The government has declined to weigh in on Bank of Valletta's sudden decision to block cryptocurrency transfers, instead expressing confidence that the policy shift will be a "short-term one".
In a statement issued this afternoon, the parliamentary secretariat for the digital economy said that it would not "interfere with individual banks' operational policies," saying they were best placed to assess their situation.
It however said that it was positive that banks which adopted such an approach were only doing so for in the short-term, "in lieu of further details on Malta’s policies in this regard".
The government, the statement said, would be forging ahead with plans to create a regulatory framework for cryptocurrency-related activities, and a discussion document on Initial Coin Offerings and Exchanges would be launched "imminently".
Times of Malta yesterday reported that Bank of Valletta was no longer accepting Sepa transfers to cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase.
A BOV spokesperson declined to explain the rationale behind the decision, instead saying that the bank made such decisions based on "its own risk appetite, regulatory directions and the exigencies of its correspondent banking network".
The Maltese government is BOV's single largest shareholder, owning approximately 25% of the bank.
In a statement issued this morning, cryptocurrency advocacy group Bitmalta expressed surprise at the bank's decision.
"All authorities and institutions should be pulling the same rope in enabling Malta to become the leading jurisdiction in blockchain technology," Bitmalta said in a statement. "It would be extremely counterproductive to have the largest local bank swimming against the current."
The group invited BOV to discuss its concerns, saying a failure to reverse its policy would "only serve to harm Malta's reputation" in this sector.