A 21-year old Frenchman by the name, Thomas Clausi, found out the hard way about the status of cryptocurrencies in Morocco after a court there upheld his sentence to serve 18 months in prison and a $3.7 million fine for using Bitcoin to buy a luxury car.
According to Thomas Clausi’s lawyer, Mohamed Aghanaj, the judgment of the Casablanca Court of Appeal against Thomas Clausi was upheld in May 2023.
🇲🇦🇫🇷🪙| Un français a été condamné par la Chambre criminelle du tribunal de Casablanca à une peine de 18 mois de prison assortie d’une amende de 3,4 millions d’euros.
Il a été condamné pour escroquerie et d’usage illégal de crypto-monnaie.
Il a vendu sa Ferrari en échange de 🪙 pic.twitter.com/ubk3m1p9UJ
— Moroccan History 🇲🇦۞ (@MoroccanSories) October 21, 2022
Clausi was incarcerated in December 2021 for ‘fraud’ and ‘payment with foreign currency on Moroccan territory’ and sentenced last October to 18 months in prison – on top of which he received a fine of around €3.4 million. This followed a complaint of ‘fraud’ filed by a French woman, resident in Casablanca, who had sold him a Ferrari in exchange for a Bitcoin payment worth €400,000 or $437,000.
Clausi’s arrest and subsequent jailing came after the woman filed a complaint against the crypto trader when the price of the crypto asset had dropped from $440,000 to just over $30,000.
Clausi was additionally faced with another complaint filed by a Moroccan citizen who accused him of issuing a fraudulent check in the name of a third party. The check was allegedly obtained by Clausi in exchange for Bitcoin and was intended for the purchase of three luxury watches.
The court ordered him to compensate the owner of the watches to the tune of 40,000 dirhams (€3,900 or $4,260).
According to Clausi’s father, the young man, originally from Moselle in eastern France, had relocated to Morocco with the intention of establishing a neobank in Africa.
Morocco is one of the leading countries when it comes to crypto adoption in Africa, having been ranked in 14th place in the latest Chainalysis Global Crypto Adoption Index 2022 which ranked the top 20 countries for adotion in the world.
Morocco (with Nigeria) is also among the top ten countries in the world when it comes to popularity of meme coins, based on a recent analysis by CoinGecko.
In January 2023, Morocco, through the Central Bank Governor, Abdellatif Jouahri, announced that it had completed a bill that will guide the regulation of cryptocurrencies.
According to Jouahri, the draft offers a definition for cryptocurrency that is adapted to the Moroccan context and does not aim to constrain innovation, but rather, to protect individuals from risks associated with dealing in the highly-speculative market.
Although trading of crypto is technically outlawed in Morocco, data suggests that digital assets remain highly popular. People are not dissuaded despite repeated warnings and clarifications on the risks associated with holding and trading in cryptocurrencies.
Authorities previously said that given the highly volatile nature and lack of consumer protection policies, cryptocurrencies trading poses a significant risk for Moroccan users.