US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan officially defined bitcoin as money since it can be utilised to settle and process transactions freely like other existing payment tools.

The ruling comes as a result of a trial involving former bitcoin exchange operator Michael Murigio.

“Bitcoins are funds within the plain meaning of that term,” Nathan wrote. “Bitcoins can be accepted as a payment for goods and services or bought directly from an exchange with a bank account. They therefore function as pecuniary resources and are used as a medium of exchange and a means of payment.”

On 25 April, Murigio was arrested and charged with 6 criminal counts for being allegedly involved in a bribery scheme to allow himself and other five operators to gain control of a Jackson federal credit union.

Rev. Trevon Gross, the former chairman of the Helping Other People Excel credit union, accepted more than US$150,000 in bribes and turned the non-profit financial institution into a money laundry for the unlicensed and unregulated bitcoin exchange.

Murigio attempted to dismiss some charges filed against him earlier this week by claiming that the “funds” handled by the exchange cannot be classified as money because US law does not explicitly categorise bitcoin as a formal medium of exchange.

Indeed, two months ago, in another court case, a Miami-Dade judge ruled that bitcoin is a financial network at its infancy and is not classified as an official form of money.

“This Court is not an expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, that Bitcoin has a long way to go before it the equivalent of money,” said judge Teresa Pooler.

Using judge Pooler’s statement as his basis, Murigio and his lawyer Brian Klein claimed both Anthony and Michael Murigio’s were not guilty.

“Anthony Murgio maintains his innocence and looks forward to clearing his name at his upcoming trial,” said Klein.

Although it is difficult now to predict which course the court hearing may take, the judge’s official ruling that defines bitcoin as money will most likely result in that seven criminal charges including money laundering and fraud will be brought against father and son Murigio.

Joseph Young