Herman Gref, the former minister of Economic Development and the president of Russia’s largest bank, predicts mass migration of IT specialists abroad if the “bitcoin ban bill” will be passed.

Russian experts in technologies related to blockchain and cryptocurrency will have to look for jobs in other jurisdictions, Gref said giving a speech at Skolkovo Business School. He noted that currently about 20 countries specifically create conditions to attract specialists in this field.

Gref insists that considering its innovative potential the blockchain technology in “the new Internet”.

“This is an idea of the same significance as the Internet, but hardly was in born when our regulator says, God forbid, it is not allowed to issue cryptocurrencies. Then they say it is not allowed to buy them, and now they say they are going to put those buying them into prison.”

The financier believes the effect of the cryptocurrency ban would be detrimental. He is convinced that the draft law on the “surrogate money”, be it passed in its current form, will result in “all the progress leaving the territory of Russian Federation.”

The president of Sberbank is one of the most prominent supporters of cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology in Russia. Last year Herman Gref declared that he sees cryptotechnologies as having a great potential and admitted keeping some bitcoins in personal possession. Later, speaking at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, he shared his vision of how blockchain can revolutionise all spheres of social life, from the finances to state governance.

The draft law, mentioned by Gref, has been introduced by Russian Ministry of Finance. The amendments to the law “On the Central Bank” suggest up to 4 years of imprisonment or 500,000 rubles in fines for private individuals found guilty of cryptocurrency mining. For organised groups, the punishment would be up to 6 years in prison or fines of 500,000 to 1 million rubles. For senior management of banks and other financial institutions involved in issuing of cryptocurrencies, or “surrogate money”, the punishment is the most severe – up to 7 years in jail with deprivation of the right to hold specific posts or fines of up to 5 million rubles. Recently the draft was disapproved by the Ministry of Justice, yet introduced to the government for evaluation. 

Elena Platonova