‘Bitcoin Jesus’ offers a tax haven

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Copy of br bitcoin Bloomberg Roger Ver, the founder of passportsforbitcoin.com, holds up his passport in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, June 4. Photo: Bloomberg

Tokyo - He is known as Bitcoin Jesus in the world of cyber-currencies. Though he can’t promise you heaven, he is offering a haven: a Caribbean condo that comes with a new passport and almost zero taxes.

Meet Roger Ver, ex-US citizen, ex-convict, millionaire investor, self-described libertarian and founder of Passports for Bitcoin.com.

The ever-expanding universe of what you can buy with bitcoins includes a hotel stay in Rome, a kimono in Tokyo, and cable TV in the US. Ver, a pioneer investor in bitcoin start-ups, now says he can add citizenship to the list.

Specifically, that’s the right to live in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, two islands a three-hour flight from Miami. St Kitts has run an invest-and-become-a-citizen programme since 1984, making it the oldest of its kind, its website says.

Plunk down $400 000 (R4.3 million) for real estate and you get a passport that allows visa-free travel to 120 countries. There are no taxes on personal income or capital gains and the islands’ restrictive disclosure laws offer shelter from outside scrutiny, according to the Tax Justice Network.

Ver’s website, in English, Russian and Chinese, offers a way to purchase a piece of that paradise with bitcoins. He says it will help people who are hemmed in by government restrictions on cash transactions.

“I’m going to China next month to explain to people that bitcoin is the easiest way to pay for things outside the country,” Ver said during a meeting this month at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills.

A trim 35-year-old with a crew cut, in a black polo shirt and slacks, Ver looked a little like an electronics salesman at a big-box retailer. Still, a crowd of followers hung on his every word. A former derivatives trader at Goldman Sachs, a hacker and a professional boxer were there to pitch ideas or talk bitcoin with the master.

Ver got rich investing in bitcoin early and has become a regular speaker at industry conferences. He’s provided seed funds for a dozen prominent start-ups including Kraken, an exchange where people buy and sell the digital currency, and Blockchain, an online wallet used to store it.

Bitcoin was invented in 2008 as a currency that could be used without government oversight. That’s drawn people who want to trade illicit goods. It’s also gained support from libertarians like Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, who plans to build an artificial island where people can do what they want. Ver’s passport site is a scaled down version of that ideal. – Bloomberg


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