A Swedish investment company is using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin to avoid U.S. financial sanctions, allowing investors to invest in the economy of one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism.
Brave New World Investments, established by Mairtin O’Duinnin and Mikael Johansson, allows international investors to put money into the Iranian stock market without requiring a Swedish bank account.
European sanctions on Iran were removed starting in 2016 as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, but Swedish banks do not allow investment in the Iranian economy because of U.S. financial sanctions, according to Johnsson.
“We got to think (sic) of the venture as the sanctions against Iran were starting to get dismantled in early 2016,” Johansson told Finance Magnates, a financial news site. “However, due to U.S. financial sanctions still in effect against Iran, none of the Swedish banks wanted to help us — despite there being no relevant sanctions against Iran in Sweden or the European Union stopping us.”
Johansson explained that his company simply “side-stepped” the Swedish banking system in order to avoid potential sanctions enforcement. The company does not use a Swedish bank account, but said they will have an Iranian one “for the equity investments.”
“We pay our bills, shareholder dividends, Iran deposits — everything — in cryptocurrencies,” explained Johansson.
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, or cryptocurrency, which can be used as payment, effectively replacing regular currencies. Bitcoin is completely decentralized and works peer-to-peer, meaning there is no central bank or government administrator. All Bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public ledger called the blockchain. The lack of a central regulator means there is no way to effectively stop Bitcoin transactions.
Johansson added that his company is not breaking any Swedish or European Union laws, and that it “religiously” abides by anti-money laundering directives.
While the company’s process may be legal, it may not necessarily be effective.
“This effort is doable from a purely transactional point of view, but it’s probably not possible that this would be a practical conduit to increase Swedish or European investment in Iranian companies,” Yaya Fanusie, the director of analysis for Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There’s a lot standing in their way given that only a small, almost fringe segment of investors are comfortable with using bitcoin for investing.”
Fanusie explained that the EU is in the midst of trying to find ways to regulate Bitcoin transactions and make it more difficult to transact anonymously, which could hamper Brave New World’s investment strategy. That said, it could be fruitful as Bitcoin continues to grow in popularity.
“But if we get to a point where bitcoin is widely adopted and well-integrated into the global financial community, then such models probably will be a more reliable way to get money into places where the U.S. dollar isn’t supposed to go,” said Fanusie.
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