France's Market Regulator Calls Bitcoin a `Dangerous Illusion'

(Bloomberg) -- The chairman of France’s market regulator denounced bitcoin as a “dangerous illusion” and a tool for criminals, siding firmly against the cryptocurrency as its value climbed further past $11,000.

“It’s a way to purchase illicit goods, it’s a way to launder illicit income, it’s a way to develop and pay for cybercrimes and it’s a pure empty commodity,” Robert Ophele, chairman of the Autorite des Marches Financiers, said in a Bloomberg Television interview from Tokyo Monday. “If it were a currency, it would be a very bad one.”

Ophele said he isn’t sure he’d want to regulate bitcoin because it has no link to the real economy. Authorities and banks worldwide are grappling with how to treat the cryptocurrency, which has surged more than 10 times this year on growing speculation that it will find a lasting role in the financial system.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said last week that it’s too early for his bank to need a bitcoin strategy and he doesn’t consider it to be a store of value. BNP Paribas SA Chairman Jean Lemierre said at a forum in Tokyo Monday that it’s a commodity rather than a currency. Meanwhile, U.S. exchanges including CME Group Inc. were allowed last week to start trading of bitcoin futures.

“It’s a challenge for central bankers and for financial supervisors,” said Ophele, who was also in Tokyo to attend the Paris Europlace forum. “It’s an unregulated market and I should say it’s a dangerous illusion.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.