SA law firm starts accepting Bitcoin payments

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Johannesburg - Bitcoins can be used to buy takeaways and even air tickets in some countries, but a South African law firm is the first locally to accept the crypto-currency as payment.

Law firm Thomson Wilks - which has offices across South Africa in cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban - has added Bitcoin as a payment option for its clients.

Thomson Wilks has teamed up with a local company called ‘Voomar’ who will receive Bitcoins on the law firm’s behalf and then either convert them to cash or hold onto the virtual currency as an investment.

"I like the idea of Bitcoin as an international, across-the-board currency,” Stephen Thomson, a director Thomson Wilks, told Fin24

"And secondly, because we're the only law firm using it, we're the only people with whom those who want to spend Bitcoin can come to.

"So, it's kind of like a captive client base,” Thomson said.

Bitcoin has had a roller-coaster ride over the last year with the currency surging in value past the $1 000 mark late last year, but then crashing to below $400 currently.

Setbacks facing the crypto-currency include it being used on internet black-market Silk Road to buy drugs and the collapse of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox this year.

Nevertheless, the likes of top Silicon Valley internet pioneer and Netscape browser co-founder Marc Andreessen has previously publicly described Bitcoin as the most important technology in existence.

And Thomson told Fin24 that because Silicon Valley won’t let Bitcoin “fail”, he believes it will push through any challenges.

"It has had some bad publicity in the past, but it's growing,” Thomson told Fin24.

"I think it has room to improve in value; I really do,” he added.

Meanwhile, the company handling Thomson Wilks’ Bitcoin payments, Voomar, has developed a unique solution for the law firm to allow it to invest and sell the crypto-currency.

Voomar, which has only opened up to the public in the last two months, is a South African managed Bitcoin fund. The company allows small investors to buy Bitcoins using their credit cards and Voomar says its service also takes care of intricate details regarding managing and safely storing the virtual currency.

Meanwhile, the company also targets larger Bitcoin investors looking to speculate on the crypto-currency with investments of $10 000 and upwards. Voomar then charges small fees for managing all investments.

"They (Thomson Wilks) are going to use a hybrid of the larger fund investment and then accept Bitcoin as a payment method into their fund,” Alexis Boshoff, co-founder and CEO of Voomar, told Fin24.

"We've never actually considered that this will be the way that our company will grow,” Boshoff said.

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