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FINMA blocks launch of Zurich bitcoin ATM

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Sign placed on closed ATM. Photo: Bitcoin Suisse AG/Facebook
10:47 CEST+02:00
A bitcoin company that planned to open an ATM in Zurich on Wednesday said it has been forced to suspend the launch at the request of FINMA, Switzerland's financial regulatory authority.

Bitcoin Suisse AG wanted to open its automatic teller machine for the “digital currency” at the Impact Hub business services centre at 93-95 Viaduktsrasse.

The company said on its Facebook page that it was forced to close the ATM “pending the clarification of open legal questions”.

Bitcoin Suisse added that “we expect to back online before the end of June 2014”.

The company, based in Baar in the canton of Zug, said that in cooperation with the authorities it had suspended all other planned ATM launches in Switzerland “for the time being”.

FINMA has declined to comment on the case.

Bitcoin Suisse, a startup headed by Danish-born software specialist Niklas Niklajsen, employed four full-time and seven part-time staff, according to a report from the Neue Zuger Zeitung earlier this year.

In March, the company said it had set up Holland's “first professional ATM” for bitcoins in the Hague, where a commercial district known as “Bitcoin Boulevard” accepts the virtual currency for goods and services.

A bitcoin ATM allows a user to buy bitcoins using cash, with some models allowing for the exchange of bitcoins for cash.

The first such machine was opened in Vancouver in October last year

The biggest producer of such machines, Bitaccess, a private company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, says it has installed bitcoin ATMs in 45 locations in half a dozen countries.

Bitaccess said its machines allow anyone to deposit cash and instantly receive a “digital wallet” (rather than a physical bitcoin) containing the equivalent in bitcoin “cryptocurrency”.

Its machines also allow for the exchange of bitcoin for traditional currency.

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Bitcoin is a decentralized virtual currency that works, according to its originators, as a "consensus network" that enables a payment system using digital money.

Invented in 2009, it is controlled by its users without any central authority or middlemen and is devised to be used like cash on the internet.

Its official status as a form of money remains murky, however, with financial authorities around the world refusing to accept it as a currency.

The value of a bitcoin - recently around 570 francs - has risen and fallen according to demand, which has generally zoomed since it started out at less than one dollar.

For more information about bitcoin, check here

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