New reports suggest that the South Korean government is intensifying its moves against the country’s bitcoin exchanges.
Reuters reported tonight that Bithumb and Coinone were raided by police and tax office officials on Wednesday and Thursday. Citing employees of the two exchanges, which are among the largest in South Korea, the news service said officials visited their offices amid an investigation into alleged tax evasion.
“Local police also have been investigating our company since last year, they think what we do is gambling,” a Coinone employee told Reuters. The employee said that the exchange was cooperating with the investigation.
Separately, South Korean news service SBS has reported that the South Korean Justice Department is moving to prepare legislation that would pave the way for exchanges in the country to be shut down entirely.
“The Ministry of Justice will set up its own bill, which sees the virtual money brokerage itself as illegal and completely closes the exchange, and plans to start full-fledged ministry discussions this week,” the service reported, according to a translation.
The news represents a significant expansion in the growing scrutiny applied to the crypto-exchange space by South Korean regulators. Earlier this week, the Korean Financial Intelligence Unit and the Financial Supervisory Service announced that they were inspecting six unnamed banks for compliance with anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations.
The government had already declared in December that it would move to apply more scrutiny amid growing trade volume at the exchanges, including moves to curb anonymous trading.
Exchanges in South Korea have consistently seen prices well above those seen on other marketplaces. Indeed, it’s a circumstance that earlier this week led to a controversial change by one popular data service to begin excluding some of the country’s exchanges from its cryptocurrency price averages.
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Editor’s Note: Some of the quotes from this report have been translated from Korean.
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