LocalBitcoins Abruptly Shuts Traders’ Accounts

The crackdown is concentrated in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

LocalBitcoins, a peer-to-peer crypto exchange, is shutting down long-term customers’ accounts in three regions – Africa, the Middle East, and Asia – without any prior notice.

Reported by Forbes, the targeted users spread across countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan.

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Users of the platform in the three regions are receiving messages urging them to “withdraw bitcoins by deleting account,” however, many claimed that they could not withdraw their holdings as their accounts were already “deactivated.”

“One of my customers was due to travel out of the country and had to sell some of his bitcoin to be able to go only to notice on his way to the airport that he cannot even access his funds,” one anonymous Nigerian LocalBitcoins user told the publication.

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Though there was no official notification, the crackdown is likely to have started early last week, as many users noticed suspension of their accounts on January 20.

No anonymity in trading Bitcoins

Unlike the centralized Bitcoin exchanges, Local Bitcoin works as a peer-to-peer platform, allowing traders to buy and sell Bitcoins directly. The popularity of the decentralized exchange skyrocketed with the restriction on centralized exchanges in many countries. According to its website, the exchange is operating in “7916 cities and 248 countries.”

Launched in 2012, the Helsinki-headquartered exchange also allowed traders to meet physically for completing the transaction involving cash. However, last year, the platform quietly removed its “in-person: cash” option, Finance Magnates reported.

Established as an anonymous platform, LocalBitcoins changed its priority after years of operations and, in April 2018, made it mandatory for high volume traders to disclose their identity and halted anonymous trading.

Though not confirmed, many are speculating that the recent move was the result of the Fifth European Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5) that came into effect on January 10.

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