Just like in the traditional finance system, bad actors are gradually infiltrating into the nascent world of virtual currencies. Heists and crypto-related robberies are steadily on the increase, almost in tandem with the meteoric rise of the price of bitcoin and the altcoins.
Amidst this backdrop, a Senator in the Philippines is calling for more severe punishments for ‘cryptocriminals,’ in a bid to clean up the nations virtual currency space.
Spare Them Not
In a latest development, Senator Leila de Lima, a member of the opposition Liberal political party has urged authorities to hasten up the process of implementing her bill which seeks to impose stricter penalties for crimes in the crypto space.
On April 4, 2018, reports emerged that a couple had been arrested for swindling dozens of people who they deceived into investing in their crypto-based pyramid scheme.
According to the Inquirer, Arnel and Leonardy Ordonio used their company called NewG to organize the alleged Ponzi scheme, promising investors substantial returns on investments every 15 days.
A Matter of Urgency
Irked by this latest incident, Senator De Lima, a former justice secretary reiterated the need to urgently pass Senate Bill (SB) No. 1694, which she proposed. In her words:
“I hope that this occurrence will push my esteemed colleagues in the Senate to take my proposed bill seriously and help pass it into law soon. Knowing that virtual currency resembles money, and the possibilities in using it are endless, a higher penalty for its use on illegal activities is necessary.”
As contained in the press release, De Lima’s SB No. 1694 bill states that all crimes defined in the Republic Act No. 3815 or Revised Penal Code (RPC), when perpetuated using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, must attract a penalty that is one degree higher than what is provided for by the RPC.
“As I’ve mentioned before, our penal laws must adapt to the changing times and our criminal justice system must always be prepared in the event like this,” she added.
De Lima highlighted some common scenarios where cryptocurrencies may be used illegally, including, “Estafa where unscrupulous individuals entice unsuspecting people to purchase fake bitcoins, sending a virtual currency as payment for child pornography, or a public offer agreeing to perform an act in consideration of payment in bitcoins (direct bribery).”
At current, the law stipulates that syndicated ‘estafa’ and all forms of swindling attract a life imprisonment sentence if there are up to at least five criminals involved in the operation. However, De Lima is looking to reduce the number to at two people by pushing the Senate Bill (SB) No. 959.
“No matter how small or big a group, same punishment must be given. It should never be easy to escape after stealing the hard earned money of other people,” De Lima declared.
It is worth noting that the Philippine government has a soft stance toward digital currencies. Bitcoin has been a legitimate legal tender in the nation since 2017. Therefore, it will be beneficial for the entire crypto industry if more stringent penalties are put in place as it would deter criminals from using blockchain-based virtual currencies to aid their illicit acts.