A private company launched Vietnam’s first Bitcoin exchange despite pledges from central government officials to shut it down and jail its operators.
Ho Chi Minh City-based VBTC Vietnam cooperated with Israeli company Bit2C to launch the exchange on July 9 at www.vbtc.vn, following a pilot run in late June, Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon reported.
The exchange was supposed to debut in April.
In February, the State Bank of Vietnam said it did not recognize the Bitcoin as a valid currency, citing similar rulings in nearby countries like Thailand, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia and developed ones like Russia, France, and Norway.
The e-commerce department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade also rejected the company’s efforts to establish the exchange floor on the grounds that Bitcoins are not a recognized currency or commodity in Vietnam.
Nguyen Tran Bao Phuong, co-founder and managing director of VBTC Vietnam, said the exchange allows the unrestricted trade of Bitcoins, the newspaper reported.
Phuong said Vietnam could offer a lucrative market for Bitcoins and her company is willing to cooperate with the authorities to fight crimes related to the stateless currency.
She compared Bitcoins to the Internet, which Vietnam introduced in 1995 after a long period of consideration.
Phuong argues that her company has been campaigning for the “undeniable” benefits of Bitcoins to several government agencies.
“Even when a government does not accept Bitcoins, like in China, it’s very hard to establish a legal code to completely ban them," she said. "Many governments actually want to bar Bitcoins but they can’t.”
Bui Quang Tien, head of the Payment Department at the central bank, said he plans to ask
the police to deal with those responsible for operating the exchange.
"Even when a government does not accept Bitcoins, like in China, it’s very hard to establish a legal code to completely ban them." -- Nguyen Tran Bao Phuong, co-founder of Vietnam's first Bitcoin exchange VBTC
Bitcoins were introduced as an open source software in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, possibly a pseudonym for one or more programmers.
Transactions using Bitcoins have been conducted in a dozen countries in Europe and America; the currency itself is considered an asset.
Analysts said Bitcoins provide little guarantee of payment as there is no central authority or bank to take responsibility for their authenticity or provide protection in case of fraud.
Mt. Gox in Tokyo (one of the two world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges along with Bitstamp in the UK) collapsed on February 18 after 850,000 Bitcoins worth US$473 million were reportedly lost or stolen in a cyber-attack.
Bitstamp suspended withdrawals for several days due to a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack.