April 24, 2019

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How Bitcoin Could Help Iran Undermine U.S. Sanctions

How Bitcoin Could Help Iran Undermine U.S. Sanctions
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“Not too bad,” he said.

The currency fluctuates like any other, though it has proved particularly volatile, sinking to slightly less than $4,000 a unit from nearly $20,000 about a year ago.

“We’ll have two engineers on site to keep everything running, that’s it,” said Behzad, the chief executive of IranAsic, the company running the site. He, like the European investor, did not want to provide his family name, out of fear of penalties from the United States.

The Chinese computers, called A9Antminers, were regarded as outdated by the European visitor. Still, he said, “I guess this is the last place on earth where they are still profitable.”

That helps explain why Iran seems to be taking its first baby steps toward becoming a global center for mining Bitcoins. Because of generous government subsidies, electricity — the energy for the computers needed to process cryptocurrency transactions — costs little in Iran. It goes for about six-tenths of a cent per kilowatt-hour, compared with an average of 12 cents in the United States and 35 cents in Germany.

In recent months, dozens of foreign investors from Europe, Russia and Asia have considered moving their mining operations to Iran and other low-cost countries like Georgia. “We have to be flexible in this industry and go where prices are the lowest in order to survive,” said the European investor.

Along on the inspection tour was a self-described ‘‘hard-core Bitcoiner,’’ Ziya Sadr, a bearded 25-year old with a beanie and a backpack full of hard drives and USB keys containing his personal stash of Bitcoin. “It helps me to pay to outsource jobs, or allows foreign companies to pay me,” he said.

Mr. Sadr said he was currently engineering website products for foreign clients and getting paid in Bitcoin. “These are not huge projects,” he said, “but had it not been for Bitcoin, I wouldn’t have been able get the contracts and get paid here in Iran.”





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