Is Venezuela Avoiding Sanctions by Turning Airport Taxes into BTC?

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Venezuela has a love/hate relationship with Bitcoin, largely depending on where your political sympathies lie, but it seems that even the anti-Bitcoin dictator Nicolás Maduro may have found a use for it. According to Spanish newspaper ABC International, Venezuela’s Maiquetía International Airport might be accepting airport taxes in BTC in order to skirt U.S. sanctions, with the scheme set to extend to aircraft refueling.

Jetman Pay Turns Dollars to Bitcoin

According to ABC, in February 2018 the airport was forced to use a new automated system for the collection of taxes – Jetman Pay. On the surface it was purported to facilitate the access and payment of operational services to airlines, however, ABC alleges that the system automatically converts the payments to BTC and transfers them to “international exchange houses located in Hong Kong, Russia, China and Hungary.” There, the BTC is exchanged for dollars which are transferred to Venezuelan accounts in those countries. ABC claims to have seen a document that pays Maiquetía International Airport a 2% fee on each such transaction.

Refueling May Be Next

Maduro’s system clearly flies in the face of U.S. sanctions, and it could get worse – ABC cites a source as saying that he is already in negotiations to apply the same principle to refueling of aircraft, again using Jetman Pay. ABC illustrates how the process would work for refueling:

A plane lands in Maiquetía; by the Jetman Pay application, airlines transfer dollars to refuel. PDVSA (the state-owned petrol supplier, currently under sanctions) refills the deposit and then liquidates the money through the same procedure they do with airport charges. Barracuda CA (an intermediary) keeps a percentage, the rest transfers it to PDVSA accounts abroad and thus the Government recovers the money.

Bitcoin Takes the Blame

Activity like this is what gives Bitcoin a bad name and brings out all the same arguments of international bans, although this would only stop legitimate use and drive illegal use further underground. In an ideal world, the incoming worldwide regulations will help to protect legal users and investors in Bitcoin, but if cases such as this continue to make headlines the odds get slimmer and slimmer.