Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Singaporean Judge Declares Crypto Is Personal Property In ByBit Case

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In a recent development, a judge of the Singapore High Court has declared that cryptocurrencies are personal properties. The court likened crypto to fiat money, and since fiat passes as personal property, crypto should pass as one, too, the court reasoned. 

Genesis Of The Case

Judge Philip Jeyaretnam made this declaration in a case that had earlier been brought by crypto exchange Bybit against a former employee named Ho Kai Xin. Bybit alleged that Ho had transferred around $4.2 million USDT from the crypto platform’s account to her accounts. 

In what was the most expected outcome, the court ordered Ho to transfer the money back to Bybit. However, what caught the crypto community’s attention is the status that the Judge placed on cryptocurrencies. 

The Judge referred to the USDT tokens in question as a “property.” And despite these tokens not being physical, the judge opined that “We identify what is going on as a particular digital token, somewhat like how we give a name to a river even though the water contained within its banks is constantly changing.”

Crypto total market cap chart from Tradingview.com

Total market cap jumps to $1.4 following Wednesday recovery | Source: Crypto Total Market Cap on Tradingview.com

He was also quick to debunk the notion that crypto doesn’t have any “real” value, as, according to him, value is “a judgment made by an aggregate of human minds.” 

Judge Jeyaretnam further classified crypto as personal property when he referred to it as “things in action,” which means any personal property one has the right to sue for recovery. This mostly pertains to money. 

The judge also highlighted that he wasn’t referring to USDT as personal property because holders can redeem its physical equivalent. Instead, he believes that this feature isn’t required of a crypto asset for it to be classed as a “thing in action.”

Status Of Crypto In Other Jurisdictions 

This ruling is, however, not the first time that digital assets are referred to as ‘personal property’. In 2022, a London Court ruled that nonfungible tokens (NFTs) represent “private property.”

The UK Law Commission, earlier this year, also recommended that a new category of personal property should be created to accommodate digital assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs. 

Furthermore, a Montana Bill classifying crypto as personal property was also approved by the House of Reps earlier this year in April. Given this, it looks like it will not be long before crypto is finally stamped as personal property in major jurisdictions.

Featured image from CNBC, chart from Tradingview.com

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