Hong Kong Issues New Rules to Regulate Cryptocurrency Funds and Exchanges

Hong Kong’s securities regulator issued a statement setting out guidelines for funds dealing with cryptocurrency Thursday, Nov. 1, saying it could move to formally regulate exchanges.

In what it called “guidance on regulatory standards,” the autonomous Chinese territory’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) set in motion a series of steps that chief Ashley Alder hinted would culminate in a formal regulatory environment.

Hong Kong differs significantly in its approach to cryptocurrency from mainland China, with cryptoasset exchange and related activities legal, though formal regulation is pending.

“The market for virtual assets is still very young and trading rules may not be transparent and fair,” Bloomberg quoted Alder as saying during a fintech forum Thursday:

“Outages are not uncommon as is market manipulation and abuse. And there are also, I am afraid, outright scandals and frauds.”

The latest proposals pertain to any fund managers investing more than 10 percent of their holdings in cryptocurrency, with entities serving exclusively professional traders able to join a sandbox scheme designed to give more room to develop new products and services.

For others, a licensing process will require entities to inform the SFC about their business practices.

The statement reads:

“In order to afford better protection to investors, the SFC considers that all licensed portfolio managers intending to invest in virtual assets should observe essentially the same regulatory requirements even if the portfolios (or portions of portfolios) under their management invest solely or partially in virtual assets, irrespective of whether these virtual assets amount to ‘securities’ or ‘futures contracts.’”

Cryptocurrency exchanges could also fall under the the SFC’s supervision more directly in future.

“…It is proposed that the standards of conduct regulation for virtual asset trading platform operators should be comparable to those applicable to existing licensed providers of automated trading services,” it adds.

Hong Kong’s sharpening of its regulatory oversight comes while more and more jurisdictions move to do the same, as Bitcoin and major altcoin markets stabilize and a general acceptance of their longevity begins to crystalize.

Last week, Taiwan announced it would release dedicated rules governing Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) by June next year, having previously chosen not to regulate the sector.

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NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be in Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail Stores

News

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owner of arguably the most important stock exchange in the world, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is introducing a new company, Bakkt. The idea is to weave bitcoin into 401(k)s, credit cards, and retail. The project is getting a lot of hype due in large measure to two very powerful backers: Microsoft and Starbucks. Is this the mainstreaming ecosystem enthusiasts have been urging?

Also read: Bitcoiners Hope to Have a Friend in Top US Regulator Jay Clayton

NYSE Wants Bitcoin in 401(k)s, Credit Cards, Retail Stores

ICE’s digital assets head, turned CEO of the new project Bakkt, Kelly Loeffler, explained in a company blog, “Formed by Intercontinental Exchange — an operator of global exchanges, clearing houses, data and listings services — Bakkt will work with companies that include BCG, Starbucks, Microsoft and others, to create an open ecosystem that supports growing needs in the ~$270 billion digital asset marketplace.”

ICE quietly owns and operates two dozen regulated markets and exchanges, from the United States and Canada to Europe. It also holds clearing houses in the Netherlands, Singapore, greater Europe, the US, and Canada as well. It has revenues well in excess of $5.5 billion. It’s also the parent company for the NYSE, an exchange with great prestige among traditional finance: the NYSE is 226 years old, and is easily the globe’s biggest exchange by market cap, some $21.3 trillion as of last summer.

NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be In Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail StoresMs. Loeffler told Fortune how for over a year ICE built Bakkt in secrecy. The company name is a twist on asset backed securities, Bakkt, which by design is to engender trust. And trust is everything in the legacy marketplace, but it has a decidedly different meaning in the cryptocurrency world. Trust on Wall Street usually means regulations, and lots of them.

Indeed, by late Fall this year, Bakkt hopes to have a fully federally regulated space for all things bitcoin. Fortune notes how “ICE aims to transform Bitcoin into a trusted global currency with broad usage.” That’s an interesting admission for enthusiasts wondering what Wall Street is ultimately up to with this enormous announcement and marketing/public relations campaign. Trust in the Bitcoin ecosystem is established through mathematics, voluntary adoption, by completely bypassing third party fragility, frictions, and gatekeepers for which legacy finance is famous.   

NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be In Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail Stores

Speculation and Coffee

“By combining regulated infrastructure with institutional and consumer applications,” Ms. Loeffler continues, “we’ll apply our track record of bringing transparency and trust to previously unregulated markets. In this way, we intend to play a key role in boosting institutional, merchant and consumer participation in digital assets.” Investment, also according to Fortune, includes Boston Consulting Group, Fortress Investment Group, Eagle Seven, and Susquehanna International Group in addition to better known brands Starbucks and Microsoft.

No doubt, ICE’s endorsement of Bitcoin lends a great deal of credence for other Wall Street investors to start exploring the cryptosphere. A futures market appears immediately in the works. Ms. Loeffler’s blog post details, “As an initial component of the Bakkt offering, Intercontinental Exchange’s U.S.-based futures exchange and clearing house plan to launch a 1-day physically delivered Bitcoin contract along with physical warehousing in November 2018, subject to CFTC review and approval. These regulated venues will establish new protocols for managing the specific security and settlement requirements of digital currencies. In addition, the clearing house plans to create a separate guarantee fund that will be funded by Bakkt.”

NYSE Owner: Bitcoin Should Be In Retirement Funds, Credit Cards, Retail StoresFortune believes the bigger move Bakkt is proposing involves everyday retail ventures. “Using Bitcoin to streamline and disrupt the world of retail payments,” the magazine stressed, “by moving consumers from swiping credit cards to scanning their Bitcoin apps. The market opportunity is gigantic: Consumers worldwide are paying lofty credit card or online-shopping fees on $25 trillion a year in annual purchases.” Both Microsoft customers and Starbucks customers are very familiar with digital, smartphone related transactions. Transitioning over to bitcoin, with institutional blessing, should be a snap, ICE is assuming.

Starbucks’ Vice President of Partnerships and Payments, Maria Smith, was quoted in the press release, noting, “As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted, and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks.” That also appears to fly directly in the face of Bitcoin’s ultimate point. To nearly everyone familiar with its power, bitcoin as a currency is an end in-and-of-itself, it is the value, and was meant to leave fiat — not to be simply a keen transfer mechanism to government paper. Nevertheless, Bakkt’s CEO, Ms. Loeffler, concludes, “We’re excited about the opportunity to help unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets. Bakkt is preparing for launch in upcoming weeks, and we look forward to keeping you updated.”

Is bringing Wall Street into crypto a good thing? Let us know in the comments section below. 


Images via Pixabay, ICE, NYSE. 


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Crypto Mining Firm CEO Exit Scams with $35 Million in Investor Funds


The CEO of Sky Mining, a crypto mining company in Vietnam, has disappeared with investor funds totaling about $35 million, according to a local news outlet.

About 20 investors of Sky Mining reported the matter to the local police in the Phú Nhuận District after learning that “approximately 600 mining machines had been removed” by imposters who had claimed to be maintenance workers. The investors were also alarmed when they noticed the company’s central office was shut down and its branding removed. The investors believe the company’s CEO, Lê Minh Tâm — who had been unreachable for a week — had run off with the stolen funds.

Le Minh Hieu, deputy chairman of Sky Mining, shared the same sentiment. In an interview with the local media, he said it was possible Tâm stole the mining rigs along with the funds. While maintaining his innocence in the fraud, he said, “[The board] has reported this to the police and showed evidence that we are not guilty, he said. “We are victims, too.”

In a twist of events, Tâm, who had not been in contact with any of his colleagues since the incident was reported, posted a 44-second video on Telegram, where he claimed to be receiving medical treatment and promised to return investors funds.

“You will have your money, thank you for your cooperation, I did not run or go anywhere, I will come back soon,” he said.

The Sky Mining app store claims to have more than 1,000 machines operating around the clock, allowing investors to rent mining rigs to earn passive income over a period.

The company hosted events in Hanoi and HCMC to attract investors in which its officials claimed it was the biggest cryptocurrency mining company in Vietnam.

Investors were advised to invest a minimum of $100 to $5,000 in each of the rigs, which were kept at a storage center owned by Sky Mining. The company also promised investors a mouth-watering ROI plus commissions for inviting new members.

Cryptocurrency mining has been on the rise in Vietnam, as businesses lure investors with an attractive monthly interest in addition to capital invested. According to a Xinhua report, Vietnam imported over 6,300 mining devices from January to April in 2018 and over 9,300 in 2017.

Last month, Vietnam’s Central Bank agreed to enforce stricter restrictions on digital currencies by suspending the importation of crypto mining devices.

Featured Image from Shutterstock

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Crypto Mining CEO Said to Disappear With $35 Million In Funds

The chief executive of a cryptocurrency mining startup has reportedly disappeared with $35 million in client investments, Newsweek reported Monday.

Le Minh Tam, head of Vietnam-based Sky Mining, has been missing since July 26, according to the report. The startup, which claimed it would rent crypto miners to investors for between $100 and $5,000, received funds from roughly 5,000 individuals prior to Tam’s disappearance last week. Each miner would promise a 300 percent return over a year, with investors keeping the machines for at least 15 and up to as many as 18 months.

However, when one group of investors went to pick up their miners last Friday, they found that the firm’s mining facility and office were empty, and that the mining machines had already been taken away. Tam later reportedly claimed he sold them to cover financial losses, and that his disappearance was aimed at protecting his life.

He sent a similar message on Sunday, claiming that he would return, but Sky Mining deputy chairman Le Minh Hieu claimed the CEO had stolen the funds and relocated to the U.S.

Some investors have already filed lawsuits against the firm, though it is unclear if they will receive their funds back.

Vietnamese news outlet VnExpress reported that Tam controlled every aspect of the company, overseeing all mining operations and controlling all the funds.

Hieu said he tried to set up a temporary board to run the company in Tam’s absence, but death threats against him and his family forced him to shut it down.

Thief image via Shutterstock

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Vietnamese Regulator Tells Firms and Funds to Stay Away From Crypto

Regulation

Vietnam’s securities watchdog has required local businesses not to engage in transactions with cryptocurrencies. The announcement follows a directive issued by the country’s prime minister earlier this year aimed at tightening what Vietnamese regulators call the management of crypto activities.

Also read: China Releases Ranking of 31 Crypto Projects

Securities Watchdog Asks Companies to Obey AML Rules

The State Securities Commission of Vietnam (SSC) has required relevant companies and funds not to engage in any issuance, transaction or brokerage activities related to cryptocurrencies. The measure, referred to by local media as a ban, affects public companies, securities companies, fund management firms and securities investment funds. They have also been asked to obey anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

Vietnamese Regulator Tells Firms and Funds to Stay Away From Crypto

According to the SSC, the announcement is based on Directive No 10/CT-TTg signed on April 11 by Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Viet Nam News reported. The document puts an emphasis on strengthening the management of activities related to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The outlet also notes that the use of digital currencies is prohibited in Vietnam.

Not the First Anti-Crypto Measure

This is not the first administrative measure aimed at curbing crypto activities in the country. In April, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) banned commercial banks, payment services providers and intermediaries from making transactions involving cryptocurrencies. The central bank also issued a warning stating that such activities may increase the risks of money laundering, terrorism financing, trade fraud and tax evasion.

Vietnamese Regulator Tells Firms and Funds to Stay Away From CryptoLast October, the SBV declared that cryptos do not represent a “lawful means of payment” in the Asian country. Its proposals in that respect, which were submitted to the government in Hanoi, included a ban on the issuance, distribution, and use of cryptocurrencies as well as criminal prosecution and fines for their users.

Recently, citing the familiar argument – the need to improve the management of cryptocurrencies in Vietnam – the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the SBV reached an agreement to suspend the import of crypto mining equipment. The proposal came from the Finance Ministry in June, as news.Bitcoin.com reported.

Fraud and Scam in Vietnam

Vietnamese Regulator Tells Firms and Funds to Stay Away From CryptoIn the past couple of years, the Vietnamese mining sector has been growing rapidly leading to a significant increase in the number of imported mining rigs. Digital coin minting, however, has caused concern in Hanoi. In May, close to 150 Vietnamese government agencies, financial institutions and businesses took part in a large cyber-security drill aimed at preventing the spread of mining malware.

Crypto-related fraud has played a role in shaping the current attitude of Vietnamese authorities and regulators towards the crypto space. The country recently had to deal with one of the largest scams in crypto history in which more than 30,000 people were defrauded into investing in the Ifan and Pincoin currencies.

What are your expectations for the future of cryptocurrencies in Vietnam? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock and the SSC.


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