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Tokyo bitcoin exchange files for bankruptcy

By Yuri Kageyama

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 28 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Vietnam's communist government said Thursday that trading in bitcoin and other electronic currencies is illegal, and warned its citizens not to use or invest in them.

Late last year, China banned its banks and payment systems from handling bitcoin, although people still use them online. Thailand earlier put a blanket prohibition on using bitcoins and Russia has effectively banned them.

There was still considerable appetite for bitcoin in China, where it has become attractive as an investment since tightly-regulated state banks offer very low interest rates on deposits.

Even some with money tied up in Mt. Gox were undaunted.

Huang Zhaobin, a 21-year-old student in Chengdu, said he had lost 50,000 to 60,000 yuan ($8,125 to $9,750) from the Mt. Gox closure.

"Actually this money itself is the benefit from bitcoin investment," said Huang, who plowed 10,000 yuan into bitcoins about three months ago.

"If it is legal, I will continue to invest for sure as it is the trend in the world."

In Singapore, Tembusu Terminals, a joint venture specializing in crypto-currencies, announced Friday its first bitcoin ATM in the city-state and plans for many more. In Hong Kong, a group opened what it said was the world's first bitcoin retail store.

Yang Weizhou, analyst at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo, said laws to regulate virtual currencies may have to be created by countries including Japan.

She said lawsuits from those who lost money were likely, and any court rulings would chart unexplored territory and help define the reach of virtual money.

The trend toward such technology for peer-to-peer payments wouldn't replace traditional money but was here to stay because of its convenience, she said.

"It is undeniable," she said. "One must separate the Mt. Gox problem from the overall concept."

Associated Press video journalist Kaori Hitomi in Tokyo, researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai and writers Chris Brummitt in Hanoi, Vietnam and Satish Cheney in Singapore contributed to this report. Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama

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