Norwegian crypto exchange loses case against Nordea in Oslo District Court, will appeal decision to uphold account closure.
Norwegian cryptocurrency exchange Bitmynt AS has lost its case against Scandinavian financial services giant Nordea, local news E24 reports May 4. The ruling concludes a case, in which Bitmynt founder Sturle Sunde sued Nordea for closing the exchange’s account.
Sturle Sunde first brought legal action against Nordea in December of last year, when Nordea closed Bitmynt’s account over concerns of inadequate anti-money laundering mechanisms and terrorist financing risks. According to local news digi.no, this made Sunde ineligible to register with the Brønnøysund Register Centre to establish limited liability. The ruling of the Oslo District Court reads:
“The Court is, after a global assessment, [in] no doubt that the risk of money laundering and transactions related to criminal offenses is clearly elevated by Bitcoin trade, although Bitcoin trading is now also largely done [under] legitimate conditions.”
The court found “it clear that this risk constitutes an objective reason for the bank to deny customer relationships” under a provision of the Finance Contracts Act. Sunde said he is disappointed in the decision and that the court’s verdict “in practice” bans Bitcoin trading in general in Norway. He maintains that the exchange did not violate any laws, and plans to appeal the decision.
The court was especially critical of Sunde’s safety practices, pointing out that they were mostly manually carried out by Sunde himself. The sentence states, “He believes he knows the customer and has a stomach feeling that makes him recognize suspicious conditions.” The court found that Sunde’s intuition, in combination with customer contact and usage of Wallet Explorer, was insufficient in mitigating risk to a degree to which the bank could accept.
Sunde said that the financial costs of the case are substantial, having already spent NOK 1 mln ($124,000). He said that he is now considering crowdsourcing for funding the appeal. When asked whether the trial has been worth the money, Sunde answered:
“Until now, it has not been, but I hope that it will end.”
In April, a group of Chilean cryptocurrency exchanges sued a group of banks for defacto banning the crypto industry in the country by closing down their accounts. On April 25, crypto exchange Buda won an appeal in Chile’s anti-monopoly court to have their accounts temporarily re-opened at state bank Banco del Estado de Chile and Itau Corpbanca.