US-based cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex has stated that it intends to release the frozen crypto-assets of users who reside in sanctioned countries.
As an American company, Bittrex is legally obligated to follow the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) guidelines, which prevent them from serving individuals who reside in jurisdictions sanctioned by the US.
These jurisdictions include Cuba, Syria, the unrecognised Russian Crimean peninsula, and Iran. Bittrex froze accounts from these users in late 2017 with little warning given to those affected – causing much controversy as funds were unable to be withdrawn.
The accounts were originally frozen after a “compliance review” found that some users were residing in one of the aforementioned jurisdictions.
Bittrex has now managed to overturn this ruling and will release the frozen funds to affected users – should they meet certain conditions decided by OFAC officials.
Bittrex first appealed the decision by the OFAC to freeze users’ funds in 2018 but only recently received the green light on the release.
Iranian Bitcoin enthusiast Ziya Sadr tweeted details of the new withdrawal developments, commenting that Bittrex had “stayed silent on the subject” for two years. Sadr shared the recent email he received from Bittrex, which states that his account was closed in October 2017.
However, users must meet certain strict criteria before they can access their funds. Wallets used for withdrawals must not be hosted in any of the above sanctioned locations, for example.
This largely excludes many affected users who must either prove that they have a residence in another allowed country or use methods to obfuscate their identity in order to create a new wallet.
Users must have enough funds to satisfy minimum withdrawal amounts, with all withdrawals to be completed by March 15, 2020. The letter also states that users may be required to submit additional identity information to prove who they are before funds are released.
Due to the nature of the affected jurisdictions and their geopolitical status, it’s unclear how many affected users will be able to comply with the conditions Bittrex has proposed.
Naturally, while relieved to finally receive access to their funds, many users will be similarly frustrated that they missed out on the most significant cryptocurrency bull market to date as a direct result of Bittrex’s asset freeze.
Bittrex has also recently come under fire for failing to prevent the theft of $1 million worth of BTC. Read more here.