Bitcoin in Brief Friday: UN Backs Crypto-Solar Project in Moldova, Malta Uses Blockchain in Public Transportation

Bitcoin in Brief Friday: UN Backs Crypto-Solar Project in Moldova, Malta Uses Blockchain in Public Transportation

Today’s Bitcoin in Brief features several examples of harnessing crypto and blockchain technologies to improve quality of life around the world. The United Nations is involved in a crypto-funded project to power Moldova’s Technical University with solar energy. Initiatives in Malta and India will employ blockchain technologies to create more reliable public transportation and land registry systems.

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Thursday: OECD Explores Cryptocurrencies, Central Asian Powerhouse Calls for UN Crypto Rules

UN Launches Crypto-Funded Solar Power Project in Moldova

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is launching this year a crypto-funded initiative to power a university in Moldova with solar energy. The project, to be realized in partnership with the South African solar power marketplace Sun Exchange, will allow people to buy solar cells and then lease them to the Technical University in Chisinau, which is one of the largest in the country.

According to a VOA report, the purchases will be made using Solarcoin, a crypto launched by the blockchain startup Electricchain. The idea is to find new sources of finance “to help buildings go green overnight, in this case with rooftop solar panels,” said Dumitru Vasilescu, program manager with UNDP in Moldova. “One of the biggest obstacles to countries investing in renewable energy is the lack of financing, as you often have to wait 10 to 15 years before you get a return on your investment,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Bitcoin in Brief Friday: UN Backs Crypto-Solar Project in Moldova, Malta Uses Blockchain in Public Transportation

Vasilescu added that the university will get a full 1 megawatt of energy installed in the summer as a result of the crowdfunding effort. The owners of the solar cells will in turn receive Solarcoins, as soon as the university produces energy, and will be able to earn about 4% interest on their investments. According to the UNDP representative, there is more than 10,000 square meters of unused rooftop space on public buildings in the country, which could potentially be covered with solar panels.

Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, is heavily dependent on energy imports, mainly from the Russian Federation. Cryptocurrencies have been gaining popularity in the former Soviet republic which is economically and politically on a crossroad between East and West. The local crypto community has recently opened the country’s first cryptocurrency exchange and presented a new digital token, both developed locally.

Malta Uses Blockchain for Better Public Transportation

Authorities in Malta, a country maintaining a crypto-friendly regulatory environment, are working on a project to use blockchain to improve the public transportation services. Maltese Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Ian Borg, has announced a partnership with Omnitude, a multi-enterprise blockchain platform. According to a press release, the deal is part of the nation’s blockchain strategy that will see the technology implemented to develop a transport and logistics platform using Omnitude’s blockchain middleware technology.

Bitcoin in Brief Friday: UN Backs Crypto-Solar Project in Moldova, Malta Uses Blockchain in Public Transportation

On the first stage, the government will work with the company to introduce overall improvements in transport reliability. Omnitude is a tech partner of Formula 1 team Williams Martini Racing and is working to assess the benefits that blockchain can bring to advanced engineering. Their project is said to be the first example of using blockchain in F1.

“We believe in Omnitude’s blockchain technology and its broad use-cases for the government […] It will improve the quality of life and enhance access to information for Maltese citizens. Blockchain technology is a key part of our overall technology strategy that will transform different sectors,” Ian Borg said. Earlier this year, Malta became one of the first countries in the world to approve a national strategy on blockchain technology.

Land Registry in India Made Reliable with Blockchain

The potential of the technology underpinning the majority of cryptocurrencies is not left unnoticed in other parts of the world. In India, blockchain will be used to trace transactions in property sales almost in real time. A newly announced project aims to build a land registry using blockchain technology for the Indian city of Panchkula, according to a blog post on the website of the London School of Economics.

Bitcoin in Brief Friday: UN Backs Crypto-Solar Project in Moldova, Malta Uses Blockchain in Public TransportationThe people behind the initiative – Alexandru Oprunenco, innovation advisor for the UNDP in Asia, and Chami Akmeemana, CEO of the Blockchain Learning Group – say their small venture is actually a “big deal” that represents a “meaningful and commercially viable solution” for the region. They point out that in many cities across the developing world land registry systems suffer from inefficiency and corruption. People selling a piece of land are often unsure if they legally own it, even if they have a legitimate sale deed. Potential buyers, on the other hand, are also not sure if the seller owns the plot.

“With blockchain we have a chance to fix many of these problems. The solution we are building incorporates many key benefits of the technology, such as an immutable history of transactions, so that no one doubts the authenticity of the records or be able to forge them,” Oprunenco and Akmeemana explain. Their project is using the Ethereum blockchain.

The Central Bank of Libya Says Bitcoin Is Illegal

Bitcoin in Brief Friday: UN Backs Crypto-Solar Project in Moldova, Malta Uses Blockchain in Public TransportationObviously failing to recognize the potential of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technologies, the central bank of Libya has declared “virtual currency” illegal in the country. Those who use it cannot be protected by Libyan law, the financial institution said, quoted by The Libya Observer.

On Tuesday, the CBL warned all Libyan citizens and businesses of the “security perils” of cryptocurrency, saying that it could be used in crimes, financing terrorism and money laundering – arguments often heard from financial regulators and central banks around the world. According to the notice, any use of virtual currency requires prior permission from the central bank in Tripoli.

What are your thoughts on today’s topics in Bitcoin in Brief? Let us know in the comments section below.


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World’s Second Largest Search Engine Bans Crypto Ads

World’s Second Largest Search Engine Bans Crypto Ads

Melissa Alsoszatai-Petheo, of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, announced its advertising arm is banning all cryptocurrency advertisements. This follows market leaders such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter either severely restricting crypto ads or banning them altogether.

Also read: Ethereum Futures in US One Step Closer as CME Deal is Struck

Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine Bans Crypto Ads

Advertiser Policy Manager, Melissa Alsoszatai-Petheo, posted an update to Microsoft’s Bing search engine ad policy. Bing Ads to Disallow Cryptocurrency Advertising is the title of the company’s rather obvious move. “We are always evaluating our policies to ensure a safe and engaging experience for our Bing users and the digital advertising ecosystem,” Ms. Alsoszatai-Petheo began. “Because cryptocurrency and related products are not regulated, we have found them to present a possible elevated risk to our users with the potential for bad actors to participate in predatory behaviors, or otherwise scam consumers.”

World’s Second Largest Search Engine Bans Crypto Ads

Bing has consistently ranked a very distant second behind the Google juggernaut, which gobbles up better than 60% of search traffic on the internet. Google at the beginning of 2018 announced a far more specific series of cryptocurrency related prohibitions, down to defining contract for difference (CFDs) products.

It wasn’t too much later when Facebook followed, as we reported at the end of January, with “a new ruling issued on January 30, ‘ads must not promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings, or cryptocurrency.’” Twitter too, a mere two months later, presented its new advertising policy, severely restricting initial coin offering (ICOs) and token sales.

World’s Second Largest Search Engine Bans Crypto Ads

Protection is the Pretext

“To help protect our users from this risk,” the notice from Bing continued, “we have made the decision to disallow advertising for cryptocurrency, cryptocurrency related products, and un-regulated binary options. Bing Ads will implement this change to our financial product and services policy globally in June, with enforcement rolling out in late June to early July.”

Other than seeking a press cycle of promotion, it does appear “scams” were a bit of a problem during 2017, according to Bing’s annual report. “Tech scams are widely used by bad actors and we rejected 25 million ads in this category in 2017,” they insisted. And under the banner of misleading ads, Bing noted how last “year, we took down 30 million such ads, 20,000 such websites and 43,500 bad actors.”

Do you think crypto ad bans will have a negative impact? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 


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Pakistanis Find Ways to Trade Bitcoin Rendering Ban Ineffective

Pakistanis Find Ways to Trade Bitcoin Rendering Ban Ineffective

The crypto ban in Pakistan is proving to be not as effective as expected. If anything, the State Bank has barred commercial banks and financial firms from dealing in cryptocurrency which, of course, makes life harder for local exchanges. Individual traders, however, are finding alternative ways to acquire or sell cryptocurrencies, defying the warnings and the prohibitions.     

Also read: India’s Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Banks’ Crypto Services, For Now

Central Bank Can’t Ban Cryptocurrency in Pakistan

Pakistan’s experience with cryptocurrencies offers another example of how ineffective financial authorities can be when trying to fill a legal vacuum with prohibitive administrative measures. Central banks often forget they are neither parliaments, nor governments, and their regulatory overreach cannot legitimately substitute the normal legal process. The recent decision of the State Bank of Pakistan to ban crypto-related activities proves that observation.

In early April, the SBP issued a circular on the “prohibition of dealing in virtual currencies”, right after a similar measure by the Reserve Bank of India, the regional rival. Unlike their Indian colleagues, who gave banks and traders three months to comply, Pakistani central bankers imposed the ban with immediate effect. SBP said virtual currencies and tokens were not legal tender and reminded it had not authorized any individual or entity to issue, sell, purchase, or exchange any such coins in Pakistan. All banks, microfinance entities, payment system operators and service providers were “advised to refrain” from dealing in cryptocurrencies.

Pakistanis Find Ways to Trade Bitcoin Rendering Ban Ineffective

The local market is by no means comparable to India’s booming crypto sector. According to Danyal Manzar, CEO of Pakistan’s first bitcoin exchange Urdubit, about 100 different digital coins were being traded daily across all mediums before the ban. His trading platform decided to close down permanently following the prohibition. “The decision was made in haste. Ample time should always be provided for a proper shutdown. But we respect the SBP’s decision,” he told The Express Tribune.

Immediately after the ban, Urdubit warned its clients to withdraw both their fiat and their crypto funds. A month later, however, some of its users still have bitcoins in their accounts on the platform. Manzar believes that those who want to trade will continue to do so because “alternative ways still exist that will continue to be tapped no matter how risky they are.” He thinks that cryptocurrencies would only disrupt the stock market, and not the entire monetary system. “About 80 to 85% of the traders from stock exchanges came to try their luck in virtual currency,” he said.

Localbitcoins PKR Trade Spikes After Ban

Recently, Pakistani crypto traders told Asia Times that the central bank’s move initially caused a dip in the crypto market but the volume of trading has gradually picked up after alternative trading methods were discovered. “Traders realized that the SBP hasn’t, and can’t ban cryptocurrency in Pakistan,” Lahore-based trader Majid Ali commented. “What the State Bank has done is ban banks from entertaining crypto, so if you’re not dealing via banks, you [still] can own and trade virtual currency in Pakistan, which comes under the IT ministry,” he explained.

Indeed, as the chart of the weekly Localbitcoins volume from Coin Dance shows, trading has spiked after the release of the circular. It peaked in the week of April 28 to more than 163 million Pakistani Rupee (>1.4 million USD), almost reaching December-January all-time highs.

Pakistanis Find Ways to Trade Bitcoin Rendering Ban Ineffective

The price of Pakistan’s first and only cryptocurrency, Pakcoin, which was explicitly mentioned in the SBP’s prohibition, has also jumped – by over 60% since the ban. Pakcoin founder Abu Shaheer says that the central bank’s measure has actually worked in favor of his crypto by “serving to expose Pakcoin’s name [and] more people got interested in it.” The digital token is already used for mobile phone credit top-ups.

Islamabad to Prohibit “All Forms of Virtual Currency” After All

Pakistanis Find Ways to Trade Bitcoin Rendering Ban IneffectiveSources from Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication have told Asia Times that the government in Islamabad does plan to formally declare cryptocurrencies illegal in the country. “We have forwarded our recommendation for a ban on all forms of virtual currency trading, and proper legislation is being worked on,” a government official said.

According to crypto trader Majid Ali, however, while the legislation is likely to hit trading, there are alternatives for dealing with cryptocurrencies. “The government of Pakistan can’t stop the trade in an international commodity that is accepted in other countries,” he said. Majid also warned that the ban actually opens transfer channels that can be used for illegal purposes.

Do you think that bans imposed by central banks can really stop cryptocurrency trade? Tell us in the comments section below.


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Zimbabwe Bans All Cryptocurrency Activity, Businesses Have 2 Month Grace Period

Zimbabwe Bans All Cryptocurrency Activity, Businesses Have 2 Month Grace Period

Zimbabwe’s central bank issued Circular to Banking Institutions No. 2/2018: Virtual Currencies, effectively banning all crypto activity in the African nation. Businesses dealing in decentralized currencies have 60 days to comply.

Also read: India’s Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Banks’ Crypto Services, For Now

Zimbabwe Bans Crypto

Issued 11 May, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, laid out seven points in ordering the shutter of things crypto within the southeast African nation. Referencing two previous circulars going back as far as three years ago, the notice explains “’banking institutions’ attention is once again drawn to the risks involved with virtual currencies and the need to ensure strict adherence to sound risk management. Our investigations have revealed that the major cryptocurrency exchanges facilitating the trade of virtual currencies in Zimbabwe are Bitfinance (Private) Limited (Golix) and Styx24. Golix has gone further to set up an ATM machine through which cryptocurrency transactions are facilitated.”

Indeed, these pages first reported on the Golix crypto ATM last month, highlighting how “‘Since we got the machine, lots of people have come to check it out, to touch it,’ Golix representative Tawanda Kembo told Bitcoin.com. ‘At least 10-20 people walk in every day, since we launched it last Friday.’”

Zimbabwe Bans All Cryptocurrency Activity, Businesses Have 2 Month Grace Period

Crypto was widely thought to be something of a saving grace for the population, as we explained how the nation has a notorious relationship with monetary policy. “There is an acute liquidity crisis In Zimbabwe,” News.Bitcoin.com reported, “and so getting physical US dollars is both cumbersome and expensive (and illegal, the cash has to be bought on the black market).”

Fall of last year, another Golix spokesperson insisted, “there is currently more demand than supply of bitcoins… Interest in bitcoin has peaked as people cannot send money outside or pay for international transactions using formal banks. People have had to look for alternatives and bitcoin has been a useful solution which can be used to purchase goods on Amazon or to pay for vehicles from international suppliers and traders.”

A Government Known for Monetary Nonsense Unironically Fears Cryptocurrency

Famous for their many thousands of percent hyperinflation, Zimbabwe’s central bank unironically feared this week of how financial “regulators around the world have identified the dangers and risks presented by virtual currencies to financial stability which include risk of loss due to price volatility, theft or fraud, money laundering and other criminal activities. Further, cryptocurrencies can be used to facilitate tax evasion as well as externalization of funds in violation of a country’s laws.”

Zimbabwe Bans All Cryptocurrency Activity, Businesses Have 2 Month Grace PeriodThe order requires “all financial institutions … ensure that they do not use, trade, hold and/or transact in any way in virtual currencies; ensure that they do not provide banking services to facilitate any person or entity in dealing with or settling virtual currencies; and exit any existing relationships with virtual currency exchanges within sixty days of the date of this Circular and proceed to liquidate and restitute existing account balances.”

Prior to using a haunting turn of phrase, at the end of the order, to be “advised accordingly,” the country’s monetary authority hammered home the point by attempting to cover all the possible permutations of crypto business. The ban includes “maintaining accounts, registering, trading, clearing, collateral arrangements, remittances, payment and settlement accounts, giving loans against virtual tokens, accepting them as collateral, opening accounts of exchanges dealing with them and transfer / receipt of money in accounts relating to purchase / sale of virtual currencies.” 

What do you think the future holds for Zimbabweans with regard to crypto? Let us know in the comments section below.


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India’s Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Banks’ Crypto Services, For Now

India’s Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Banks’ Crypto Services, For Now

According to a team of Indian lawyers, the Supreme Court of India refused request for a temporary injunction against restrictions imposed on banks regarding cryptocurrency by the country’s central bank. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular essentially banning crypto services, which will remain in place at least until a formal hearing.

Also read: Bitcoin’s Anonymous $55 Million Pineapple Fund Gives Final Donation

Indian Supreme Court Denies Grant of Injunction Against RBI

Crypto Kanoon (@cryptokanoon) is a group of lawyers active in the space concerned with regulatory analysis and legal awareness. They’ve been particular watchful of goings on regarding India’s central bank, RBI, and its recent circular demanding banks it serves shut down any business with cryptocurrency companies.

Through a petition challenging the RBI ban, enthusiasts hoped by this week to see some relief at the country’s highest court. An interim measure employed by most courts around the world is to cease a particularly controversial action until such time as a final decision can be made. And it was just such a move crypto advocates were hoping would be followed during the petition’s consideration: allow banks to continue serving cryptocurrency clients as they had prior to the RBI ban.

India’s Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Banks’ Crypto Services, For Now

Yesterday, the Supreme Court instead declined an interim injunction, for now allowing the RBI ban to stay in place. It was a blow to the near dozen representatives from India’s crypto community. It is important to note that such a procedural decision theoretically has no bearing on the eventual outcome of the petition for relief itself. The case will return before the Supreme Court May 17th.

The Reserve Bank of India’s circular from April ordered “with immediate effect, entities regulated by the Reserve Bank shall not deal in VCs [(virtual currencies)] or provide services for facilitating any person or entity in dealing with or settling VCs.” The ban appears to be rather comprehensive in scope, including “maintaining accounts, registering, trading, settling, clearing, giving loans against virtual tokens, accepting them as collateral, opening accounts of exchanges dealing with them and transfer / receipt of money in accounts relating to purchase / sale of VCs.”

Indian Crypto Community Pushes Back

West Bengal’s Dwaipayan Bhowmik was the originator of a petition, asking government to regulate cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin core (BTC). His request was to galvanize the various ministries, from the country’s Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) to the Reserve Bank itself. Mr. Bhowmik was quoted by regional media as wishing “to prevent financial crimes such as money laundering, flesh trade, etc.”

A quirk of the judicial appeal process in the world’s second most populated country is to allow petitioners, no matter their side advocacy, to appeal together. Two petitioners are diametrically opposed on the issue, in other words, with one wanting an outright ban and the other wanting it formally recognized by the government. For his part, Mr. Bhowmik insisted he falls in neither camp. “I just want it to be regulated,” he said.

India’s Supreme Court Keeps Ban on Banks’ Crypto Services, For Now

There is yet another case, filed by crypto exchange startup Coil Recoil and various exchanges, to be heard in the Delhi High Court May 24th. The two cases are unrelated. As reported in these pages, many felt “the RBI directive is arbitrary and a violation of the Constitution of India, and the court should therefore quash it. The document presented to the count, which news.Bitcoin.com has obtained, explains that due to the RBI Circular the company will not be able to secure banking services that are imperative for the business’ operations rendering it ‘stillborn.’”

Whatever the case, May promises to be a critical month for India’s crypto community.

Do you think India’s Supreme Court will overturn the RBI ban? Let us know in the comments section below.


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ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against Offerings

ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against Offerings

Mike Finch, the co-founder of ICO Alert, has discussed the present state of the initial coin offering (ICO) industry. Mr. Finch shared his assessment that although the social media advertising ban has had a significant adverse effect upon the performance of promotional campaigns for ICOs, the number of new ICOs brought to market has significantly risen when compared with last year. In other ICO news, regulators in Colorado are investigating two companies that it believes have unlawfully promoted ICOs to Colorado citizens.

Also Read: 46% of Last Year’s ICOs Have Failed Already

ICOs Adapt to Social Media Advertising Ban

ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against OfferingsIn a recent interview, Mike Finch, co-founder of ICO Alert, discussed how the ICO industry has responded to the recent advertising bans introduced by major social media platforms. Mr. Finch stated that although the engagement has declined on major platforms, the ban is forcing companies to focus their energy on targeting select audiences.

“There are two ways to look at this, for both ICOs and ICO marketing/consulting agencies, Mr. Finch said. “On one hand, it is bad because it decreases the sheer [number] of avenues for ICOs to advertise and you could argue it hurts the industry. On the other hand, I think it is good because it inherently requires ICOs to focus more on reaching the right audience. Advertising ICOs is very difficult because it’s hard to market to the right audience and know you’re marketing to the right audience.”

“You’re not simply trying to drive traffic to a website, you’re trying to drive contribution to a project, and completing that is a more difficult process than what advertisers/marketers might find in other industries,” he added.

Silver-Linings to ICO Advertising Ban

ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against OfferingsMr. Finch outlined a number of positives reaped by the industry since the introduction of advertising restrictions on ICO by major social media platforms, stating that “the ban helps bring to light the more effective marketing options for these ICOs.”

Mr. Finch also alluded to a likely increase in the quality of initial coin offerings owing to the advertising restrictions, stating “Those cryptocurrency/ICO websites that will survive will be the ones that actually provide value to their users, ICOs, etc. We see it as a necessary process in a maturing industry.”

Mr, Finch concluded that the number of initial coin offerings has continued to grow substantially in spite of the ban stating “There were 1,848 ICOs listed last year on ICO Alert from April to December. As of today, there are 3,352 listings on our site […] We’re on pace to list over 5,000 ICOs this year.”

Analysts Discuss High Rates of ICO Failure

ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against OfferingsThe Merkle recently published a report featuring discussion from representatives of the finance industry on the high rates of failure among initial coin offerings.

Amy Wan of Sagewise argued that the high rate of failure is not unique to initial coin offerings, stating “In the U.S., more than 90 percent of startups ‘fail’ their first year. There isn’t yet enough statistical data that ICOs fail more often than startups that raise [funds] through more traditional means.“

The co-founder of Ternio, Ian Kane, has made similar assessments – concluding that although “there are a few reasons ICOs fail, […] it all boils down to lack of experience.” Mr. Kane argues that ICOs typically lack experience regarding “The industry they are targeting,” “How to effectively manage a business – hiring, finances, PR,” and “Post ICO communication.”

In addition to arguing that ICOs typically lack requisite business acumen, Mr. Kane questions whether “blockchain is even needed for [the] use case[s]” of most initial coin offerings.

Lack of Business Acumen Identified as Key Deficit Among ICOs

ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against OfferingsJoe DiPasquale, the CEO and co-founder of Bitbull Capital, argues that the ICO funding model inherently produces a high rate of failure through lack of barriers to entry. “Too many ICOs are launching without having a minimally viable product – or, in many cases, even a proof of concept. The simplicity of throwing together a website and launching an ERC20 token has led many projects to ICO even when failure is probable. Most other startups normally have a higher threshold of viability that must be achieved before a project can even think about seeking outside funding. This results in fewer of them failing as publicly as some of the more infamous ICOs have,” Mr. DiPasquale said.

Pavel Bains, the CEO and Co-Founder of Bluzelle, echoes Mr. DiPasquale’s comments, stating “One of the most important [reasons ICOs fail] is that there’s a lower barrier to entry for raising money through an ICO than other funding options, such as venture capital [(VC)]. As a result, more untested ideas that haven’t gone through the rigorous process of assessment by experienced investment professionals get through to [the] ICO stage than with other avenues. Therefore, projects that would have been rejected by VC or angel [investors] are still able to start the ICO process, even if they then flounder as ICO investors scrutinize the detail.”

Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Investigates ICOs

ICO Round-Up: Analysts Discuss Industry After Advertising Ban, Colorado Takes Action Against OfferingsColorado’s regulatory agencies have taken action against Washington-based Broad Investments LLC and California-based Linda Healthcare Corp. Colorado’s securities commissioner, Gerald Rome, has asserted that the companies are violating Colorado’s securities laws through promoting their ICOs to Colorado citizens. Both companies must now attempt to prove why that they are not in violation of the Colorado Securities Act or be required to cease and desist their respective offerings.

The commissioner encouraged prospective investors to exercise caution and due diligence before entering the ICO markets. “Investment opportunities being sold through ICOs over the internet need to be approached with the same level of caution as for any highly risky investment venture. Most ICOs meet the terms of a securities transaction and carry with them all of the same risks when it comes to losing money. If you are investing money in any kind of cryptocurrency such as a coin or token where you are expecting to reap returns and are relying on those returns to come from the efforts of an outside party, you are dealing with investments,” said Commissioner Rome.

“ICOs are highly risky and should only be undertaken by sophisticated investors with the understanding that they may lose most or all of their funds,” he concluded.

Do you think that the ICO industry can emerge stronger after the advertising ban? Or do you think we have already passed the ICO peak? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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South Korean Top Regulator Considers Easing Cryptocurrency Regulations

South Korean Top Regulator Confirms Easing of Cryptocurrency Regulations

The main regulatory body of cryptocurrencies in South Korea has a new chief who has just been approved by the country’s president. He is a known “activist and reformist” and has reportedly announced that he will consider relaxing crypto regulations to help businesses grow in this sector.

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

New FSS Chief to Relax Crypto Regulations

South Korean Top Regulator Confirms Easing of Cryptocurrency RegulationsThe South Korean Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) will have a new governor as of this Tuesday. The country’s President Moon Jae-in has approved the nomination of Yoon Suk-heun to lead the government agency overseeing cryptocurrency regulations after the former FSS head Kim Ki-sik stepped down from the post.

Yoon’s nomination was submitted by the Financial Services Commission (FSC), which the FSS falls under. He will officially start his work as FSS chief on May 8, the Korea Times reported, elaborating:

Governor Yoon Suk-heun said the country’s top financial regulator will consider relaxing cryptocurrency regulations.

He has previously “hinted at a possible adjustment of regulations that have been applied to the cryptocurrency market,” the news outlet noted, adding that Yoon is known as an “activist and reformist.”

Yoon’s Approach to Crypto

Yoon told reporters that “regarding cryptocurrencies, there are some positive aspects,” emphasizing that “there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed and reviewed. We can figure them out but gradually.”

South Korean Top Regulator Confirms Easing of Cryptocurrency Regulations
Yoon Suk-heun.

Clarifying the roles of the FSS and the FSC, he explained that “The FSS will collaborate with the FSC when an inspection on policies and financial institutions has different configurations associated with different scopes. FSC inspects policies, while the FSS examines and supervises financial institutions but with the oversight of the FSC.”

At an industry event on January 31, he expressed his understanding of the government’s position on cryptocurrencies, given their high volatility. However, he was quoted affirming that “the government is saying cryptocurrencies are neither currency nor financial assets…[that] is hard to understand,” adding:

What I think is that exchanges are to function to meet the needs of investors and market participants, broadly…to help them keep trading and making transactions. Any forceful ban against them would hurt the nature of the market.

Yoon also pointed out that “Regulation is good. However, it would be more than just good when it is used to help new businesses grow. Imposing taxes on crypto exchanges and investors needs to be considered, if necessary.”

An official of the largest cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea, Upbit, commented on Yoon’s new role, stating that “What the new FSS chief should think about is how the regulators should provide remedies to help crypto trading and blockchain technology get better.”

Do you think South Korea will ease cryptocurrency regulations? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Another Indian Company Challenges Ban on Crypto Banking

Another Indian Company Challenges Ban on Crypto Banking

RBI’s ban on crypto-related banking services has been challenged again. Maharashtra-based Flintstone Technologies has turned to the High Court in Delhi to seek withdrawal of the April 6 circular issued by the Reserve Bank of India, calling it “arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional.” The company points out that the central bank has not provided any reasons for the imposed restrictions.

Also read: Indian Investors Flock to Trade Crypto Ahead of RBI Ban

RBI’s Ban Faces another Challenge

An Indian crypto trading company has raised another challenge to the ban imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on banking services offered to companies and individuals dealing with cryptocurrencies. Flintstone Technologies Private Limited has sought the withdrawal of RBI’s April 6 circular, filing a plea with the Delhi High Court. India’s central bank wants to prohibit commercial banks and other financial institutions from providing crypto-related services.

Another Indian Company Challenges Ban on Crypto BankingOn Friday, the plea was listed for hearing before Justice Rajiv Shakdher, the Business Standard reported. According to the Indian outlet, Shakdher has asked the court’s registry to place it before the bench which is already hearing a similar matter. Earlier this month, Kali Digital Eco-Systems, the company that will be operating the new Coin Recoil exchange, appealed to the High Court against the recent crackdown on banks working with companies from the crypto sector.

In its petition, Flintstone Technologies contends that the central bank’ circular has “fenced” all regulated entities from providing services to any individual or business dealing in virtual currencies, without mentioning any reasons for its decision to impose the restrictions. RBI has given banks three months to comply with the order.

The Maharashtra-based company, which is a provider of online crypto wallet services for Bitcoin and Money trade coin, has also submitted that while central authorities are still studying the effect of cryptocurrencies without banning them completely, the RBI’s circular indirectly restricts their trade. It claims that the prohibition is “arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional.”

Lack of Regulations Increases Uncertainty

According to the document issued by the central bank of India, the entities regulated by the RBI are prohibited from “providing any service in relation to virtual currencies, including those of transfer or receipt of money in accounts relating to the purchase or sale of virtual currencies.” The other company that has challenged the ban, Kali Digital Ecosystems, has claimed that the lack of crypto regulations has “increased the uncertainty over the treatment of such transactions” and is adversely affecting its proposed business.

Another Indian Company Challenges Ban on Crypto BankingThe Gujarat-based company says that the RBI directive is arbitrary and represents a violation of the Constitution of India. On April 22, the Delhi High Court asked relevant authorities, including the RBI and the Goods and Services Tax Council, for official responses on the plea.

The regulatory uncertainty and the broadening bank clampdown have seriously affected cryptocurrency exchanges in India. In March, representatives of the industry reported that the trading on local platforms had dropped significantly. Some companies have started looking for more favorable jurisdictions, as news.Bitcoin.com reported. Since the announcement of the upcoming restrictions, however, trading volumes in India have spiked again, with investors trying to take advantage of the window before the ban takes effect.

Do you expect the Indian government to eventually legalize crypto-related activities? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 


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After Telegram, Viber May Be Blocked, Russian Minister Says

After Telegram, Viber May Be Blocked, Russian Ministers Says

Viber may be treated like Telegram if security services are not able to obtain its encryption keys, Russia’s telecom minister said. The app offers end-to-end encryption, and is the most popular messenger in several Eastern European countries. Recently, its CEO, Michael Shmilov, said the company would not be able to hand over the keys.

Also read: Six Alternatives to Telegram for Cryptocurrency Communities

“Can’t Give What We Don’t Have”

After Telegram, Viber May Be Blocked, Russian Ministers SaysRussian authorities may try to block Viber if the Federal Security Service (FSB) does not gain access to its encryption keys, according to comments made by the Russian Minister of Communications and Mass Media, Nikolai Nikiforov. “This matter concerns the FSB which has the powers to implement an order to provide the encryption keys. If the security services have problems with acquiring the keys, they can turn to the court and obtain a similar decision,” Nikiforov said, quoted by ITAR-TASS.

The minister was confronted with a question about the future of Viber after Russian authorities have been trying to block Telegram since April 16, following a decision by the Tagansky District Court of Moscow from April 13. So far, their attempts have been unsuccessful but the messaging service, widely used within the crypto community, has been experiencing issues while trying hard to circumvent imposed restrictions.

In March, the chief executive officer of Viber Media, the operator of the messenger, told RBC that Viber would not be able to fulfill a request to hand over the encryption keys. Michael Shmilov said the company cooperates with law enforcement agencies in many countries but stressed that it would not do certain things. And, handing over encryption keys is one of them. “We cannot give them something that we don’t have. They can ask the users for their keys. We can’t see them, and we don’t stored them,” he explained.

End-to-End Encryption Offered

Viber was launched as an instant messaging and voice over IP service in 2010. The software was originally developed by the Israel-based Viber Media, which was bought by the Japanese company Rakuten in 2014. Last year the corporate name was changed to Rakuten Viber. The company is currently based in Luxembourg.

After Telegram, Viber May Be Blocked, Russian Ministers SaysThe messenger, which claims to have 900 million users, is very popular in Eastern Europe and is the top messaging app in countries like Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. In Russia, it’s currently the second most popular application, after Whatsapp. According to a survey conducted by the Russian Modern Media Research Institute in January, Facebook owned Whatsapp has a share of 59% of the Russian users, while Viber is used by 36%. The messenger of the Russian social network Vkontakte is third, with 32%. Telegram is used by 19% of the Russians, and Facebook Messenger – by 14%.

According to the company’s website, Viber uses end-to-end encryption by default for text messages, in both private and group chats, and also for voice calls – a feature that was introduced as standard setting in 2016. It claims it doesn’t have access to conversations and does not store delivered messages on its servers. Keys to encrypt/decrypt data are kept only on client devices, according to Viber’s privacy policy.

What’s Next, Whatsapp?

After Telegram, Viber May Be Blocked, Russian Ministers SaysThe clampdown on private messaging in Russia started when the country’s telecom regulator, Roskomnadzor, tried to restrict access to Telegram by blocking IP addresses used by the app. Despite some interruptions in its services, authorities have not been able to completely prevent the use of the massager. Roskomnadzor blocked about 20 VPN and proxy services which offering access to Telegram servers.

IP-addresses of ordinary Internet users may be blocked as a result of the conflict between the messenger and the regulator, warned Dmitriy Marinchev, Russia’s Internet Ombudsman. “Sooner or later, Telegram may switch to a peer-to-peer network and Roskomnadzor will have to block all their users’ IPs,” he explained.  Marinchev added that everything now depends on how far Telegram will go in rewriting its software.

After Telegram, Viber May Be Blocked, Russian Ministers SaysSkype is a messenger which started as a peer-to-peer and client-server system, features that were part of its appeal. After changing hands several times, however, the platform hasn’t kept much from the original P2P concept. In 2011, Skype was acquired by Microsoft which transformed it into a centralized service based on MS’s cloud computing platform Azure. Leaked documents revealing mass surveillance of global communications showed that the company had granted American intelligence unrestricted access to Skype. This year, the messenger announced it is going to offer end-to-end encryption for audio calls, text and multimedia messages through Private Conversations. The feature, however, will not be set as a default option and won’t be available for video chats.

The measures against Telegram have created difficulties for many Russians, even including those who are not using Telegram. Large Internet companies – including search engine, Yandex, and social media networks, Vkontakte, and, Odnoklassniki – have been affected. In April, Russian Viber users also complained about interruptions. According to the company, the issues were related to the blockade of Telegram. On May 1, Viber announced it had restored full access to its platform. Russian media have been asking the question “What’s next?” hinting about the most popular messenger in the country – Whatsapp. It uses end-to-end encryption for calls and messages in its latest versions.

Which messenger do you most often use for private conversations? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.


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South Korean Lawmakers Draft Bill to Legalize Some Initial Coin Offerings

South Korean Lawmakers Draft Bill to Legalize Some Initial Coin Offerings

A group of South Korean lawmakers is working on a bill to legalize initial coin offerings (ICOs), providing they meet certain conditions under the supervision of the government. Meanwhile, the current ICO ban in the country has driven many domestic corporations to raise capital overseas.

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

Bill to Legalize ICOs

South Korean Lawmakers Draft Bill to Legalize Some Initial Coin OfferingsRep. Hong Eui-rak of the South Korean ruling Democratic Party “is leading the move championed by 10 other lawmakers” to legalize ICOs, the Korea Times reported. “They are working to have a bill backing the move endorsed this year.”

During the ICO and blockchain technology forum at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Hong said that “the bill was based on a joint study by his office and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA),” according to the publication. “This is the first parliamentary challenge to the government’s ban on domestic initial coin offerings imposed late last year to cool speculative investment in digital currencies such as bitcoin.” The news outlet then quoted Hong saying:

The bill is aimed at legalizing ICOs under the government’s supervision.

The lawmaker elaborated, “The primary goal [of the legislation] is helping remove uncertainties facing blockchain-related businesses.”

Not All ICOs Will Be Legalized

However, the publication emphasized that:

The bill does not seek [to legalize] unlimited ICOs, but ones initiated by public organizations and research centers committed to promoting and developing blockchain technology.

According to the bill, approved ICOs will be subject to tight supervision by the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and the Ministry of Science and ICT, the news outlet conveyed.

South Korean Lawmakers Draft Bill to Legalize Some Initial Coin OfferingsSouth Korea banned all ICOs last year. However, the financial authorities were reportedly talking to the country’s tax agency, justice ministry, and other relevant government departments last month about a plan to allow ICOs in the country providing certain conditions are met.

Meanwhile, domestic companies have been setting up subsidiaries and launching their token sales abroad, in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Japan. Chat app operators Kakao Corp and Naver, for example, have set up subsidiaries in Japan. Hyundai BS&C, an affiliate of Hyundai Group, launched its ICOs in Switzerland. Recently, one of the country’s largest crypto exchanges, Bithumb, also unveiled its plans to launch an ICO in Singapore.

However, the FSC has reiterated that regardless of where the ICOs are, Korean companies could still be subject to domestic regulations. While the “current laws [in Korea] do not prohibit ICOs from abroad,” FSC Chairman Choi Jong-ku emphasized, “it is highly likely to violate current legislation.”

Do you think South Korea will soon legalize ICOs? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Hong Kong and Singapore Emerge as New Meccas for Token Sales

Hong Kong and Singapore Emerge as New Meccas for Token Sales

Two countries have recently emerged as the new Meccas for token sales following bans in China and South Korea. The number of initial coin offerings in Singapore and Hong Kong has skyrocketed in recent months, as companies seek a favorable environment to raise funds outside their home countries.

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

New Meccas for ICOs

Hong Kong and Singapore Emerge as New Meccas for Token Sales
Singapore.

With some countries cracking down on token sales, Hong Kong and Singapore have attracted companies seeking to raise funds through initial coin offerings (ICOs).

According to Fintech businesses, lawyers, and industry groups, the number of companies launching ICOs in Singapore and Hong Kong “has skyrocketed in recent months,” South China Morning Post reported on Monday. The news outlet then quoted Anson Zeall, chairman of the Association of Cryptocurrency Enterprises and Startups Singapore, noting:

We cannot say Singapore has become an ICO hub yet, as more work needs to be done, but yes, there has been a lot of activity since September last year.

Hong Kong and Singapore Emerge as New Meccas for Token Sales
Hong Kong.

He and others believe that this is partly due to China’s crackdown on ICOs. “In September, Beijing defined an ICO as an illegal fundraising tool after concerns over financial scams and money laundering. Dozens of ICO platforms in the country have since shut down,” the publication recalled.

While China cracked down on cryptocurrencies and ICOs, Hong Kong remains open to them and has seen significant growth in the number of token sales.

Neither Hong Kong nor Singapore currently has specific rules for ICOs. Lawyers and ICO issuers in both cities reiterated to the news outlet that raising funds through digital tokens remains loosely regulated there.

ICOs Moved Out of China

Hong Kong and Singapore Emerge as New Meccas for Token SalesWhen China mandated domestic ICO issuers to refund investors and stop any new fundraising activities, many of them moved abroad.

Daisy Wu is among those whose companies have turned to Singapore shortly after Beijing’s ban. “We wanted to avoid legal risks,” she was quoted. Her company, the Beijing-based Xender, is now trying to raise US$10 million through an ICO for a file-sharing service, the news outlet detailed. Wu confirmed:

Many Chinese companies have gone to Singapore for ICOs…We all want to play it safe.

Ben Yates, a lawyer with RPC specializing in fintech and cyber law, said that he has seen significant growth in ICO-related inquiries since September, elaborating:

It is very likely that the surge in the number of ICO inquiries we have received in the past few months is at least partly a consequence of the restrictions in mainland China…The obvious next step for many Chinese ICO issuers to take is to cross the border. You can still speak Chinese, but you can operate in a more favourable regulatory environment.

Korean Fever & Bithumb’s ICO

Hong Kong and Singapore Emerge as New Meccas for Token SalesSouth Korea also banned ICOs in September of last year, forcing local issuers to look elsewhere. They have also reportedly poured into Hong Kong and Singapore recently.

“Some argue that there is no legal basis for an ICO ban in Korea, but the authorities say that current laws alone are sufficient,” Money Today Network noted.

Earlier this month, news.Bitcoin.com reported that corporations in South Korea are attempting to bypass regulations using subsidiaries overseas to launch their ICOs.

Last week, local media reported that Bithumb, one of South Korea’s largest crypto exchanges, is planning to launch a “Bithumb Coin” ICO through a Singaporean corporation. Another South Korean startup, Zikto, is also reportedly preparing an ICO in Singapore.

What do you think of Hong Kong and Singapore as the hubs for ICOs? Let us know in the comments section below.


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India Divided on Whether to Ban Crypto Use

India Divided on Whether to Ban Crypto Use

As India works on the bill to regulate cryptocurrencies, each government department has its own opinion on whether to ban the use of crypto, including bitcoin. The Finance Ministry, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Income Tax Department, and the Special Investigation Team have voiced their opinions on the upcoming bill.

Also read: Russian Regulators Draft Law to Restrict Crypto Mining, Payments, and Token Sales

No Consensus Among Regulators

India Divided on Whether to Ban Crypto UseIndia is preparing a bill on the regulation of cryptocurrency. “The bill has been drafted and consultation has been started with the concerned agency,” the Navbharat Times reported last week. The news outlet quoted sources explaining that the regulators are divided on whether to ban the use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

“The finance ministry is in favor of regulating [cryptocurrency],” sources said. The Income Tax Department, on the contrary, is not in favor of regulation, the news outlet conveyed, and quoted sources explaining:

The regulation of virtual currency is almost impossible and it promotes the use of black money.

India Divided on Whether to Ban Crypto UseThe RBI “is also not in favor of banning virtual currencies,” but sources pointed out that “the current form of the bill proposes to ban virtual currency businesses.” However, there may be exemptions for “issuing crypto tokens in exchange for assets.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Special Investigation Team (SIT) “wants to ban the use of bitcoins” after discovering at least four cases where the digital currency was used to pay for drugs, the Sunday Guardian reported. The SIT comprises of officials from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax Department.

India Divided on Whether to Ban Crypto UseThe SIT has previously asked the ED, NCB and the Income Tax Department “to take adequate measures to prevent the use of cryptocurrencies,” the publication noted, adding that the Team “has called for a second round of meetings to be held in Delhi next month, where the officials from all the aforementioned agencies will review the use of cryptocurrencies.”

Experts Say Crypto Ban Not Very Feasible

The debate is also taking place in the private sector. Sarvesh Tyagi, a Delhi-based cyber law expert, told the Sunday Guardian that “it is doubtful that the SIT will succeed in banning the use of cryptocurrencies. Ban is not a solution. We need a regulatory authority.” She elaborated:

A blanket ban on the use of cryptocurrencies is not a very feasible solution as drug smuggling is a big problem, and in most cases, these transactions have nothing to do with use of cryptocurrencies.

Crypto Businesses Fight Back

The RBI announced earlier this month for banks and payment gateways under its control to stop providing services to businesses dealing in cryptocurrencies. “Banks have already sent notices to exchanges,” Sathvik Vishwanath, CEO of a leading Indian exchange Unocoin, told news.Bitcoin.com.

India Divided on Whether to Ban Crypto UseThe RBI allows banks “about 3 months of time to end the relationships” with crypto businesses, he noted, adding that crypto companies “will be attempting to challenge the [RBI] order” in the Supreme Court as a consortium.

One company, Kali Digital Eco-Systems, has already appealed to the High Court in Delhi against the recent RBI crackdown. The company is behind the upcoming crypto exchange called Coinrecoil.

On Sunday, the company announced that Delhi High Court has accepted its petition against the Indian regulators, adding that:

Hon’ble High Court of Delhi has issued a notice to the Reserve Bank of India, the Union of India through Secretary, Ministry of Finance and GST Council. The next hearing in this case is on May 24, 2018.

What do you think of the Indian regulators’ divided opinions on how to regulate cryptocurrencies? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Central Bank of Iran Bans Banks from Crypto

Central Bank of Iran Bans Banks from Crypto

Iran’s central bank has issued a statement banning the country’s banks and financial institutions from dealing with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, citing money laundering and terrorism financing risks. However, the local crypto community in Iran believes that the ban will not affect them and some exchanges continue to operate normally.

Also read: Russian Regulators Draft Law to Restrict Crypto Mining, Payments, and Token Sales

Banned by Central Bank

Central Bank of Iran Bans Banks from CryptoThe Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has issued a statement on Monday banning the use of cryptocurrencies including bitcoin by banks and financial institutions. This announcement came “amid ongoing debate over how best to regulate the technology,” the AFP elaborated.

According to the CBI, “the government’s money laundering committee had taken the decision in late December and it was now being put into effect,” the news outlet conveyed and quoted the central bank explaining:

All cryptocurrencies have the capacity to be turned into a means for money laundering and financing terrorism and in general can be turned into a means for transferring criminals’ money.

The central bank noted that banks and financial institutions in Iran were informed a few days ago, Mehr News reported.

The ban comes at a tenuous time for the Iranian economy. Between now and May 12, both the EU and the US are expected to decide on a new round of economic sanctions targeting Tehran. This could restore the harsh international controls on Iran that were lifted in the 2015 nuclear treaty between Iran and six major powers, including the US.

Effects of Crypto Community in Iran

Monday’s announcement follows another prohibition recently announced by the central bank, banning foreign fiat currency exchanges.

Central Bank of Iran Bans Banks from Crypto
Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi.

The Iranian government has mixed views on cryptocurrency, however. In February, the country’s telecom minister, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, tweeted the news that his ministry and the CBI are investigating the prospect of running their own initial coin offering (ICO) together. The resulting cryptocurrency would serve as “an experimental model for the country’s banking system,” he believes.

While many people in Iran see cryptocurrencies as a way to overcome problems with international sanctions and the country’s banking system, there are also those who fear “the technology could undermine the country’s already weak banking system and exacerbate capital flight,” the AFP explained.

Central Bank of Iran Bans Banks from Crypto“Iranians working in the fledgling private cryptocurrency market said the ban was unlikely to affect their operations,” the publication further described. A local crypto exchange Coinex has, however, halted activity on its platform in response to the central bank’s action, citing “we always want to make sure we comply with the law,” Hadi Nemati, who works for the exchange, told the news outlet. “But I have seen other crypto exchanges were still working normally,” he clarified, adding:

This ruling referred directly to banks, financial institutions and currency exchangers that work with the central bank…In my opinion, it doesn’t include the general public — it’s not a total ban on cryptocurrencies.

What do you think of the Iranian central bank’s action? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Russia’s Supreme Court Overturns Decision to Block Bitcoin Website

Russia’s Supreme Court Overturns Decision to Block a Bitcoin Website

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has struck down the ban imposed on the Bitcoininfo.ru portal. The outlet is one several dozens of crypto-related websites that have been taken offline by the Russian authorities in the past few years. The decision sets a precedent which and is likely to determine the faith of many other online editions. The ruling should also put an end to arbitrary decisions by Russian prosecutors and judges.

Also read: Russian Supreme Court to Decide the Fate of Bitcoin Sites

Setting a Precedent for All Crypto Outlets

Russia’s Supreme Court Overturns Decision to Block a Bitcoin Website

Russia’s Supreme Court has effectively annulled a decision to ban access to the Bitcoininfo.ru website, once popular Russian portal containing crypto-related information and news. The ruling sets a precedent for more than 40 sites with similar content taken down by Russian authorities over the last several years.

The access to Bitcoininfo.ru was restricted in the summer of 2016. In July of that year, the Vyborgsky District Court in Saint Petersburg decided that the online edition violates the Law “On the Central Bank of the Russian Federation” by publishing materials about bitcoin.

The leading crypto was described as “electronic currency, which is a virtual means of payment and accumulation”. The information about it was deemed illegal and even “subversive” in regards to “the constitutional order, the authority of the Russian state, and the material welfare of its citizens.”

“There is only one monetary unit in Russia”, the district court said, when asked by the Prosecutor’s Office to ban the website. “Money surrogates”, the term often used by Russian officials when referring to cryptocurrencies, are illegal in the country. After the Supreme Court’s decision, the case will be returned to the City Court of Russia’s Northern Capital to be reviewed again, as reported by RBC.

Putting an End to Arbitrary Decisions

When Bitcoininfo.ru was banned two years ago, the defense tried to appeal the district court’s decision, citing procedural violations. Nikolai Tonkoshkurov, the owner of the website, had not been subpoenaed to attend the hearing. After the City Court of Saint Petersburg refused to accept the appeal, he referred the case to the Supreme Court in Moscow.

According to Tonkoshkurov’s lawyer, Sarkis Darbinyan, the court in Russia’s second largest city can now determine the future of all crypto-related online editions. However, he shared his disappointment that the Supreme Court has refrained from ruling on the status of cryptocurrencies in general.

Russia’s Supreme Court Overturns Decision to Block a Bitcoin Website

“Nevertheless, we think this is a very important decision,” Darbinyan said noting the “systemic problem” with websites banned by prosecutors, who don’t even inform their owners about the restrictions. Тhis practice deprives entrepreneurs of proper legal protection, he added. Darbinyan also stressed that any such arbitrary decisions in the future should be considered invalid.

Do you think that courts should determine the status of cryptocurrencies even before relevant legislation is adopted? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Indian Exchange Takes Central Bank to Court Over Bank Ban

Indian Exchange Takes Central Bank to Court Over Bank Ban

The Indian bitcoin community keeps fighting for their rights to operate freely in the country like any other industry. The latest show of defiance is a petition to the court against the actions of the Reserve Bank of India by the operators of a local exchange.

Also Read: SPI Solar to Host 5,000 Bitcoin Miners for Chinese VC Fund 500 IPO

RBI Ban Unconstitutional

Indian Exchange Takes Central Bank to Court Over Bank BanKali Digital Eco-Systems, the company behind the upcoming cryptocurrency exchange Coin Recoil, has appealed to the High Court in Delhi against the recent crackdown on banks providing services to bitcoin related companies by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

According to the petitioner, the RBI directive is arbitrary and a violation of the Constitution of India and the court should therefore quash it. The document presented to the count, which news.bitcoin.com has obtained, explains that due to the RBI Circular the company will not be able to secure banking services that are imperative for the business’ operations rendering it “stillborn.” It argues that the ban is unconstitutional on two main grounds.

Freedom of Occupation

Indian Exchange Takes Central Bank to Court Over Bank BanArticle 19 of the Constitution of India guarantees citizens’ rights to carry on any occupation, trade or business. But by preventing exchanges’ access to baking services the government is in affect preventing people from engaging in the business of their choice.

Article 14 prohibits discrimination based on arbitrary and unreasonable classification. The petition explains that the RBI did not provide a clear definition of what constitutes ‘virtual currency’ and that this ambiguity dilutes any reasonability in what may be alleged as a classification. For instance, reward points such as airline miles may also be unreasonably construed as virtual currencies.

Two months ago the Supreme Court of Israel issued an injunction order forbidding one of the biggest banks in the country from halting the account activity of a local bitcoin exchange. This was a major victory for the Israeli cryptocurrency industry that set a precedent for other bitcoin businesses struggling to get banking services in the country. Hopefully the Indian high court will follow this example, even though there is a difference between the authority of a commercial bank and a central bank. Meanwhile, over 42,000 Indians have now signed an online petition that against the RBI directive.

How likely is the Indian high court to rule against the country’s central bank? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 


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Telegram Uses Bitcoin in Effort to Thwart Russian Authorities

Telegram Uses Bitcoin to Fund Proxies and VPNs in Effort to Thwart Russian Authorities

Recently, a Moscow court handed a win to Russian security forces. In an effort to combat terrorism, they announced Telegram would be banned immediately. The company refused to hand over user information. A day after the ban going into effect, CEO Pavel Durov announced Telegram would use bitcoin to fund proxies and VPNs as possible workarounds for Russian customers.

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Monday: A Panther’s Moonshot Bet

Telegram Remains Defiant

Pavel Durov’s Telegram channel followers were pinged early this morning, explaining “For the last 24 hours Telegram has been under a ban by internet providers in Russia. The reason is our refusal to provide encryption keys to Russian security agencies. For us, this was an easy decision. We promised our users 100% privacy and would rather cease to exist than violate this promise,” the company’s CEO stressed.

Telegram Uses Bitcoin to Fund Proxies and VPNs in Effort to Thwart Russian Authorities

Telegram has been in conflict with its native government, Russia, for quite some time. The encrypted messaging service is often used all over the world’s for those seeking relative levels of privacy. In fact, it’s a known source of communication for much of the Middle East and those under rather oppressive political arrangements.

As a result, Russia points to various terrorist acts on its soil, and around the globe, where Telegram has been accused of playing a role. And so its security and communication agencies have demanded Telegram provide a way for government minders to access user information in at least the most criminal of cases.

Telegram Uses Bitcoin to Fund Proxies and VPNs in Effort to Thwart Russian Authorities

Bitcoin Used to Digital Resistance

Mr. Durov has outright refused, even holding back participation in this final hearing on the company’s immediate fate in the country. “Despite the ban,” Mr. Pavel continued this morning, “we haven’t seen a significant drop in user engagement so far, since Russians tend to bypass the ban with VPNs and proxies. We also have been relying on third-party cloud services to remain partly available for our users there.”

Telegram Uses Bitcoin to Fund Proxies and VPNs in Effort to Thwart Russian Authorities
Pavel Durov

“Russia accounts for ~7% of the Telegram user base, and even if we lose that entire market, Telegram’s organic growth in other regions will compensate for this loss within a couple of months,” Mr. Durov stressed. “However, it is important for me personally to make sure we do everything we can for our Russian users.”

That necessarily means workarounds. As Mr. Durov urges, “To support internet freedoms in Russia and elsewhere I started giving out bitcoin grants to individuals and companies who run socks5 proxies and VPN. I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause, and hope that other people will follow. I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally.”

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Government of Iran Bans Foreign Fiat Currency Exchanges

Government of Iran Bans Foreign Fiat Currencies Exchanges

It appears that the Iranian people are losing trust in the rial as it continues to depreciate in value. In response, the government of Iran is trying to prevent them from getting their hands on foreign currency, providing another example of the need for bitcoin. We should expect to see a growth in local bitcoin use as this situation develops, just as has happened in Venezuela and elsewhere.

Also Read: How the Government Gave Your Money to the Banks – Again and Again

No More Currency Exchange Shops

Government of Iran Bans Foreign Fiat Currencies ExchangesThe Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has announced a ban on the trading of foreign currencies by individuals and companies at private exchanges across the country. According to local news reports, forex exchanges in Iran are now only allowed to buy or sell gold coins “until further notice.”

Mohammad Ali Karimi, head of public relations for CBI, reportedly said on Iranian television on April 13 that the new government guidelines are meant to “redefine the job description of exchange bureaus.” He added that instead of buying and selling fiat, the exchanges “might be given the role of a mediator for cases when Iranian banks are not interacting with some foreign banks.” It is possible that the CBI sees the move as a temporary emergency measure due to rapid decline of the rial, however the fact that money changers are offered a new role suggests that the central bank expects this to last at least for a while.

Police to Enforce Exchange Rate

Government of Iran Bans Foreign Fiat Currencies Exchanges
Ferdowsi street, Tehran

The move to “redefine” how Iranians can buy foreign currencies came soon after the government set a new official exchange rate last week. The CBI also announced a €10,000 ceiling on the amount of foreign currency that citizens of Iran can hold outside banks. Those moves reportedly caused people to flock to exchange shops, only to find out they have no money to trade as the CBI did not transfer them any.

In order to enforce the new fixed rate, the police were out in force on the streets, according to local reports, to deter anyone from trading at underground or black-market prices. And the Tehran police revealed that it arrested a dozen “currency market schemers.” One religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, has even called for money changers to be killed. “In order to teach a lesson, we should execute, according to Islamic rules, a few foreign exchange traders who try to plunge the country into chaos,” he was quoted by Iranian media.

Arresting currency traders in Iran is nothing new these days, as this TV report from two months ago shows:

How should the Iranian bitcoin community react to these developments? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce Transactions

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce Transactions

The Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade has prohibited organizations and individuals involved in e-commerce business in the city from using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This follows a directive signed by the country’s prime minister intended to strengthen the legal framework of cryptocurrencies.

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

Banning Crypto Use in E-commerce

The Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade announced on Saturday that it has sent document No. 1638 / SCT-QLTM to “organizations and individuals directly or indirectly related to e-commerce business in Hanoi [to] not use bitcoin and other virtual currencies (cryptocurrencies) to settle e-commerce transactions online.” Citing that if violations are detected, “they shall be strictly dealt with according to the provisions of the law,” the regulator wrote:

The Department of Industry and Trade requires organizations and individuals who are directly or indirectly involved in e-commerce business in Hanoi to strictly abide by the above-mentioned regulations and do not use bitcoin and other virtual currencies….in payment of e-commerce transactions, online purchases and sales, [and] payment [of] online services in contravention of Vietnamese law.

Vietnamese Law on Crypto

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce TransactionsCiting provisions of the government’s Decree No. 101/2012 / ND-CP on non-cash payment instruments, the document reiterates, “bitcoin and other similar virtual currencies are not legal means of payment in Vietnam; The issuance, supply, use of bitcoin and similar virtual currency is prohibited in Vietnam.”

Violations are subject to a “fine of between VND 150,000,000 [~US$6,608] and 200,000,000 [~$8,810] for individuals and for organizations with two times the fine level for personal,” the document emphasizes. Furthermore, as of January this year, issuing and using cryptocurrencies “may be subject to criminal prosecution.”

Hanoi Prohibits Use of Cryptocurrencies in E-commerce TransactionsLast week, the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc signed a directive to strengthen the management of activities related to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This follows reports of the country’s “biggest digital money fraud in history,” which duped approximately 32,000 Vietnamese out of VNĐ15 trillion (~$658 million). The police are currently investigating the case.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), and related agencies are working on the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. According to the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department, the number of bitcoin mining rigs legally imported into the country has skyrocketed since last year, prompting the department to propose a ban on their imports. Earlier this year, the department revealed that, in the first three weeks of January, almost 8,000 mining rigs were legally imported into the city.

What do you think of Hanoi prohibiting the use of crypto for e-commerce transactions? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Alibaba Subsidiary Taobao Bans listing of Cryptocurrency and ICO Services

Taobao, often known as eBay of China has updated their policy banning Cryptocurrencies, ICOs, and other virtual currency-related services. Taobao is a subsidiary of Chinese eCommerce Giant Alibaba set up in 2003 where individuals and small business can list items for sale within China. Taobao previously had a ban on the sale of Cryptocurrency Miners

The post Alibaba Subsidiary Taobao Bans listing of Cryptocurrency and ICO Services appeared first on CCN

Russian Court Bans Telegram, Founder Pavel Durov Defiant

Russian Court Bans Telegram, Pavel Durov Defiant

Russian security services ordered Telegram to hand over access to encrypted user messages, but the messaging application (app) refused. Founder Pavel Durov didn’t bother to send lawyers to Moscow’s Tagansky court, and the court dutifully ruled against his company, taking less than 20 minutes in decreeing an immediate ban.

Also read: CBS’s NCIS Los Angeles Weaves Stolen Bitcoin Into Script, LL Cool J Is on the Case

Russian Court Bans Telegram

Dmitri S. Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, stressed, “There is a certain legislation that demands certain data to be passed to certain services of the Russian Federation.” Judge Yulia Smolina agreed, ruling, “The ban on access to information will be in force until the [Federal Security Service’s] demands are met on providing keys for decrypting user messages,” TASS reported.

Russian Court Bans Telegram, Pavel Durov Defiant

Roskomnadzor, a censuring media body responsible for attempting to ban everything from Github to pornography to white nationalist websites, evidently made the most vigorous appeal in urging the court to shutter Telegram. Last month, the company appealed before the Supreme Court over Russia’s Federal Security Service’s (FSB) 800,000 ruble fine. The FSB ordered Telegram to decrypt messages in accordance with relatively recent anti-terrorism laws. “We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users’ private data to third parties,” a Telegram blog post insisted.

The only comment made at press time by Pavel Durov, regarding 13 April’s decision, came in a post to his personal Telegram channel, and it seemed every bit defiant as the 33 year old, “The power that local governments have over IT corporations is based on money. At any given moment, a government can crash their stocks by threatening to block revenue streams from its markets and thus force these companies to do strange things (remember how last year Apple moved Icloud servers to China). At Telegram, we have the luxury of not caring about revenue streams or ad sales. Privacy is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised out of fear or greed.” Mr. Durov is a native Russian, but bailed in 2014 after his first enterprise, a social networking site called Vkontakte (VK), he claimed, was taken over by Putin in retaliation to Mr. Durov’s then-refusal to hand over user information as well.

Russian Court Bans Telegram, Pavel Durov Defiant
Pavel Durov

Legal Setback for a Company Thriving

Though Telegram has formal appeal rights, the court ruled with a sense of urgency, allowing the Roskomnadzor to take immediate action against the company. An irony not lost on officials is that they too use Telegram for communication purposes, and that includes President Putin’s own press office. Rumors are that it will move to Viber. 

Russian Court Bans Telegram, Pavel Durov Defiant

Telegram’s lawyer, Pavel Chikov, warned, “[Russia has] demonstrated again and again that the court system is devoted to serving the interests of the authorities. They no longer even care about basic external appearances.” Though both Facebook and Google have butted heads with Russian authorities, Telegram is only the second universal platform to be formally banned (Linkedin was the first).

Other than legal woes, the company has been on something of a growth spurt of late. It recently celebrated 200 million users, and is presently raising billions in what is being called the biggest initial coin offering so far.

Do you think Telegram will be impacted by the ban? Let us know in the comments section below.


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