Russian Court Recognizes Cryptocurrency as Means of Payment, Prosecutors See Precedent
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According to Russian media, the city court of St Petersburg has recognized cryptocurrency handed over by the victim in an extortion case as a means of payment. The prosecutor’s office in Russia’s second largest city describes the verdict as a precedent.
Two Russian citizens have been sentenced to nine and seven years in prison under strict regulations for exchanging 5 million rubles (approximately $90,000) in cash and 55 million rubles (approximately $1 million).
According to the Russian business news portal RBC, the method of payment is recognized by the St. Petersburg City Court as cryptocurrency payments. Prosecutors consider the ruling a first, as the government in Moscow is yet to determine the legal status of bitcoin and the like.
Four years ago, Pyotr Piron, a Federal Security Service officer, introduced himself to the victim, G.A Shemet. Shemet was threatened with criminal prosecution in exchange for fiat and cryptocurrency, according to the article.
Shemet refused to give Piron the funds, so he enlisted the services of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former employee of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).
Shemet has been told that a criminal investigation will be launched against him over alleged illegal cryptocurrency circulation. In the summer of 2018, they staged a fake arrest of the crypto owner who handed over the fiat cash and his crypto stash under the threat of torture.
Despite the city court’s initial decision, the misappropriated crypto wasn’t considered. It stated in the verdict that cryptocurrency “is not a means of payment on the territory of the Russian Federation, therefore it cannot be recognized as an object of civil rights and a subject of a crime.”
Following an appeal, a case court declared that cryptocurrency could still be looked upon as payment and returned the case to the court. The city court issued a new verdict without changing prison terms for defendants, adding digital cash.
A district court in Petersburg allowed law enforcement officials to confiscate stolen cryptocurrency in another criminal case. Investigators had demanded the seizure of two dozen crypto wallets of a suspect, holding 1 billion rubles in Ethereum.