Entrepreneur Gabriel Cretu Torica installed Malta’s first Bitcoin ATM in Sliema, according to the Times of Malta. The machine, installed outside a shop on Blanche Huber Street, allows people to make bitcoin purchases and check their e-wallet balance via QR codes. Torica also managed to scoop the competition – the installation came days after local start-up Ivaja launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the island’s first Bitcoin ATM.
Torica said he had already purchased the Bitcoin ATM, but not installed it, when he heard about the crowdfunding campaign. The Times also reported that Torica claimed he has no connection whatsoever to the Gabriel Cretu Torica in Slovenia who failed to appear in court last year for damaging an ATM in an attempt to install a skimming device. With this debut machine, Torica hopes that not only will Bitcoin purchases become easier, but that cryptocurrency can be introduced to a wider base of users.
At a BitMalta event a few weeks earlier, lawyer Nicola Lapira advised against installing a Bitcoin ATM without first receiving approval from the Malta Financial Services Authority.
How does Bitcoin work?
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer payment system created by Satoshi Nakamoto, an unknown person or persons. It has no central authority and is usually cited as the first decentralised digital currency. Bitcoins are mathematically generated in the computer network of Bitcoin “miners”, with the total limited to 21 million. This makes it impossible for a central bank to add new Bitcoins that would devalue those already in circulation. As of 2017, there are at least 16 million Bitcoins in circulation.
E-wallet holders normally purchase Bitcoins from their peers through a bank transfer or credit card purchase on an internet exchange service. Bitcoin holders can then exchange their currency for other currencies, products or service in the legal or underground markets.
"Many people are still suspicious of Bitcoin and immediately assume it's something used by criminals. But I'm sure this will change over time as people realise the benefits."
—Gabriel Cretu Torica, owner of Malta’s first Bitcoin ATM, to the Times of Malta
An ATM can be a more convenient way to buy Bitcoin, as long as the user has an e-wallet. Online exchanges often ask for ID verification that can waste up to 24 hours, so ATMs can have the advantage of speed. Convenience comes at a cost, though: the Bitcoin ATM in Sliema will incur an 8% transaction fee compared to the 1-4% online. People who use the ATM will receive an immediate and automatic confirmation on their phone or email address, Torica added.
Malta’s Bitcoin scene
Ivaj, the cryptocurrency advocacy group which started the crowdfunding campaign, will continue their campaign. The start-up hopes to raise $6,000 USD in a month to purchase and install a second Bitcoin ATM. Ivaj co-founder Leon Siegmund has pledged to finance the rest of the project if the campaign does not reach its goal.
The government has also expressed interest in Bitcoin. In April the Cabinet of Malta approved the first draft for a national strategy to promote Bitcoin and blockchain technology. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is a vocal proponent for Malta to embrace cryptocurrency.
Nonprofit blockchain association BitMalta held its inaugural event earlier this month. Speakers on the panel included members from WH Partners, Quaestum Corporate Management and the Malta Gaming Authority. BitMalta founder Jonathan Galea wants to bring industry experts together to host regular seminars and discuss ways Bitcoin can drive the industry forward.