Branson Buys Into Bitcoin

Billionaire Richard Branson has pumped almost £20 million into the controversial online currency Bitcoin.

His £17.8 million investment makes him one of the leading backers of the virtual currency which seemed dying on its feet earlier in the year after allegations of involvement in organised crime and scams.

Branson has put his money into BitPay, an online payment application for the currency that runs on the lines of PayPal.

Some of the cash is also believed to have gone towards buying up a stock of Bitcoin.

Branson has lent his support over a long period to the principles behind Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Virgin Galactic

His Virgin Galactic space venture accepts payments from passengers in Bitcoin – and the payments were processed by BitPay, the firm he has bought into.

BitPay is believed to deal with around £600,000 of Bitcoin transactions a day.

“This investment from someone with such a high profile in the business world as Sir Richard will help take us to another level,” said BitPay founder and chief executive Tony Gallippi.

“The company is setting up offices around the world and this investment will help us expand quicker.”

The birth pangs of Bitcoin have been mired in controversy and dogged by bad luck since coming online in 2009.

No one owns the software that generates Bitcoin; the currency has no official site, staff or offices and is not regulated by any government or central bank.

The currency is generated by users solving complex mathematical problems.

Conference scandal

Meanwhile, a new controversy has hit the Bitcoin Foundation, a collaboration of Bitcoin traders.

At least 10 members have resigned in protest of former Disney child star and Bitcoin entrepreneur Brock Pierce as a director.

The row has hit the foundation on the eve of its annual conference in Amsterdam. Around 1,000 entrepreneurs and investors are expected to attend the conference.

The resignations relate to allegations about Pierce involving bankruptcy, drugs and pressuring employees for sex which are currently waiting to go before courts. Pierce denies the claims.

He was voted on to the board to take the place of two disgraced members – Mark Kapeles, chief executive of the bankrupt leading Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox and Charlie Shrem, who is facing charges of conspiring to launder money for underground web site Silk Road.

US law enforcement officers accuse Silk Road of acting as a front for organised crime involving the sale of drugs and weapons.

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