Following a high-level proposal in July to ban the importation of all cryptocurrency mining equipment into Vietnam, the Vietnamese Customs Department has announced a total ban on all mining rig imports, according to a local news outlet.
The ban comes at a time when the country is dealing with the fallout of July’s Sky Mining scandal, which saw the CEO of a crypto mining firm abscond with more than $35 million in company and investor funds.
Zero Tolerance Stance
According to data from the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department, crypto mining equipment imports were shuttered by officials in July 2018. Before the restriction, private individuals and firms in the country brought in more than 3,664 mining rigs between January and June. These imports mostly consisted of Bitmain’s Antminer ASIC rigs.
Last year, more than 7,000 mining rigs were imported into the country despite the government’s noted anti-crypto stance. Following the Sky Mining scandal last month, however, local Vietnamese news outlets report that the Vietnamese Customs Department almost instantly imposed total import restrictions on miners, indicating that the government’s negative stance on crypto has morphed into open restriction.
Prior to the policy change, Vietnam’s government had a reputation for being unwilling to regulate the cryptocurrency industry, bluntly declaring last year that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not “lawful means of payment.” It also explicitly stated that issuing or using crypto as a means of payment within Vietnam is forbidden, indicating that it had no intention of officially engaging with crypto finance, whether the government has the resources to suppress it or not.
Despite the rhetoric, crypto mining persisted as a big business in Vietnam, with port authorities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City issuing clearance for thousands of mining rigs intended to mine bitcoin and litecoin in 2017.
Officially, dealing with cryptocurrency trading has carried with it the risk of criminal prosecution and a fine of up to $9,000, but, until recently, the government generally seemed to turn a blind eye to crypto mining.
In May, the government decided to fine bitcoin.vn, a popular Vietnamese crypto exchange. The following month, Sky Mining investors who were already spooked by regulatory aggression toward crypto businesses noticed people claiming to be “maintenance personnel” clearing out the company’s mining facility. The personnel transported the mining rigs to an unknown destination while investors were left with no information other than a Facebook post by CEO Le Minh Tam, where he apologized and promised to declare bankruptcy.