Following the lawsuit concerning the legitimacy of Estonian police’s oppression of bitcoin trade, the country’s Supreme Court requested four governmental institutions to answer questions on the legality of digital currencies.
The story dates back to 2014, when Otto de Voogd, a Dutch citizen and the owner of bitcoin trading platform BTC.ee, was insistently asked by Estonian officials (namely the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board) to provide information on all BTC.ee clients. In February 2014 trading on the platform was withheld, which was then explained by the increasing pressure and threats from Estonian police authorities.
Eventually, the Estonian version of the site was halted. The Dutch trader left Estonia and initiated a legal action in order to challenge the arbitrary interpretation of laws applicable to the regulation of bitcoin in the country. Otto de Voogd accuses Estonian police of violating the EU’s law by not applying the Alternative Payment Method law.
The Estonian High Court has made case progress ever since. In its 19 November decision the Supreme Court requires explanations from the relevant Estonian institutions on their application of anti-money laundering (AML) EU law to bitcoin activities in Estonia.
The four concerned institutions – The Estonian Central Bank, Ministry of Finance, Interior Ministry and Estonian Financial Supervision Authority as the top financial regulator – must respond to the request by 11 January 2016.
According to a recent Facebook post by Otto de Voogd, among the options considered by the Estonian Supreme Court is a referral of this case to the European Court of Justice.
This lawsuit represents a landmark legal case in the country where, in general, blockchain technology is viewed rather positively. For instance, recently Estonian government has started its partnership with Bitnation, to provide public notary services based on blockchain technology. According to the joint press-release of Bitnation and Estonian e-residency program, “via the international Bitnation Public Notary, e-residents, regardless of where they live or do business, will be able to notarize their marriages, birth certificates, business contracts, and much more on the blockchain.”