The ban kicks in March 9th, but some say their accounts—and their funds have already been frozen without a heads-up.
Last year, the US signed into law the politically controversial bill titled, “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act,” which aims “to provide congressional review and to counter aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea.” Under the bill, as part of “combating terrorism and illicit financing, accounts belonging to citizens and residents of North Korea, Iran, and the Crimean region of Ukraine will be added to the restricted territories list banned from accessing US finance services—including cryptocurrency exchanges.
While Cuba was not part of this new bill, a series of embargoes has been imposed against the country for decades, starting in 1958 with succeeding broader sanctions stretching to this day. Similarly, the US has enforced sanctions against Syria since 1979, labelling the country as a “state sponsor of terror.” And the same ban applies to citizens and residents of the two countries.
To comply with the new bill, Bittrex has released a revised terms of service document.
“You may not use the Services if you are located in, or a citizen or resident of any state, country, territory or other jurisdiction that is embargoed by the United States or where your use of the Services would be illegal or otherwise violate any applicable law. You represent and warrant that you are not a citizen or resident of any such jurisdiction and that you will not use any Services while located in any such jurisdiction. You also may not use the Services if you are located in, or a citizen or resident of, any other jurisdiction where Bittrex has determined, at its discretion, to prohibit use of the Services. Bittrex may implement controls to restrict access to the Services from any jurisdiction prohibited pursuant to this Section 2.2. You will comply with this Section 2.2, even if Bittrex’s methods to prevent use of the Services are not effective or can be bypassed,” Bittrex wrote on their website.
The embargo would supposedly start on March 9. But some users are saying that Bittrex started freezing accounts since last year—along with the funds in them. Complaints claim that shortly after the bill was signed last year, the exchange closed down thousands of accounts belonging to Iranians, Indians, Pakistani, Russian, Syrian, Turkish nationals, as well as some from American, French, and German nationals without a proper heads-up. And worse, no recourse was provided to users on how they can take out their funds from the exchange before they were closed.
In December last year, in an article by news.Bitcoin.com, Yasser Ahmadi of Lioncomputer says Bittrex failed to give Iranians a proper exit from the exchange, and has been ignoring support tickets from locked out users.
“We’re having difficulties for a long time now, it started around two years ago. Poloniex and Bitfinex announced that Iranian users should withdraw their funds and leave the exchange and now we’re having trouble with Bittrex. Bittrex started closing Iranian accounts without any heads up or announcements from Oct 12 and haven’t responded to our support tickets and emails since.”
Ahmadi added that the bill was a political manipulation and a violation of Bitcoin and the blockchain’s principle.
“I think Bitcoin should not be limited by the regulation process and that’s exactly what the United States is doing. They’re using the fluidity of bitcoin to control the needs of people around the world and reach their own political interests – that is not what bitcoin and blockchain is about, it’s against the spirit of this system.”