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 21 year old man sentenced to 18 months in prison for bitcoin ‘scam in Morocco

A 21-year-old Frenchman, Thomas Clausi, was convicted Thursday in Morocco of “fraud” and illegal use of cryptocurrency and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

He was also slapped with a fine of about 3.4 million euros.

Clausi, who has been behind bars since December 23, 2021, appeared before the criminal chamber of the Casablanca court, which has jurisdiction over criminal proceedings. Before the judge, he identified himself as an entrepreneur.

In specifically, he was charged with “fraud” and “payment with foreign currency on Moroccan territory” for using bitcoins to purchase a high-end vehicle.

According to Moroccan customs, using cryptocurrencies to transfer money is against the law.

He plans to appeal, according to his lawyer, Mohamed Aghnage, who spoke to AFP. Multiple adjournments had been made for the trial.

With the aid of a translator, Mr. Clausi maintained his innocence throughout the hearing.

“I did not know that the use of cryptocurrency was prohibited in Morocco. And I insist especially on the fact that all these transactions were made in France,” he said.

A French woman living in Casablanca who had sold him a Ferrari in exchange for a payment in bitcoin for 400,000 euros filed a “fraud” complaint against him, leading to his prosecution.

“There was no fraud; the transaction actually occurred. After his detention, Thomas (Clausi) promised to return the car, demonstrating his good faith, according to Aghnage.

The civil party’s attorney, Mohamed Belkedioui, retorted that this amicable agreement “does not cancel the damage suffered by my client.”

The latter also defended a Moroccan plaintiff who claimed Mr. Clausi defrauded him by issuing a faulty check under a different person’s name that was received by the young Frenchman in exchange for bitcoins and used to purchase three expensive watches.

In his testimony to the court, the accused said that he “did not know that the cheque was bad, that he had returned two of the watches, and that he was prepared to return the third.”

In addition to the 3.4 million euro fine in favor of the customs office, the court ordered him to pay the owner of the watches 40,000 dirhams (about 3,900 euros) in compensation.

According to Thomas Clausi’s father, the young man, originally from Moselle (eastern France), had moved to Morocco with the intention of creating a neo-bank in Africa.

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