Wednesday May 15,2013 : U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY MOVES AGAINST BITCOIN?
Is this motivated by another anti-online gambling drive?
Creating a buzz on internet gambling message boards late Tuesday were Ars Technica and CNN reports that the virtual currency Bitcoin is under siege by US Homeland Security and Department of Justice authorities.
The agencies have apparently served seizure warrants on key mobile payments accounts associated with Mt. Gox, the largest Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange.
Intermediary Dwolla confirmed the official action to the New York Observer, revealing that it had received a seizure warrant from a federal court in the District of Maryland, but that no justification for the seizure had been given.
The involvement of Maryland, a state from which federal authorities have mounted several actions against online gambling payment processors, immediately fuelled speculation that the initiative is targeted on internet gambling.
The warrant required Dwolla to hand over the Mutum Sigillum (aka Mt. Gox) account balance, a requirement with which Dwolla confirmed it had complied.
Media and interested party enquiries to Mt. Gox were met with claims of ignorance on what was happening.
"Thank you for the e-mail. We can see that the Dwolla transactions are not getting processed right now. We will contact Dwolla and post an announcement regarding this. Your patience is appreciated…." the virtual currency exchange advised enquirers.
The Department of Homeland Security was equally unresponsive, with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Nicole Navas confirming to CNET that legal action to halt Dwolla processing Bitcoin transactions had been triggered.
Navas told CNET a warrant had been filed in the District of Maryland on Tuesday, but could not comment further “in order not to compromise this ongoing investigation.”
She revealed that the investigation was being handled by the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore.
In March this year, the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) hinted that the US federal government planned to regulate Bitcoin exchanges in a similar fashion to banks.
Bitcoin recently hit the mainstream headlines with a volatile surge in its exchange value following the Cyprus financial meltdown and a series of DDos attacks.