Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have been making steady advancements into the mainstream market in many countries around the world, but apparently, this was not the case in Russia. According to local media reports, Russian police have seized no less than 22 automated teller machines (ATMs) selling cryptocurrency in several cities in Russia last week.
Operated by the Bbfpro company, the machines were located in shopping malls, restaurants and stores in nine different Russian cities, Russian news outlet RBC reported, quoting Digital Rights Center lawyer Sarkis Darbinyan.
In a separate interview with Russian media outlets, Bbfpro manager Artem Bedarev claimed there was no notice from the Russian authorities prior to the crackdown, noting that the investigation would continue for at least another six months. The machines would not be returned to Bbfpro while the investigation is ongoing.
The operation was ordered by the Prosecutor’s General Office, acting on a request from the Central Bank of Russia (CBR), a government agent told local media outlets. A CBR officer, who declined to comment on the crypto ATM seizures, noted that the government agency conducts “systematic work to identify and counteract illegal activities in the financial market,” particularly since there is a high chance that uncontrolled cross-border fund transfers and cash outs involving cryptocurrencies can happen.
Darbinyan, however, pointed out that the Russian Federation’s current laws do not prohibit citizens from acquiring cryptocurrencies. Bbfpro, for its part, has been observing all legal procedures, paying its taxes, and verifying the identity of its customers even without prompt from the government.
Bbfpro plans to appeal the seizure operation, according to the lawyer.
On its website, Bbfpro said its machines support purchases of cryptocurrencies like BTC. The company works with crypto exchange Exmo, offering technical support for the ATMs. According to Bbfpro, installing one terminal costs 155,000 rubles ($2,300). It charges 1 percent on the registered turnover, which is considerably less than other crypto ATMs in other countries. For example in Malta, ATM operators charge no less than 8% on each transaction.