The Interior Ministry suspended the Iran Blockchain Association following reports it was in breach of rules and operated against its articles of association.
In a notice published by Persian-language newspaper Hamshahri Online on Wednesday, the association has been told to submit detailed reports about its financial performance and activities especially those related to cryptocurrency exchanges to the Social Affairs Organization.
Iran Blockchain Association was established in 2017 as a nonprofit and self-governing body of entrepreneurs, experts, specialists and activists involved in developing the technology.
However, Sepehr Mohammadi, head of IBA, said the notice was not delivered to the board members, a press release on the association’s website said.
He said publishing a crypto warning list by IBA could be the main cause of the ban. The list includes names of high-risk domestic companies involved in cryptocurrency-related business.
IBA says it has strived to help prevent people’s losses from scams by spreading awareness. “Obviously, vested interests will do anything to stop IBA’s efforts. They managed to publicize the [ban] notice before IBA was informed,” Mohammadi said.
Iranians in increasing numbers have been putting money in bitcoins and other digital currencies as parallel markets, such as forex, gold and shares, lose luster.
A recent study by the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mining, shows that an estimated 12 million Iranians have invested in cryptocurrencies.
A study conducted by the High Council of Cyberspace shows total bitcoin trade in Tehran alone amounts to about 30-40 trillion rials ($130-174 million).
Earlier this month, Rahim Zare, a member of parliament, had accused “domestic NGOs involved in cryptocurrencies” of transferring foreign currency overseas. He did not provide any evidence.
IBA strongly denied the claim, saying that all its efforts were focused promoting blockchain technology in the country. “Informing people and the authorities on risky websites and [potential] fraud cases are among IBA’s objectives.”
Back in March, in line with the government’s anti-money laundering measures the Central Bank of Iran ordered Shaparak, the local payment settlement network, to block online payment gateways owned by crypto exchange websites.
Iran Blockchain Association strongly condemned move, saying, “Experience has it that restrictive measures against innovative technologies are costly and unsuccessful. Technology moves forward come what may.”
The association referred to official concerns about protecting the people’s interest, saying that blocking local portals will not help because people will shift to foreign portals and possibly put their assets at risk.