and has continued to do its best to portray the currency in a bad light.

Crypto is not legal tender in India—the same as in most countries—but the recent actions against Unocoin should be worrisome to everyone for their dictatorial nature. The ATM was not designed to allow users to buy or sell crypto—they could only withdraw or deposit.

To that end, there is absolutely no reason law enforcement should have gotten involved. As a trading tool, cryptocurrency is not banned by any government statutes or policies. Since the ATM would not have dispensed cash, or allowed cash to be exchanged for crypto, the arrest and seizure are completely without merit.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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