Portuguese banks close digital asset exchange accounts despite central bank approval: report

Digital asset trading in Portugal is facing new hurdles as banks recently decided to shut down their accounts without explanation, according to a Bloomberg report.

The report identified four digital asset firms that faced similar actions, including CriptoLoja, Mind the Coin and Luso Digital Assets, with a fourth declining to be identified. All companies are notably approved by the Bank of Portugal.

Banks closing digital asset company accounts include some of Portugal’s biggest lenders. Pedro Borges, co-founder and managing director of Lisbon-based CriptoLoja, said the company had to operate with overseas accounts since Banco Comercial Portugues (BCP) and Banco Santander closed their accounts.

Borges added that the banks had given no official explanation. Caixa Geral de Depósitos, BiG, Abanca and other smaller banks have also been identified as severing relationships with exchanges and digital asset firms.

“Although there is no official explanation, some banks just tell us that they don’t want to work with crypto companies. It’s almost impossible to start a crypto business in Portugal right now,” added Pedro Guimaraes, founder of Mind the Coin.

For their part, the BCP and Banco Santander said their decisions were due to their responsibility to report “suspicious transactions” according to their perception of risk.

Besides Portuguese banks, the global banking industry has long been skeptical of digital assets, citing issues with money laundering and KYC implementation.

Portugal’s tax haven status for digital assets under threat

The Bloomberg report notes that the move by Portuguese banks could blow away the favorable status for digital assets that Portugal has long maintained. The country has long been considered a tax haven for digital asset investors as it has a zero percent capital gains tax policy for the industry.

However, recent moves by lawmakers and regulators may soon change that status. Portuguese lawmakers proposed two digital asset tax bills that were rejected by parliament.

The bills would have made taxes on digital assets at the same level as other income taxes. However, Portugal has not ruled out completely taxing digital assets. Finance Minister Fernando Medina told parliament that his ministry was working on a digital asset taxation framework.

Although the timetable for the release of the framework is not known, the minister assures that it will ensure that Portugal does not stifle the industry and drive away investors.

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