India: Central Bank Report States Crypto Does Not Threaten Financial Stability

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stated that cryptocurrencies currently pose no threat to financial stability in its recent financial report, published Dec. 28.

The document entitled “Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2017-18” reads:

“[C]rypto-assets do not pose risks to global financial stability currently. The market continues to evolve rapidly, however, and this initial assessment could change if crypto-assets were to become more widely used or interconnected with the core of the regulated financial system.

RBI quoted a conclusion drawn from a recent report by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) — an international agency consisting of banking and financial institutions from different countries, including India. RBI itself is a member of the FSB, along with country’s Securities and Exchange Board and Ministry of Finance.

In its study “Crypto-asset markets: Potential channels for future financial stability implications,” published October, the FSB claimed that bankers see no significant danger in the existence of cryptocurrencies, as their total market cap by that time had barely reached 2 percent of the global value of gold. However, the board urged watchdogs to keep an eye on the digital coin markets, given their quick growth.

RBI reiterated this stance in its December report, stating that сryptocurrencies need “constant monitoring,” given their rapid expansion in recent years.

The legal framework for cryptocurrencies in India remains unclear, as RBI formally stopped all banks from dealing with cryptocurrencies in April. The de facto prohibition came into effect in June, while the Supreme Court’s hearings on the case — initiated by local crypto firms — were repeatedly postponed. At the same time, an Indian government panel is reportedly considering a complete ban on crypto.

Initially, RBI had considered launching its own central bank digital currency, dubbed “Laxmi.” However, in January, the bank gave up the idea of making a stablecoin tied to the rupee, stating that it’s too early to even think about it.

Yesterday, Jan. 3, the police of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir issued a statement, warning the public against investing in cryptocurrencies due to the “heightened risk” associated with them. The authorities also added that digital currencies are not regulated by the Indian government.

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India: Media Reports Central Bank Has Postponed ‘Crypto-Rupee’ Plans

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is pausing its plans to release a digital currency, Indian business news outlet the Hindu Business Line reported on Jan. 1.

India’s central bank had originally announced its intentions to consider a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in April of this year, at the time noting the establishment of an interdepartmental group to look into potential advantages and feasibility.

In August, RBI confirmed the creation of the group, specifying that it was researching a CBDC that would be backed the rupee for reasons including the cost of printing paper and the rising popularity of using digital tokens.

Now, amid confusion over the group’s exact findings, which remain a mystery, Delhi has apparently had a change of heart.

“The government doesn’t want the digital currency any more. It thinks it is too early to even think about a digital currency,” Hindu Business Line quotes an unidentified source as saying.

The hesitancy echoes that which the government displayed last week on the topic of cryptocurrency regulation. Non-CBDC assets such as Bitcoin (BTC) will remain in a gray area for the foreseeable future, one state minister told parliament, saying the issue was being approached with due caution.

Expectations had been that India would put some form of regulatory framework in place in 2018, amid anger over RBI’s ongoing ban on crypto transaction processing by banks.  

The government, meanwhile, continues to seek ways of reducing cash usage in India while attaching transactions to consumers’ biometric data via the Aadhaar scheme — reportedly the world’s biggest biometric ID system, which contains the records of more than one billion people.

Some parties appeared relieved at the shelving of the CBDC option.

“It is premature for RBI to launch crypto-rupee, as more understanding of the crypto economy need to be achieved,” local cryptocurrency exchange Belfrics founder Praveen Kumar told Hindu BusinessLine. He added:

“It is a right decision to delay the process and see how the publicly traded peer-to-peer economy is shaping up.”

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Dutch Central Bank Proposes License Requirement for Cryptocurrency Service Providers

Cryptocurrency service providers will soon be required to obtain a license from the central bank of the Netherlands, major Dutch news outlet DeTelegraaf reports Dec. 11.

The article explains that the measure has been undertaken hoping that it will “prevent such cryptocurrencies being used to launder money obtained through crime or to fund terrorism.”

To qualify for a license, providers will reportedly need to know who their customers are and report unusual transactions. All of this data will be monitored by De Nederlandsche Bank, the Dutch central bank.

After the implementation in April of similar laws in Japan obliging cryptocurrency exchanges to report dubious cryptocurrency transactions, a notable increase in the number of such reports was noted this winter.

In August, an executive at the Dutch central bank stated that cryptocurrencies aren’t recognized as “real money,” but that the bank has no plans to ban them. Also in August, an advisor of the central bank claimed that Bitcoin’s (BTC) price changes coincide with Google searches for the cryptocurrency.

As Cointelegraph reported in October, the Port of Rotterdam has partnered with both a major Dutch bank and Samsung to test blockchain use for shipping in Europe’s largest port. Also in Holland, the country’s largest supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, revealed in September that it is using blockchain to make the production of its orange juice more transparent.

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Chinese Central Bank Governor Defines STOs as ‘Illegal Financial Activity in China’

The People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the country’s central bank, highlighted the illegality of Security Token Offerings (STOs) in the country, English-language local news outlet South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports Dec. 9.

A deputy governor of China’s central bank, Pan Gongsheng, reportedly told a summit in Beijing “that ‘illegal’ financing activities through STOs and ICOs [Initial Coin Offerings]  were still rampant in the mainland despite a nationwide clean-up of the cryptocurrency market last year.”

Gongsheng also said that if the government had not stepped in, the chaotic crypto market could have hurt the overall financial stability in China.

The central bank official pointed out that “the STO business that has surfaced recently is still essentially an illegal financial activity in China.” Gongsheng also reiterated the stance that cryptocurrencies are associated with crime:

“Virtual money has become an accomplice to all kinds of illegal and criminal activities.”

According to the article, Gongsheng noted that “most of the financing operations conducted through ICOs in China were suspected of being illegal fundraising, pyramid sales schemes and other financial fraud.”

The article also mentions that the chief of the Bureau of Financial Work, Huo Xuewen, warned against STOs about a week ago. He said:

“I want to warn those who are promoting STO fundraising in Beijing. Don’t do it in Beijing. You will be kicked out if you do it.”

On the other hand, blockchain adoption — the tech behind most cryptocurrencies — has been relatively embraced in China. As Cointelegraph recently reported, a Chinese Internet Court has started using blockchain to protect the intellectual property of online writers.

The legal basis of this development can be assumed to be the Chinese Supreme Court’s ruling from September, which established that blockchain can legally authenticate evidence.

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Hodler’s Digest, Nov. 12–18: a Stablecoin Gets Sharia Certified, the IMF Considers Central Bank Digital Currencies

Coming every Sunday, the Hodler’s Digest will help you to track every single important news story that happened this week. The best (and worst) quotes, adoption and regulation highlights, leading coins, predictions, and much more — a week on Cointelegraph in one link.

Top Stories This Week

Swiss Crypto Firm X8 AG Receives Islamic Finance Certification for Sharia-Compliant Stablecoin

Swiss-based fintech firm X8 AG has received a certification from the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) for its Ethereum-based stablecoin. According to the X8 director and co-founder, the ETH-based crypto asset is backed by a basket of eight fiat currencies and gold, allowing Islamic advisors’ concerns over excessive volatility and speculation to be assuaged. The debate whether crypto can be Sharia-compliant has focused on their compatibility with the Islamic prohibition on sheer monetary speculation.

IMF’s Christine Lagarde: Central Bank Digital Currencies Could Have Legitimate “Role”

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, said this week that the international community should look into endorsing central bank issued digital currencies (CBDCs). Lagarde, despite being “not entirely convinced” of the concept of crypto more generally, stated the case for countries to issue government-backed tokens or similar assets in a speech. The comments came a day after the IMF published a dedicated report on CBDCs, examining what it views as the pros and cons of the financial tool.

Aftermath of Bitcoin Cash Fork Cause Expensive “Hash War” Between Camps

This week’s Bitcoin Cash (BCH) hard fork has led to a so-called “hash war,” resulting in mining at a hefty loss on both sides. BitMEX Research tweeted that “although the ABC SV split is entertaining, we estimate that SV miners are burning $280,000 per day mining the SV chain.” On the other side, BCH ABC miners are estimated to be making even larger losses than the SV camp. BitMEX Research estimated these numbers based on SV miners using Bitmain’s Antminer S9 machines, their ability to sell SV coins at the current spot market price ($100 at the time of the tweet), and energy consumption costs of 5 cents per/kWh.

Blockchain Protocol EOS’ Decentralization Questioned After Transactions Reversed

Blockchain protocol EOS had questions raised about its decentralization again this week as evidence emerged on Reddit that appeared to show a moderator reversing transactions which had already been confirmed. According to screenshots posted on the site, a dispute over a phished EOS account was referred to an EOS “arbitrator,” who then reversed the transactions without the owner’s permission, citing the EOS constitution for the actions.

US Man Fined $1.1 Million Over Fraudulent Bitcoin, Litecoin Schemes

U.S. citizen Joseph Kim of Phoenix, Arizona has been sentenced to 15 months in jail and fined $1.1 million for the misappropriation of Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin (LTC) from several people. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has found that Kim defrauded his employer of about $601,000 worth of BTC and LTC into his own accounts in 2017. After Kim was subsequently fired, he reportedly then defrauded private investors to return the funds to his employer, luring around $545,000 worth of crypto from five individuals before losing the funds in a high risk bet.

Most Memorable Quotations

“Any time there are hard forks things tend to trade weird and strange, so I think people are trying to take some risk off the table,”— Meltem Demirors, CSO of CoinShares   

“Few remember that Satoshi embedded the genesis block with a Times headline from January 2009 about U.K. banks’ bailout. In more ways than one, Bitcoin is the evil spawn of the financial crisis,”  — Benoit Coeure, executive board member of the European Central Bank (ECB)

Laws and Taxes

Judge Rules in Favor of Canadian Bank in Case With Crypto Exchange 5k

A judge has ruled in favor of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in the court case involving a $19.6 million disputed sum between the bank and Canada’s largest crypto exchange QuadrigaCX. On Oct. 8, the exchange reported it had difficulties accessing its funds since january, when CIBC froze five accounts belonging to the exchange’s payment processor, Costodian Inc., and its owner, Jose Reyes over its purported inability to identify the funds’ owners. This recent court decision hands the disputed sum into the custody of the Ontario Superior Court so the court can identify the owner of the money.

Ripple Lawyers Suggest Moving Ongoing Securities Lawsuit to Federal Court

Lawyers representing payment startup Ripple in its current securities lawsuit are attempting to move the case to a U.S. federal court, a move that one legal commentator described as “tactical brilliance.” The court records confirm the application to move the case, which would potentially allow the outcome to prove that its XRP token is not a security under U.S. law. In the filing, litigation partner Peter Morrison noted that the case meets the requirements needed for the move to take place.

Malaysian MP Asks Gov’t to Develop Crypto Regulations Before Approving Political Funding Coin

A Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP) has asked the country’s government to develop comprehensive cryptocurrency regulations before going further with the Harapan Coin (HRP) crypto project. The project claims to be the world’s first political fundraising platform, with the aim of raising money for the opposition party in Malaysia and potentially becoming an official currency. The MP said this week that it was important to have appropriate crypto regulations before they are used to finance political campaigns and initiatives.

Ohio Congressman Plans Draft Bill to Let ICOs “Sidestep” Securities Laws

Ohio Congressman Warren Davidson made clear plans this week to introduce a bill that would allow Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to “sidestep” U.S. securities laws. The Republican congressman for the 8th district of the state of Ohio wants to propose a bill that would categorize ICOs as products, rather than securities, at both the federal and state level. The referred-to bill would reportedly “eliminate” the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) oversight of the industry.

Adoption

Major Swiss SIX Stock Exchange Lists World’s First Multi-Crypto ETP

Switzerland’s main stock exchange, the SIX Swiss Exchange, announced this weekend that it would list the world’s first multi-crypto-based exchange-traded product (ETP) next week. The ETP will be backed by Swiss startup Amun AG, will be listed under index HODL, and will track the five major cryptos: BTC, XRP, ETH, BCH, and LTC. The Amun AG index will be managed by the German index unit of investment management firm VanEck. Each crypto will have a certain market share within the upcoming ETP, with Bitcoin accounting for around half of the ETP’s assets.

Microsoft Introduces Cloud-Based Azure Blockchain Development Kit

U.S. software corporation Microsoft has announced the release of a serverless blockchain-powered Azure development kit, dubbed the “Azure Blockchain Development Kit.” The kit reportedly improves the capabilities of Microsoft Azure’s Blockchain Workbench, with features like off-chain identity and data, monitoring, and messaging application programming interfaces (API) in a format that can be used to develop blockchain-based apps. The announcement also notes that the release will focus on core objectives like “connecting interfaces, integrating data and systems, and deploying smart contracts and blockchain networks.”

Bank of America Receives Patent for Storing Clients’ Crypto in Enterprise Accounts

Major U.S. bank, Bank of America, has won a patent for a system that allow enterprises to store customers’ crypto deposits. The filing outlines several different interactions between clients’ crypto holdings and an enterprise account, with one setup allowing the enterprise account to conduct transactions on the customers’ behalf, debiting and crediting the account as appropriate. The document also touches on fiat-crypto conversions, outlining a system for determining optimal exchange rates for an “essentially simultaneous” conversion.

Chinese Insurance Giant Ping An, Sanya City Gov’t Build “Smart City” With Blockchain

One of the world’s largest insurance corporations, China’s Ping An Insurance Group, has signed an agreement with the Sanya municipal government to build a “Smart City” backed by blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cloud computing. The cooperation on financial investment and “Smart City” construction will play a role in the major strategic urban development in China.

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Partnerships

South Korean Messaging App Kakao, Stablecoin Tether Partner for Blockchain Payment System

Major South Korean Internet conglomerate and service provider Kakao Corp (which own messaging app KakaoTalk) and new stablecoin Tether have partnered to develop the latter’s blockchain-based payment system. The new agreement will apply the former’s blockchain platform tech Klatyn, of Kakao subsidiary Ground X, to a blockchain-based payment system. The cooperation plans to work on enhancing “core requirements for payment services, such as speed, stability and reliability.”

ETH-Payment Platform OmiseGo, Singapore Ride Hailing App Partner for Blockchain Tech

Ethereum-based payment platform OmiseGo and blockchain protocol Mass Vehicle Ledger (MVL) have announced that they will work together to research blockchain technology. The two companies will develop a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) to test whether the decentralized OMG Network could work for MVL’s data record-keeping system, recording data collected from TADA on the OmiseGo platform. OmiseGo and MVL will also collaborate on further technical and research cooperation on possible blockchain applications in TADA’s services.

Electronics Firm Bosch Partners With IOTA for New IoT Data Device

Engineering and electronics manufacturing giant Bosch has partnered with IOTA, with plans to integrate its new data collection Internet of Things (IoT) device with the decentralized IOTA Data Marketplace. The new connectivity device, Bosch XDK (Cross Domain Development Kit), is “a programmable sensor device and Internet of Things prototyping platform” that also works as a sensor node solution. The device will combine sensor, data storage, and network technologies to allow users of all programming level to collect real-time data and sell it on the IOTA marketplace.

Major Spanish Telecoms Operator and IBM Partner to Manage International Call With Blockchain

Spanish telecommunications firm Telefónica has partnered with IBM in order to apply blockchain tech to managing international mobile phone call traffic. Telefónica, the seventh largest telecom company in the world by market cap, is valued at $51 billion according to Forbes. The partnership is aimed at streamlining certain Telefónica business processes, including the reliability and transparency of information registered from various network when routing international calls. The telecoms company will use the IBM Blockchain Platform to track each international call and data such as origin, destination, and duration.

German Holding Company Bitcoin Group SE Acquires 100% of Investment Bank Tremmel

Bitcoin Group SE, a German holding company, has acquired a 100 percent stake in investment bank Tremmel Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH. Bitcoin SE operates what is reportedly the county’s only regulated crypto exchange, Bitcoin Deutschland AG (Bitcoin.de). With the acquisition, the crypto holding will now obtain the use of Tremmel’s banking license, allowing the company to “significantly expand” its crypto-related offerings and operate ATMs for cryptocurrencies in Germany.

Funding Rounds

Hong Kong Crypto Exchange KuCoin Raises $20 Million in Funding Round

Hong Kong-based international crypto exchange KuCoin closed a Series A funding round this week worth $20 million. The round was led by IDG Capital, Matrix Partners, and Neo Global Capital, and the exchange noted that the funds will go towards the release of KuCoin’s 2.0 platform as well as expansion into new markets.

Winners and Losers

The crypto markets have taken a hit this week, with total market cap around $185 billion, Bitcoin trading around $5,599, Ripple at $0.52, and Ethereum at $176 by press time.

The top three altcoin gainers of the week are ZeusCrowdfunding, GoHelpFund, and Coupecoin. The top three altcoin losers of the week are Etheera, Vivid Coin, and Olive.

Top three altcoin losers of the week:

For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.

FUD of the Week

“Crypto Hangover”: Nvidia’s Q3 Results Show Lack of Demand for GPU Crypto Units

American GPU manufacturer Nvidia released its third quarter earnings this week, showing a lack of demand for Nvidia’s GPU’s among crypto miners. The crypto frenzy late last year brought the prices for Nvidia gaming cards up, but with the bear market, the prices have not decreased quickly enough to attract customers waiting for more affordable cards, according to the Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang. Huan told Reuters that the “crypto hangover lasted longer than we expected.”

Analysis: Bear Market, Declining Hashrates Makes Mining ETH Not Profitable

A report from U.S.-based global trading and tech firm Susquehanna has found that mining Ethereum (ETH) using a graphics processing unit (GPU) is no longer profitable. The analysis shows that profit per month for ETH miners using GPU rigs is now $0 as of Nov. 1, as opposed to the $150 per month in July 2017. Susquehanna notes reasons for the decline in profit include Ethereum’s falling price, but adds that in July 2017, miners profit was $147 even as ETH traded roughly around its current price.

Official Google G Suite Twitter Account Reportedly Compromised to Promote BTC Scam

The official Twitter account of Google’s G Suite appeared to tweet a Bitcoin (BTC) giveaway scam this week to its more than 800,000 followers. The tweet in question asked its followers to participate in a fraudulent 10,000 BTC giveaway, also announcing that Google’s G Suite now accepted crypto as a means of payment. Tech news outlet The Next Web later reported that the account was compromised through a third party marketing app that was authorized to post content on G Suite’s behalf. The scam also targeted major U.S. department retailer Target.

WSJ Report: SEC Opened Probe Into Erik Voorhees, Crypto Loans Firm Salt Over Token Sale

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had opened a probe in February against crypto loans company Salt Lending Holdings, which was once associated with crypto industry stalwart Erik Voorhees. The probe involves whether Salt’s 2017 $50 million token sale constituted a noncompliant securities offering and Voorhees’ potential involvement, which could break laws as he has effectively been prohibited from raising money in private markets after a SEC settlement in 2014.

US SEC Imposes “First” Civil Penalties Against Two ICOs for “Unregistered” Securities

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has levied civil penalties on two Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) this week over their failure to register their token sales. CarrierEQ Inc. (Airfox) and Paragon Coin Inc. both reached settlements with the SEC, agreeing to “return funds to harmed investors, register the[ir] tokens as securities, file periodic reports with the Commission, and pay penalties” of $250,000 each. Both of the firms conducted token sales last year following the SEC’s warning that ICOs could be considered as securities offerings.

Prediction of Tthe Week

Bloomberg Analysts Predict BTC Price Fall As Low As $1,500

Bloomberg Intelligence analysts have predicted this week that Bitcoin “has further to fall,” noting that the coin is “no longer boring.” Hedge fund founder Travis Kling told Bloomberg that he “didn’t sleep well” in response to the recent Bitcoin Cash hard fork, adding that it could affect the entire crypto market.

Best Cointelegraph Features

Why Did Crypto Market Experience a $27 Billion Wipeout? Experts Discuss Factors

After the market saw several cryptocurrencies hitting new year-to-date lows, Cointelegraph looks at some of the reasons behind the $27 billion “wipeout.”

Opposing Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV Factions’ Debates Grow Heated as the Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork Draws Closer

This week saw a volatile market amidst the Nov. 15 Bitcoin Cash hard fork, which divided the community into two “warring” factions: Roger Ver’s Bitcoin ABC and Craig Wright’s Bitcoin SV (Satoshi’s Vision).

Skirting the Great Wall, Part Three: The Paradox of Cryptocurrencies in China

In the third part of Cointelegraph’s series on Chinese cryptocurrency regulations (read part one – here, and part two – here), the article looks at the People Bank of China (PBoC)’s crypto regulatory interventions, as well as the role of China’s judiciary in cases involving crypto.

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European Central Bank Exec Calls Bitcoin the ‘Evil Spawn of the Financial Crisis'

Executive Board member of the European Central Bank (ECB) Benoit Coeure considers Bitcoin (BTC) to be the “evil spawn of the [2008] financial crisis,” Bloomberg reports Nov. 15.

Coeure reportedly made his acid remarks at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel. The BIS’ general manager Augustín Carstens has likewise previously made a spate of crypto-skeptical remarks, notably characterizing Bitcoin as a “combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster.”

Explicitly recalling Carstens’ characterization, Coeure framed his criticisms of the ten year old innovation with a reference to the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in fall 2008 – the tipping point for economic turmoil, global recession, and, subsequently, the controversial “too big to fail” rationale for state intervention:

“Few remember that Satoshi [Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin] embedded the genesis block with a Times headline from January 2009 about U.K. banks’ bailout. In more ways than one, Bitcoin is the evil spawn of the financial crisis.”

After this historical overture, Coeure continued to address international monetary authorities’ present-day pursuit of cryptocurrency tokens and distributed ledger technology (DLT) initiatives. While acknowledging the widespread interest, he claimed that “there is broad agreement that a central bank digital currency, in whatever form, is unlikely to be issued within the next decade.”

The ECB official’s stance is at odds with remarks from International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde just yesterday. Speaking at the the Singapore Fintech Festival Nov. 14, Lagarde urged the international community to “consider” endorsing central bank-issued digital currencies (CBDC), arguing they “could satisfy public policy goals,” specifically “financial inclusion.”

Coeure’s argument is also directly contrary to that of Stanley Yong, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of IBM’s Blockchain for Financial Services, and a veteran of Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Yong stated this week that CBDCs are “the only way” to mitigate the “kinds of risks that came about during the Lehman crisis of 2008,” and could specifically prevent a settlement system freeze – a systemic failure that affected financial systems across multiple countries during the Lehman fallout.

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China Should Consider Launching its Own Stablecoin, Central Bank Expert Says in Op-Ed

The Chinese government should consider launching its own yuan-backed stablecoin despite the current ban on cryptocurrencies, an op-ed in Chinese financial journal CN Finance reports Tuesday, Oct. 9.

An expert from the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), Li Liangsong, and professor of Fudan University Wang Huaqing wrote an article called “Analysis of Digital Stable Coins” for CN Finance — a bimonthly journal affiliated with the PBoC.

In the opinion piece, the authors provide a brief review of USD-backed coins, such as Tether, the Gemini dollar, and Paxos Standard. The researchers expect them to increase the role of dollar on a global stage and to suppress other fiats, with the yuan among them.

The authors suggested that China should analyze other companies’ experience and “double its efforts” to create a local stablecoin. However, other digital currencies have to stay prohibited in China, they stated.

Stablecoins have recently seen a boom with two USD-backed coins launching in the U.S. in September.

The Winklevoss twins, founders of crypto trading platform Gemini, acquired permission from New York regulators to release their own stablecoin, the Gemini dollar. Later, Circle — through a consortium that includes Bitmain — announced it is launching a USD-backed digital token dubbed the “USD Coin.”

Shortly after, the audit giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partnered with decentralized lending platform Cred to offer their expertise in launching its USD-backed coin, especially in terms of transparency and “substantiation,”

The Chinese government first started its anti-crypto campaign in 2017 by closing all of the country’s cryptocurrency exchanges and banning Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). Following the move, the PBoC has repeatedly warned citizens about the risks of crypto trading.

Despite the crypto ban, the country has actively been exploring blockchain solutions. Earlier this autumn, the PBoC announced that its blockchain trading and finance platform is launching in Shenzhen. The ecosystem is also being tested in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and the Macau Bay Area and is being developed for cross-border trading. Later, the country’s official blockchain pilot zone was established in the Hainan province within a dedicated tech park.

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China's Central Bank Warns Investors of ICO, Crypto Risks

China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), has today, September 18, issued a new public notice “reminding” investors of the risks associated with Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crypto trading.

The notice, released from the bank’s headquarters in Shanghai, reiterates the severe line that has been adopted by the country’s Office for Special Remediation of Internet Financial Risks, which first introduced a blanket ban on ICOs in September 2017.

Today’s notice censures the “unauthorized” and “illegal” ICO financing model for posing a “serious disruption” to the “economic, financial and social order”:

“[ICOs are] suspected of illegally selling tokens, illegally issuing securities, illegal criminal activities, financial fraud, pyramid schemes and other illegal and criminal activities.”

The PBoC has today hailed the successes of the country’s stringent restrictions that have targeted ICOs and a broad spectrum of crypto-related activities to date, claiming that:

“[T]he global share of domestic virtual currency transactions has dropped from the initial 90% to less than 5%, effectively avoiding the virtual currency bubble caused by skyrocketing global virtual currency prices in the second half of last year in China’s financial market. The impact has been highly recognized by the community.”

Nonetheless, the bank recognizes that several challenges remain, notably the prevalence of offshore exchanges that are used by investors to circumvent the mainland ban.

The PBoC notes that the Office for Special Remediation of Internet Financial Risks has now adopted a series of targeted measures, including blocking up to 124 IP address suspected of providing a gateway to domestic crypto traders.  

It further points to redoubled efforts to “clean-up” payment channels and strengthen monitoring and inspection mechanisms, noting that around 3,000 accounts have already been closed as a result of increased oversight. Lastly the notice outlines recent measures undertaken to counter the circulation of crypto “hype” materials.

As previously reported, on August 25 the PBoC had already issued a fresh risk alert against “illegal” ICOs, warning that blockchain and the idea of “financial innovation” are being used to lure investors as a “gimmick” that conceals essentially fraudulent Ponzi schemes.

This summer has seen an onslaught of toughened anti-crypto measures from Beijing, which have included a ban on commercial venues from hosting crypto-related events in certain districts.

Alongside ‘offline’ measures, China’s tech titans – Chinese ‘Google’ Baidu, Alipay’s Alibaba and WeChat-developer Tencent – have all tightened their monitoring and acted to ban accounts suspected of engaging in or propagating crypto and even blockchain related activities.

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From Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan: How Cryptocurrencies Are Regulated in Central Asia

As been reported on September 2, the president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, ordered the establishment of a state blockchain development fund called the “Digital Trust.” Earlier in September, a decree legalizing crypto trading — also making it tax-free — and mining in the country came into force, making Uzbekistan a crypto-friendly state. But how is the rest of the Central Asia region is holding up?

The list below is based on thorough news research, but should in no way be considered complete. If you have more detailed information on banks and the crypto relationship in your country, we encourage you to share it in the comment section.

Kazakhstan

Regulation

Kazakhstan has clearly shown its interest in cryptocurrencies. According to a study published by the search engine Yandex in March, locals have been searching for crypto-related terms in frequency and the amount is several times higher this year as compared to 2017.

However, a definite regulatory framework has yet to be introduced in the country. There are signs that this situation might change in the near future, however: In May, Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, called for global cooperation in terms of crypto regulation.

Nazarbayev stressed that “most countries are actively exploring the possibility of adapting cryptocurrency to the current configuration of financial systems,” adding:

“At the same time, we see completely separate actions of states in this issue. And these disparate actions will lead to inefficiency. It is necessary to start developing common rules.”

The president’s comment followed the National Bank of Kazakhstan’s (NBK) announcement that they are going to ban crypto trading and mining in the country. On March 30, CBK head Daniyar Akishev declared in an interview with RIA Novosti:

“In Kazakhstan, the National Bank is very conservative toward [cryptocurrencies], I welcome only relatively tight regulations. To elaborate, we want to prohibit buying and selling of cryptocurrencies with the national currency, we want to ban exchanges on this field, we want to ban any kind of mining.”

Akishev cited investor protection, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know-Your-Customer (KYC) measures as primary reasons behind a potential blanket ban on cryptocurrencies. He added that NBK’s point of view is shared by “the majority of public authorities” in Kazakhstan and that his agency has already “prepared” amendments to the law.

Blockchain

Kazakhstan is actively trying to become the region’s main blockchain hub: In June, the country’s capital, Astana, held “the most important event for fintech in Central Asia” — a large blockchain conference supported by some public authorities and the Kazakh Association for Blockchain and cryptocurrencies (KABC).

KABC was registered in November 2017 by at least six organisations, some of which are led by people who previously worked at local regulating bodies. The coalition’s chairman has previously stated that their primary goal is to “define the rules for crypto and blockchain’s market jointly with the watchdog.”

Some of the country’s public authorities have already started researching crypto’s underlying technology. Thus, in April, the Ministry of Finance announced it was going to launch a blockchain-powered database, while a local cluster of innovation teamed up with IBM to study how the IT giant’s Hyperledger Fabric could be implemented for the local economy.  

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan explicitly banned cryptocurrencies back in July 2014, when the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic issued a statement warning that the use of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies as a form of payment is illegal under the national law:

“Under the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic, the sole legal tender on the territory of our country is the national currency of Kyrgyzstan som. The use of ‘virtual currency,’ Bitcoins, in particular, as a means of payment in the Kyrgyz Republic will be a violation of the law of our state.”

The central bank also warned the citizens about Bitcoin’s lack of regulation and high levels of volatility. Around the same time, a Bitcoin ATM machine was installed in Bishkek by Italian financial analyst Emanuele Costa, who argued that the ATM could greatly impact the way migrant workers in Kyrgyzstan send money back home. According to the World Bank, migrant remittances from 2013 totaled 31 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP.

Despite the central bank’s harsh stance on crypto, virtual currencies are present in the country. As Valery Tutykhin, head of the International Finance Centre Development Agency, told local news agency 24.kg, investing in cryptocurrencies is possible in Kyrgyzstan:

“Our local investment market infrastructure can be used to legally invest into any crypto assets. Does someone want to buy cryptocurrencies? Let him do it through the local commodities exchange, and he will pay local taxes. Does someone want to raise capital for a startup through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)? Let him do it through the local stock exchange. Its listing rules are not so complex.”

Blockchain 

Despite the regulatory uncertainty, the Kyrgyz Republic has proven to be blockchain-friendly. According to a March report dubbed “The Legal Status of Blockchain Technology in Kyrgyzstan” that was commissioned by the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange and the International Finance Centre Development Agency and prepared by Geneva-based law firm John Tiner & Partners, the law of Kyrgyzstan does not prohibit or hinder the development of blockchain-based projects, including cryptocurrency mining and trading. 

Specifically, the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange has been developing a blockchain-backed project to facilitate trade securities and make real-time settlements. Moreover, in April, the State Patent Office of Kyrgyzstan (KyrgyzPatent) announced that it will digitize patent records and create a blockchain-powered database with the help of the Russian National Intellectual Property Transactions Coordination Center (IPChain).

Tajikistan

Tajikistan

Regulation

Cryptocurrencies are neither legal nor banned in Tajikistan. However, in January the National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT) voiced its opinion regarding the issue for the first time, calling Bitcoin “a terrorism financing tool.”

“Being based on experience of financial institutions, the National Bank warns nationals of Tajikistan of risks related to use of Bitcoins,” NBT declared in a written reply to Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service.

Blockchain

While the government of Tajikistan seems to ignore the technology, there are some blockchain projects in the country. Specifically, in June 2017, Hong Kong-based blockchain startup Bitspark teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to study the potential for blockchain remittances as a way to improve financial inclusion in Tajikistan.

According to Bitspark research, Tajikistan remains an underbanked country, as an estimated 85 percent to 90 percent of the population do not have formal banking accounts. Instead, they rely on alternative services for domestic and international payments, an area where blockchain has shown some progress.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan

Regulation

There’s no concrete information regarding virtual currencies’ legal status in Turkmenistan. According to responses posted on a thread on a Russian mining forum, where the opening poster asked whether it was possible to buy cryptocurrencies in Turkmenistan, even the over-the-counter (OTC) markets are barely present in the region. Reportedly, virtual currencies there can only be bought with U.S. dollars, but the government has been actively limiting access to foreign currency for local companies and citizens.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Regulation

Recently, Uzbekistan has introduced a number of positive regulation laws for the local crypto industry, namely recognizing trading and mining, as well as exempting local crypto traders from taxation.

The country’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has signed a law legalizing the activities of crypto exchanges, which came into force on Sept. 2. According to the decree, foreign nationals can only trade cryptocurrencies in Uzbekistan by means of creating a subsidiary in the country. The law also specifies a minimum capital requirement of roughly $710,000 to register a crypto exchange.

Moreover, crypto traders will not be subject to Uzbek stock market regulations and will be relieved of their obligation to pay taxes on trading revenues.

Under the new legislation, crypto exchanges must also comply with counterterrorism and AML laws. They are also bound to store information on crypto transactions, clients’ personal data and their correspondences for five years.

Blockchain

The local government has not ignored blockchain, either. In September, President Mirziyoyev also ordered the establishment of a state blockchain development fund titled the “Digital Trust,” according to a document published on the official government website.

The fund’s primary goal is to integrate blockchain into various government projects, including healthcare, education and cultural areas. The organization will also be responsible for international investment in the Uzbek digital economy. The Digital Trust will reportedly be funded by the National Agency of Project Management, in addition to international loans and grants.

Furthermore, in July, Mirziyoyev signed the order “On measures for digital economics development in the Republic of Uzbekistan.” The document makes provisions for blockchain to be integrated into local public administration.

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Ban U-Turn? India’s Central Bank Admits Cryptocurrency Regulation is Necessary


In a first, India’s central bank has called for the regulation of the domestic cryptocurrency sector during Friday’s hearing at the Supreme Court, weeks after enforcing a banking ban against crypto companies.

Earlier in April, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular that forbade all financial institutions – banks included – from offering services to businesses in the cryptocurrency sector. Furthermore, the policy also mandated banks to stop customers from purchasing cryptocurrencies using fiat funds in their banking accounts.

A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in India’s Supreme Court calling for regulation of the cryptocurrency sector saw the central bank absolve itself of any responsibility in framing a policy, claiming it was a policy matter requiring legislation through India’s Parliament rather than a subject of debate among courts.

Amazingly, the RBI then admitted that it – as a central bank responsible for framing monetary policies in the country – conducted no research nor consultation before enforcing the prohibitive policy in keeping banks from offering services to cryptocurrency businesses and exchanges.

As CCN reported last week, India’s Supreme Court finalized a September date as the final hearing from the crypto industry petitioning against the central bank banking ban. It has also come to light that the lawyer representing the central bank also underlined the need to regulate the sector, the first notable instance wherein the RBI has called for regulation as a matter of policy.

As reported by the Financial Express, RBI special counsel Shyam Divan told a bench led by chief justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud that it was necessary to regulate bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to prevent “illegal transactions” in the country. Last week’s hearing also had India’s attorney general KK Venugopal in attendance, signifying the importance of the petition and case overall.

The RBI’s softening stance, after years of repeated public warnings by the central bank, coincides with the timing of a final draft of regulations developed by an inter-governmental committee tasked to formulate a policy for the sector in the country.

Rumors are that Indian authorities are looking to classify cryptocurrencies as commodities, a move that would see cryptocurrency trading markets regulated similarly to traditional mainstream financial markets.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Indian Central Bank Makes a Case Before Supreme Court Against Allowing Crypto Use

Regulation

India’s central bank told the country’s supreme court on Friday that “allowing dealings in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin would encourage illegal transactions.” Other crypto petitions being heard include one asking the government to “take emergency steps to restrain the sale and purchase of illegal cryptocurrencies.”

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

RBI’s Argument

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country’s central bank, appeared before the supreme court Friday to defend its position regarding cryptocurrencies. RBI issued a circular on April 6 banning financial institutions under its control from providing services to crypto companies.

According to the Economic Times, the central bank told the court:

Allowing dealings in cryptocurrencies like bitcoins would encourage illegal transactions and it has already issued a circular prohibiting use of these virtual currencies.

Indian Central Bank Makes a Case Before Supreme Court Against Allowing Crypto UseRBI explained that crypto is “a stateless digital currency” that operates independently of a central bank such as itself, thereby “rendering it immune from government interference,” the news outlet noted.

The Financial Express elaborated that the central bank believes “it is necessary to regulate the bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to check illegal transactions which will impact the international flow of funds.” Senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for RBI, reiterated that the central bank has a particular stance and other departments may have other positions.

Petitions Being Heard

Petitions against the RBI crypto banking ban are not the only ones that the supreme court is hearing. The Economic Times described:

Some petitions challenged the use of virtual currencies and alleged that they posed grave dangers to the traditional economy and they also sought framing of guidelines to regulate them … They also sought a direction for the Centre to take emergency steps to restrain the sale and purchase of illegal cryptocurrencies.

Indian Central Bank Makes a Case Before Supreme Court Against Allowing Crypto UseThe Hindu pointed to one particular petition, filed by father and son Siddharth Dalmia and Vijay Pal Dalmia. “Mr. Dalmia, in his plea, has sought a direction to the Centre to take steps to restrain sale and purchase of illegal cryptocurrencies like bitcoins, which were being traded openly for ‘illegal activities’ like funding terrorism and insurgency,” the publication wrote.

The supreme court already heard the duo’s initial petition in November last year and subsequently issued notices to various government departments including RBI. The central bank responded at the time that it had warned people against the usage and risks associated with crypto. However, the Dalmias were not happy with RBI’s reply and filed a new petition, pointing out the inadequate action by the central bank.

At the hearing on Friday, the supreme court gave the government until September 11 to respond to all petitions.

What do you think of RBI’s view and action? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock and RBI.


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Vietnam’s Central Bank Thinks Cryptocurrency Miners Should Be Banned

Regulation

According to regional reports, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has agreed with a proposal to ban imported cryptocurrency mining machines in order to keep the digital currency economy tethered tightly to the government’s regulatory frameworks. The proposal was introduced by the country’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) after the SBV announced that cryptocurrency use within Vietnam was not a “lawful means of payment” this past October.

Also read: Bitcoin Vietnam Faces Losing its Domain from Government

The State Bank of Vietnam Agrees Cryptocurrency Miners Should be Banned

Vietnam's Central Bank Thinks Cryptocurrency Miners Should be BannedLately, Vietnam’s government and regulatory bodies haven’t been too friendly towards the cryptocurrency industry. Last October the country’s central bank detailed in a letter to the public that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were not a “lawful means of payment.” Furthermore, if Vietnam residents decided to use “bitcoin and other similar virtual currency they may be subject to prosecution.” Then, this past June, news.Bitcoin.com reported on Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance initiating the idea that the country’s governing authorities should ban cryptocurrency mining device imports.

Now the local Việt Nam News reports that the central bank agrees with a proposal written by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) which calls for the banning of these mining machines. Vietnam’s MoIT and the SBV believe that letting these devices come into the country makes it harder for the government to regulate bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Many Vietnamese officials have been deliberating on how to handle the cryptocurrency industry and in April the country’s Prime Minister, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, signed an initiative to tighten regulatory guidelines.

Crypto-Fraud Sparked the Regulatory Crackdown

Vietnam's Central Bank Thinks Cryptocurrency Miners Should be BannedThe Ministry of Finance and MoIT have explained the reason for the current regulatory proposals towards mining rigs is because they want to protect Vietnamese consumers from scams in the future. All of the latest regulatory announcements towards cryptos have followed the recent Vietnamese law enforcement bust that dealt with the largest cryptocurrency fraud case that claimed more than 32,000 victims. The officials think that banning cryptocurrency mining machine imports will further help protect local consumers until virtual currency regulations are more solidified.

Việt Nam News also details that the General Department of Customs estimates that the country has imported 15,600 mining devices from 2017 to April 2018. The state administration of customs says that a great majority of machines were imported to areas such as Đà Nẵng, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hà Nội.

What do you think about Vietnam’s state administrations attempting to ban cryptocurrency miners in the country? Let us know your thoughts on this subject in the comment section below.


Images via Shutterstock, Central Bank photo taken by Xita, and Pixabay. 


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India: Supreme Court Decision on Central Bank Crypto Dealings Ban Moved to September

The Supreme Court of India’s hearing on the central bank’s ban on crypto dealings, originally scheduled for July 20, has been moved to September, according to a July 19 Twitter post by a team of Indian lawyers involved in crypto regulatory analysis.

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) crypto banking ban was implemented in early April of this year, and prohibits local banks from providing services to any person or business that deals with cryptocurrencies.

The July 19 tweet notes that the Supreme Court listened to “limited arguments” on the behalf of the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and RBI, but due to a “few others” not filing responses to petitions, the final arguments will be heard on September 11, 2018.

In mid-May, the Supreme Court had upheld RBI’s crypto dealings ban until the July hearing, in early July also ruling not to grant interim relief to those affected by the ban.

The deadline to implement the ban on dealing with crypto-related accounts expired July 5. Since then, Indian citizens have not been able to buy and sell crypto on exchanges, and crypto exchanges and companies cannot receive loans from banks in India.

Also in July, an anonymous source in the government reported that Indian regulators might treat cryptocurrency as a commodity rather than instituting a blanket ban.

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Vietnam’s Central Bank Approves Call to Suspend Import of Cryptocurrency Miners


Vietnam is closing in on a sweeping move to – temporarily – ban the import of ASIC cryptocurrency mining equipment after the central bank approved the proposed plan.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), the country’s central bank, is in agreement with a government ministry’s proposal to suspend imports of cryptocurrency miners, local publication Vietnam News reported on Thursday.

As reported previously, the proposed blanket ban was first made by Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) last month and was subsequently brought forward by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) in an official letter. At the time, the MoF highlighted the absence of crypto mining hardware from the list of goods banned from importation, claiming it was difficult to place any restrictions on crypto activity.

The increased scrutiny by Vietnamese authorities into the cryptocurrency sector is seemingly a direct consequence of a nationwide ICO-related fraud that allegedly conned 32,000 domestic investors out of an estimated $660 million.

The severity of the fallout led to Vietnam’s prime minister ordering six government ministries, including the MoF, and the central bank to investigate the alleged scam. Under its mandate, the MoF contended ‘it requires State management agencies to take strict control measures with the import and use of this [crypto mining] commodity’, according to the report. As a result, the MoF proposed the temporary suspension to ban the import of cryptocurrency miners.

According to figures from Vietnam Customs, over 9,300 application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) devices were imported into Vietnam in 2017. As of April 2018, Vietnamese nationals had already imported 6,300 rigs, predominantly into Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, according to a local report.

Vietnam was initially thought to be preparing legislation to legalize cryptocurrencies in mid-2017. This did not come to pass, however.

Instead, the central bank moved to outlaw cryptocurrencies for payments by refusing to include it into the default list of approved non-cash payment methods in October 2017. Those laws came into effect at the turn of 2018, wherein adopters of cryptocurrencies are also under the threat of prosecution and fines between VND 150 million and 200 million [approx. $8,900].

ASIC miner image from Shutterstock.

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