Russian Court Recognizes Cryptocurrency as Means of Payment, Prosecutors See Precedent – According to Russian media, the City Court of St. Petersburg has acknowledged a considerable sum of cryptocurrency turned over by the victim in an extortion case as a form of payment. The ruling is described as a precedent by the prosecutor’s office in Russia’s second-largest city.
Two Russian residents were sentenced to nine and seven years in prison for extorting 5 million rubles (almost $90,000) in cash and 55 million rubles (nearly $1 million) in digital assets from another individual under a strict regime.
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The St. Petersburg City Court has acknowledged cryptocurrencies as a form of payment during the trial, according to the crypto page of Russian business news portal RBC. The ruling is a first, according to prosecutors, because the Russian government has yet to decide on the legal status of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Pyotr Piron, one of the criminals, introduced himself to the victim, G.A. Shemet, as a Federal Security Service officer four years ago. According to the article, he threatened Shemet with criminal prosecution in order to extract money from him in fiat and cryptocurrency.
Piron solicited the help of an accomplice, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former employee of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, because Shemet did not believe Piron was a security agent and refused to give him the funds.
They informed Shemet that a criminal investigation against his alleged unlawful cryptocurrency circulation would be launched. They organized a fake arrest of the crypto owner in the summer of 2018, and he handed over his fiat cash and crypto cache under threat of torture.
The misappropriated cryptocurrency was not taken into consideration in the city court’s initial decision. The verdict said that cryptocurrency “is not a form of payment on Russian Federation territory, so it cannot be considered as a topic of civil rights and a crime.”
Following an appeal, a cassation court decided that cryptocurrency can still be used as a payment method and referred the case to the first instance court. The city court announced a new verdict that included the digital cash without changing the defendants’ prison terms.
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This comes after a district judge in St. Petersburg allowed law enforcement personnel to seize stolen cryptocurrency in another criminal case few weeks back. Investigators had requested the seizure of a suspect’s two dozen cryptocurrency wallets, which contained 1 billion rubles in ethereum (ETH).
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