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Singapore High Court Recognizes Crypto As Personal Property, Equates It To Fiat Money

Singapore’s High Court has ruled that crypto assets are considered property and can be held on trust in a case involving Seychelles-headquartered exchange Bybit and a former contractor. This marks a notable step in the legal classification of digital assets in Singapore.

Singapore Declares Crypto Is Property

Judge Philip Jeyaretnam of the High Court of Singapore ruled on Tuesday that cryptocurrency is a form of property.

The judge dismissed any differences between crypto, fiat money, or shells, noting that all those objects, physical or not, derive their value from mutual faith in them. Crypto assets, despite their lack of physical presence, were deemed “things in action,” a term in British common law describing a type of property over which personal rights are capable of being enforced in court.

“We identify what is going on as a particular digital token, somewhat like how we give a name to a river even though the water contained within its banks is constantly changing,” he observed.

Genesis Of The Case

The judgment was made in a case involving the Bybit cryptocurrency exchange and a former employee who allegedly breached her employment contract by transferring more than 4.2 million Tether (USDT) to her personal addresses. It was believed that Ms. Ho went on a spending spree after receiving the funds, purchasing a freehold penthouse apartment with her husband, a brand-new car, and multiple Louis Vuitton products.

Like any other thing in action, USDT is capable of being held on trust,” Judge Jeyaretnam ruled.

The judge further dismissed the common belief that crypto assets have no “real” value, concluding that value is “a judgment made by an aggregate of human minds.”

Judge Jeyaretnam referenced the consultation paper by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in her decision. The paper outlined potential requirements for segregation and custody of digital payment tokens, declaring that if digital assets can be practically identified and segregated, they could be legally held on trust.

The ruling also cites Order 22 of Singapore’s Rules of Court 2021, which includes crypto or other digital currency, cash, debt, a cash balance at a bank, bonds, shares, and other securities, in the definition of “movable property”.

The court has now ordered Ho, who accused a non-present cousin “Jason Teo” of gaining unauthorized access to her work laptop and controlling the relevant addresses, to return the assets to Bybit.

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