Bitcoin has been known to be a thorn in the side of oppressive regimes and authoritarian governments. It takes away the control they have over the money supply in their country.
Yet, could Bitcoin be a driving force behind unpopular political initiatives? Could it, for example, have been used to fund an independence initiative of a region like Catalonia for example?
This is indeed the case if one were to believe the account of the El Mundo newspaper. They claim that most of the media and advertising efforts for the October 1st referendum were funded by Bitcoin.
Hidden from View
What has been alleged by the authorities in Madrid and the Guardia Civil (the national police) is that the leaders in Catalonia used Bitcoin in order to get around regulations set at the federal level.
These Bitcoin were then used in order to pay for the services of two American internet giants. Google was paid in order to provide a privacy protection tool for cyber-attacks on websites. Amazon Web Services was also paid for providing the vote counting software.
The Spanish government was of the view that if they were able to shut down the funding before the referendum then they would be able to slow the momentum. They targeted the Spanish banks.
In a report in the express newspaper, the Spanish government reached out to Google and Amazon and asked them to explain the nature of the relationship that they had with the Catalonian separatists.
There are also questions as to whether Mr Puigdemont (Catalan leader) and the head of the Telecommunications Centre, Josue Sallent, collaborated in any way.
This is something that was picked up on by one of the most prominent democracy advocates in the World, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Back in September he tweeted
Why all freedom loving people and states need Bitcoin part 29192: https://t.co/6mivKUh3wZ
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) September 15, 2017
Police Get Involved
Prior to the referendum there was a raid on the local telecommunications authority. The notion was that they were looking for links between certain companies in Catalonia and Google.
According to the Express and El Mundo, Josue Sallent was in contact with a company called Scytl which focused on secure electronic voting. They held several meetings over the past year. The report further went on to say that:
It is alleged Mr Sallent proposed ‘the possible development of a counting software for votes to use in elections to the Parliament of Catalonia and citizen consultations,’ according to an unnamed employee.
The company claims to be one of the best recognised in the field of secure electronic voting. On their website the claim to have managed over 100,000 electoral events in numerous countries accross the world.
Reports claim that the company had quoted between €1-2m for the project. They reached out a to a legal firm in order to establish the risks that they may have faced having been involved as the vote counter in the referendum. The law firm claimed that it was not illegal but was indeed a risky move.
Unnamed sources told the paper, members of the Catalan Government and officials involved paid with bitcoins for some of the services
There have been no comments from the company involved and many are still waiting to see what the investigators may have to say about their findings.
The Power of Bitcoin
If there is one thing that can be taken away from this story, it is the incredible power that Bitcoin has to empower those that are challenging a central authority.
Whether that central authority is a Central Bank in Venezuela, a dictator in Zimbabwe or a federal government that will not allow an independence referendum, Bitcoin can help the people.
It is indeed quite fitting, that Julian Assange, who had bank accounts closed on WikiLeaks by the US authorities was able to thrive through Bitcoin. The donations that WikiLeaks was collecting have swelled in value this year.