During a public conference held in early January, officials from the PPATK (Pusat Pelaporan dan Analisis Transaksi Keuangan) – an independent agency created in 2002 to track money-laundering activities in Indonesia – stated that the Islamic State is strongly suspected of financing its operations through bitcoin platforms and PayPal online services. Yvan Yustiavandana, research director at PPATK, declared that terrorist groups seem to favour modern and sophisticated online payment instruments, probably because transactions made through those channels are more difficult to track and almost anonymous.
The Indonesian authorities have found evidence that Bahrun Naim, leader of a regional group affiliated to the Islamic State and the alleged perpetrator of a terrorist attack in Jakarta in 2016, exploited digital currencies to transfer money to other members.
Even the European Union is currently debating on introducing stricter regulations on cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoins, as they seem to be mostly used for illegal transactions.
Headline-making Bitcoin is now a cryptocurrency-cum-banknote as it moves into a new dimension: the real world. It might sound like an oxymoron, but the digital currency is now available in two denominations, the 0.01 and the 0.05 BTC that can be found in Singapore at the Megafash Suntec City store.
Manufactured by the Swiss startup Tangem, the banknote has an integrated hardware system based on one of Samsung’s semiconductor chips. The notes are “cheap enough to hand over” and, according to Bitcoin News, need “no special infrastructure, no complicated applications”. The user simply needs an NFC– capable smartphone to check the note’s assets.
The Zug-based company states that these smart banknotes are “comparable to a well-protected paper banknote”, a clear acknowledgement that tangible money is indeed a secure and practical tool for a number of transactions. The bottom line is that things are coming full circle: from digital to tangible and from crypto to banknote. Even on the Tangem website, the company speaks of a “cash-like” product to promote its digital note.
The message is loud and clear, and certainly the motive behind Tangem’s offer, that cryptocurrencies are generally inaccessible to the majority of the population as they are not well understood and not particularly user-friendly. The advantage of a banknote is that it’s concrete and that any given transaction simply requires an exchange of notes, nothing more. No computer, no fancy infrastructure, no wifi.
Tangem delivered the first 10,000 notes to Singapore early this month after having undergone a comprehensive security audit by Kudelski Group.
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