French police question three over bitcoin website

Police were investigating the provision of online banking and gambling activities without the appropriate license

French police have questioned three people in connection with a Bitcoin exchange that, police say, handled 2,750 illicit transactions.

The Gendarmerie Nationale has dismantled a platform involved in the illicit exchange of bitcoins and uncovered 2,750 illicit transactions worth more than €1 million (US$1.36 million), the verified Twitter account of the Gendarmerie reported Monday.

It was the banking operations and the transactions performed by the accused that were illicit, not use of bitcoins, the Gendarmerie indicated.

In France, accepting regular currencies in order to facilitate the sale of bitcoins requires a license to operate payment services, the French Authority for Prudent Control and Resolution (ACPR) ruled in January. the ACPR is an independent regulator responsible for licensing banks and insurance companies.

The Gendarmerie did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the investigation, but a police spokesman told French news magazine Le Point that one of the people questioned was subsequently released.

The other two, the administrator of the website and one of its suppliers, remain subject to police restrictions, Le Point said.

The investigation concerned illegal banking operations, online gambling and clandestine working. Police seized 388 bitcoins during the investigation, the magazine reported.

At Monday's price those bitcoins would be worth around €180,000 (US$245,000).

The 2,750 illicit transactions were performed between November 2013 and July 2014, and involved at least 2,500 bitcoins, police told the magazine.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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