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Just as the United States’ authorities have begun to take a pragmatic view with regard to virtual currency, with a series of programs ranging from New York State’s intrepid Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky’s BitLicense regulatory structure to venture capital firms investing in leading edge Bitcoin technology which aims to not only make virtual currency a mainstay of the economic infrastructure, but also give it longevity, officials are increasingly disenchanted by self-styled mavericks with a strong following of Bitcoin proponents.
Despite being born in the United States, Bitcoin entrepreneur Roger Ver has been denied a visa to enter the country, effectively prohibiting him from setting foot in the nation in which he resided for his entire life until recently.
Mr. Ver is a high-profile member of the Bitcoin community, having funded products including Blockchain, Ripple, and Blockpay.
He is known colloquially as ‘Bitcoin Jesus’, alluding to his cult following, after he gave thousands of Bitcoins away for free. Mr. Ver renounced his US citizenship in March 2014, which effectively presented the US authorities with an opportunity to lock the metaphorical door behind him on the way out, and precluding him from, among many things, attending the forthcoming Miami Bitcoin Conference.
The main concern of the United States officials is, according to Coindesk, that he may stay in the country illegally following his renunciation of citizenship. He has a criminal record in the United States, having been previously incarcerated for ten months for selling illegal firecrackers to farmers.
Indeed, the United States’ open and business-friendly position on Bitcoin welcomes the free sale of virtual currencies, encourages the development of venture capital funded technology with exchanges such as Coinsetter operating perfectly legitimately, and even a sale of Bitcoins by the US Marshal Office having taken place in mid 2014.
Where the United States exercises sensible caution is when libertarian virtual currency proponents seek to use technology and peer to peer resources to achieve non-conforming goals.
Mr. Ver has actively encouraged other citizens to follow his lead. In June 2014 he established a website detailing the methods by which wealthy US citizens could effectively buy citizenship of Mr. Ver’s new host nation, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, an island in the West Indies.
Mr. Ver made publicly available entries on his website in June this year that any person could pay $400,000 for real estate and receive a passport that allows visa-free travel to 120 countries. There are no taxes on personal income or capital gains and the islands’ restrictive disclosure laws offer shelter from outside scrutiny, according to the Tax Justice Network, a think tank that studies secrecy jurisdictions.
Mr Ver’s website passportsforbitcoin.com which was available in English, Russian and Chinese, offered a way to purchase a piece of that paradise with Bitcoins. He says it will help people who are hemmed in by government restrictions on cash transactions. The website has since become unavailable, with the URL redirecting to bitcoin.com which is a domain owned by blockchain.info
In a report in June by Bloomberg, Mr. Ver stated “I’m going to China next month to explain to people that bitcoin is the easiest way to pay for things outside the country,” during a meeting this month at the plush 51st floor lounge of Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills.
This move by the United States emphasizes the nation’s remit toward encouraging a strong and bona fide Bitcoin industry within the country, which mainstream venture capital investors can provide funds to encourage advancement of technology, retail customers can safely use the virtual currency for payment with secure wallet technology widely accessible and a network of Bitcoin ATMs, as well as ensuring that nefarious entities such as Silk Road do not become part of the ecosystem which is a financial system generated entirely by private individuals with no government issuance or control.
By adopting this methodology and discouraging practices promoted by those wishing to go against the grain and gain a cult following for perhaps the wrong reasons in the eyes of the US government, Bitcoin’s future appears to be a long and healthy one in the Land of the Free.
Photograph courtesy of Bitcoinx