The highest legal instance of Estonia has started an open session on the case of Otto de Voogd, a Dutch bitcoin entrepreneur. He is facing massive fines for not disclosing personal info of his clients.

Four governmental institutions were present in the court, Estonia Public Broadcasting reports. De Voogd himself did not attend the hearing. He had left the country after shutting down his bitcoin trading platform in February 2014 due to persistent pressure and threats from the Estonian authorities. Allegedly, they required from de Voogd to provide data on the clients and documents confirming his rights to sell cryptocurrency. When de Voogd was facing €32,000 penalty and jail he eventually filed a complaint with the lawcourt.

“The anti-money laundering office believes that my client is a financing organisation because he was buying and selling the cryptocurrency called bitcoin. We think on the other hand that the exchange of bitcoins cannot be counted as the trade of alternative payment means according to the anti-money laundering law, so they should not compare us to a bank or a financing organisation,” explained de Voogd's legal representative Priit Lätt.

The court obliged four organisations including financial regulators to provide explanations about the bitcoin business in Estonia: The Estonian Central Bank, Ministry of Finance, Interior Ministry and Estonian Financial Supervision Authority. Their representatives took part in the hearing. The fact that the session was open to the public is extraordinary for this level of legal institution and proves the relevance of the case for the society.

“This is again the question of whether bitcoin is different in any way from other electronic currencies. In our opinion, it is not and it does not need for any specific regulations. However, no doubt that the current law needs to be amended,” said Arnold Tenusaar, the councillor of the Anti-money laundering office of the Department of Police and Border Guard.

The Supreme Court will announce its decision on the bitcoin case on 6 April.

Sonya Belova