Switzerland to make digital assets equal to traditional assets

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Some 99 members of the National Council, Switzerland’s lower house of the Federal Assembly have voted to support a motion to put forward proposed regulations by liberal public representative Giovanni Merlini in favour of putting digital currencies on the same footing as traditional assets. The proposed regulations will now have to be considered by the Council of States, which is the Federal Assembly’s upper house.

The proposed regulations call for the existing legislation of both administrative and judicial authorities to be adapted and applied to cryptocurrencies as well.

Merlini argued: “Cryptocurrencies could be issued to anyone with a decentralised, cryptographic-based peer-to-peer data network. A large part of the cryptocurrencies is completely anonymous, which favoured extortion and money laundering.” However, his statement contradicts Europol’s assessment of the situation in 2018, which stated, “The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions — their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.”

Some are surprised at Merlini’s proposal, because Switzerland is already one of the most crypto-friendly jurisdictions and the country classifies virtual currencies as assets and it has fairly relaxed regulatory burdens and low entry barriers for related businesses.

Furthermore, Switzerland’s finance minister, Ueli Maurer, said back in December 2018 that instead of coming up with new cryptocurrency-specific regulations, the Federal Assembly would be adapting existing ones to fit the needs of the industry. However, following the approval of Merlini’s proposal, Maurer stated that the proposal has gone further than the scope of the planned regulations.

The motion has also had its critics. Some said it had failed to clarify how and if there are measures to be taken to mitigate any risks. And, additional doubts have been raised whether cryptocurrency trading platforms “should be equated with the financial intermediaries and subjected to Switzerland’s Financial market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).

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