LocalBitcoins, a P2P cryptocurrency exchange, is closing accounts for long-term clients in three regions: Africa, the Middle East and Asia, without prior notice.
Informed by Forbes, target users have spread to countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Pakistan.
Platform users in all three regions receive messages asking them to "withdraw bitcoin for account exclusion," however, many said they could not withdraw their tokens because their accounts were already "deactivated."
"One of my clients was supposed to travel abroad and had to sell part of his bitcoins so he could only notice on the way to the airport that he could not access his funds," said an anonymous user of LocalBitcoins in Nigeria.
Although there is no official notification, it is likely that the repression began early last week, as many users noticed the suspension of their accounts on January 20.
There is no anonymity in the Bitcoin trade
Unlike centralized Bitcoin exchanges, LocalBitcoins works as a platform peer-to-peer (P2P), allowing merchants to buy and sell Bitcoins directly. The popularity of decentralized exchange has skyrocketed with the restriction of centralized exchanges in many countries. According to the website, LocalBitcoins is operating in «7916 cities and 248 countries».
Launched in 2012, the Helsinki-based exchange also allowed merchants to physically meet to complete the transaction in cash. However, in the last year, the platform has silently eliminated its option “cash in person”.
Established as a platform for anonymity, LocalBitcoins changed its priority after years of operations and, in April 2018, forced high volume merchants to reveal their identity and stop anonymous commerce.
Although it has not been confirmed, many speculate that the recent change was the result of the Fifth European Directive against Money Laundering (AMLD5), which entered into force on January 10.