Bitcoin ATM Opens in Singapore Amid Probe Into Tokyo's Mt. Gox

Tembusu Terminals Pte set up what may be Singapore’s first automated tele-exchange machine for buying Bitcoins days after a Tokyo exchange for the virtual currency was shut amid concerns about possible theft.

The ATM was installed at The Spiffy Dapper, a bar in the Boat Quay district, according to a statement from Tembusu, which is based in the city-state. The company is talking with other retailers that accept the virtual currency to set up its ATMs on their premises, it said, without naming them.

The announcement comes six days after Singapore’s finance minister said the central bank didn’t recognize Bitcoin as legal tender and had cautioned individuals about the use of virtual currencies. Bitcoins have come under scrutiny in markets from China to Russia and the U.S., with some regulators seeking to ban or limit the use of the currency.

“I am sure all of us would agree that it has been an exciting, and some would even say trying, past few weeks for Bitcoin users worldwide,” Andras Kristof, 44, Tembusu’s chief technical officer, said in today’s statement. “Through this entire roller-coaster ride, I can’t help but think back to the main guiding principle” of flexibility that the Tembusu terminal provides, he said.

Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest exchange for digital-currency transactions, went offline in Tokyo on Feb. 25 after halting customers’ Bitcoin withdrawals on Feb. 7. A document posted on the Internet said Mt. Gox had lost 744,408 Bitcoins, worth about $420 million at current rates, as a result of theft that “went unnoticed for several years.”

The Singapore terminal could also possibly offer cash dispensing, features such as identity and thumb-print scanning, and anti-money laundering capabilities as required by local regulators, according to the statement.

‘Be Cautious’

There are no Bitcoin ATMs in the city, “as far as” the Association of Banks in Singapore was aware, John Lim, an external spokesman for the organization, wrote in an e-mail.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore does not regulate Bitcoins and has “been advising individuals and businesses to think twice and be cautious about accepting or dealing in virtual currencies,” Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also chairman of MAS, said in Parliament on Feb. 21.

Tembusu’s ATM will be joined tomorrow by ANX, a Hong Kong-based platform for trading virtual currencies, which will open the first retail store in that city that allows individuals to buy and sell Bitcoins in Hong Kong dollars.

Introduced in 2008 by a programmer or group of programmers under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin is based on a peer-to-peer software protocol, has no central issuing authority, and uses a public ledger to verify transactions while preserving users’ anonymity.

Bitcoin fell 1.9 percent to $566 as of 3:38 p.m. Singapore time, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, which averages exchange prices. The value climbed as high as $1,151 on Dec. 4, luring investors and customers even as regulators and lawmakers raised concern the currency could be used for money-laundering and fraud.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sanat Vallikappen in Singapore at vallikappen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net

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