Melbourne is now home to a new blockchain hub where NEM representatives will provide support to members of the public on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The hub will host educational programs and blockchain events, and it will also serve as a business incubator and support centre for NEM-based blockchain startups. Having benefited from local support … Continued
The Australian federal government is testing a blockchain application to explore the use of blockchain technology to create ‘smart money’ for the country’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Dubbed “Making Money Smart”, the trial is jointly developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) – Australia’s federal science agency – and the Commonwealth … Continued
Switzerland has started sharing financial account information with tax authorities in dozens of countries as a way of fighting tax evasion, but Africa, which loses about $60 billion in illicit flows each year, mostly into European banks, is conspicuous by its absence from the deal. Swiss bank accounts have long been stereotyped as enablers of financial opacity, tax fraud and safekeeping of stolen public funds. That era is coming to an end.
Swiss Banks’ Data Exchange Halts Era of Bank Secrecy
Switzerland, for long the world capital of unreported wealth, has begun automatically sharing bank account data with dozens of tax authorities in a move calculated to crack down on tax evasion and tax fraud, reports say.
Swiss bank accounts have controversially facilitated the diversion of public funds to the private vaults of government officials, and also allowed companies to escape democratic scrutiny. Along with emerging offshore havens such as Panama, Singapore and Hong Kong, the Swiss facility has attracted public disaffection for allowing leaders, corporates and wealthy individuals to withhold obligations to their communities.
Responding to global pressure to cut back on tax evasion, Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) announced October 5 that it had started disclosing client financial account information beginning end of September, according to a report.
Data Shared With 37 Countries
The initial batch of data for about two million accounts was sent to the 28 countries in the European Union, and to Australia, Canada, Guernsey, Iceland, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Norway and South Korea. The information, drawn from 7,000 banks, insurers and other financial institutions, includes details on “owner’s name, address, country of residence and tax identification number as well as the reporting institution, account balance and capital income,” said the report.
“This lets authorities check whether taxpayers have correctly declared their foreign financial accounts,” it noted, adding that the deal is expected to expand to cover around 80 countries worldwide in the coming months, as long as they adhere to requirements on privacy and account information security.
Data sharing has been delayed in France and Australia “as these states could not yet deliver data to the FTA due to technical reasons.” Poland, Croatia and Estonia are still outstanding as well.
Africa Excluded From the Arrangement
The arrangement does not include African countries, whose poorest have suffered due to externalization of funds by corrupt leaders and corporate beneficiaries of sweetheart contracts. The bulk of the illicit flows are allegedly facilitated by European banks, particularly those in Switzerland.
According to an African Union-commissioned report, $60 billion in illicit financial flows leaves Africa through looting and tax evasion every year – no mean figure for a continent that must be addressing underdevelopment and improving citizens’ wellbeing. In the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, for example, it was revealed that patients in Uganda were sleeping on the floor of an under-resourced hospital while just next door a foreign-owned oil company was greasing government and military officials’ hands, and stashing its money in offshore tax havens.
Swiss banks minded the safes of corrupt African leaders like Mobutu Sese Seko and Sani Abacha, while the military dictators were embezzling public funds both to deny and violate the rights of their citizens. In the 1990s, Abacha hid $800 million in Swiss bank accounts while Mobutu’s millions, accumulated from Zaire coffers across decades, were controversially unfrozen to his son rather than the country, following the dictator’s death.
Justice has been legally incapacitated on Swiss turf so that stopping the illicit flow of public funds could be more effective than trying to recover them. The move to automatically share bank account data could significantly pre-empt looting and tax evasion. Since governments are often part of the problem, more civic engagement, escalating to regional institutions, in Switzerland and other tax havens, can build on the latest development to bring some form of respite to poorer citizens.
According to Reuters, the initial move still allows citizens secrecy for their domestic bank accounts, for example while keeping an eye on tax-evading professionals. This could help keep pressure on tax fraudsters while respecting citizens’ privacy.
Does maintaining bank secrecy, in the manner Swiss banks are notorious for, matter? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock
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Despite a scam alert issued by the Australian Taxation Office late last month, fraudsters impersonating employees of the tax body have still managed to con victims thousands of dollars. Per Australian newspaper reports, four victims have so far lost amounts totaling AU$50,000 on the understanding that they were settling a tax debt. According to detectives … Continued
Australian cryptocurrency payments startup Travelbybit has seen a cash injection of $2.5 million from a high-profile investor in Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. Crypto unicorn Binance is investing AUD $3.48 million (approx. USD$2.5 million) in TravelbyBit to further expansion of the latter’s network of cryptocurrency payment terminals following a successful implementation in Brisbane earlier … Continued
Asia-based accelerator program Zeroth is getting a major infusion of capital after digital media company Animoca Brands agreed to invest over $3 million into its businesses.
Animoca is listed on the ASX with a market cap of around $40 million. It is best known for its range of mobile games which include the Doraemon and Garfield brands but it has been pushing to broaden its focus into artificial intelligence, blockchain and more.
The relationship is not new. Animoca previously invested US$1 million (A$1.39 million) in Hong Kong-based Zeroth last December, and now it is following up to take a majority stake in Zeroth’s operational business and also joining its fund as an LP.
According to an announcement, Animoca is paying up to US$1.08 million (A$1.5 million) for a 67 percent share of Venture Classic Limited — Zeroth’s operational business — in addition to a $2 million commitment to Zeroth’s fund, which it will join as an LP.
Zeroth founder Tak Lo played down suggestions that the deal constitutes an acquisition, telling TechCrunch that the deal represents an important addition of capital and know-how for the business.
He added that the program will continue to operate independently and there are plans to expand its scope and geographical focus, although he declined to provide more details. He added that the Zeroth fund remains wholly owned.
Zeroth has graduated 33 companies from three batches to date, taking an average of 6 percent equity. Some has gone on to raise from other investors, including Fano Labs (which is now Accosys) which raised from Horizons Ventures, the VC firm founded by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing.
Animoca has also been a part of the program. Its OliveX health and fitness spinout graduated Zeroth before going on to raise funding of its own.
“We were impressed by Zeroth’s rise to one of the most influential AI accelerators in Asia as well as a major investor in blockchain,” Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands said in a statement. “As Animoca Brands continues to expand its AI and blockchain initiatives, Zeroth provides us with an excellent strategic match, invaluable resources, and access to high-potential ventures and technologies.”
It’ll certainly be interesting to observe how Zeroth, which was founded 18 months ago, will continue with a third-party closely involved. Animoca has been a part of the business for some time, and TechCrunch understands that Lo and his team are talking to other prospective LPs who are likely to come on board soon to give more balance and capital.
Australia’s taxman is once again sounding the alarm over fraudsters impersonating tax officials and demanding that tax debts be paid in bitcoin as well as other ‘unusual’ methods. In the latest scam alert, the Australian Taxation Office has warned that scammers are going around threatening to get the federal police to send Australians to jail
In today’s edition of The Daily, we’re focusing on human interest stories. Tales involving people rather than products, as a reminder of the many ways in which cryptocurrency affects people’s lives, transforming them for the better. From Australia to China, Thursday’s roundup is as borderless as bitcoin itself.
Never mind living on bitcoin for 21 days – one man has gone 344 days better than the Chinese women recently profiled and survived for a whole year. Armed with 1 BTC he purchased for $4,724 last August, the Redditor managed to take in 18 countries in 12 months. Trip highlights included meeting Vitalik Buterin in China, John McAfee in Singapore, and hitting up Amsterdam, where he confessed to having “Used a bit of my almost-running-out-BTC to taste true wormwood absinthe.”
The crypto fanatic captured some of his most memorable moments in a short video for posterity. The chief takeaway from his round the globe extravaganza? “Crypto will set us free.”
Bitcoin Beats Gold When Fleeing Your Homeland
Anecdotal stories have surfaced of Venezuelans having their gold confiscated at the airport. Government officials have reportedly been taking liberties and confiscating families’ life savings in some instances. While most of us will fortunately never face such a fate, the story illustrates one of the ways in which bitcoin beats physical assets such as gold or cash.
Nowallet is a new project that aims to help anyone who needs to leave home in a hurry and conceal their crypto. It promises to help users create a “plausibly deniable” bitcoin brainwallet, and was inspired by reports of incidents of bitcoin being seized physically at border crossings. Its developer explains:
You will only need to remember an email address and passphrase combination, rather than an entire 24 word mnemonic seed. People are typically more accustomed to remembering a normal set of login info, which will protect users from forgetting or misremembering part of their seed and losing coins forever.
Bitcoin Not Brickstring
Finally, crypto heads have been chuckling over a question posed on Australia’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” One of the multiple choice answers to the question “The technology that enables cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to function is called what?” was “Brickstring”. “Bullish on brickstring” quipped crypto Twitter.
What are your thoughts on today’s news tidbits as featured in The Daily? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, and Twitter.
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The latest trial from the University of Sydney’s Red Belly Blockchain running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) has clocked 30,000 transactions per second with an average transaction delay of 3 secs. Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia have concluded new trials of a hybrid blockchain that sits between public blockchains like that of
Just like has already happened with the US Dollar and the Euro, among others, Australia is about to get its first Aussie-backed stablecoin. This will be made possible by a partnership between Bit Trade, one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges in Australia, and blockchain employment platform, Emparta. The two firms will collaborate in designing and … Continued
Australia’s financial regulator and watchdog is ramping up its scrutiny into ‘misleading or deceptive’ initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-asset funds targeting retail investors. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has confirmed it has identified “consistent problems” to ultimately shut down several initial coin offerings aimed at soliciting funds from retail investors. A radical … Continued