Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and Digital IDs

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

The city of Zug, home of the Swiss Crypto Valley, will invite its residents to take part in an experimental blockchain-based vote. They are expected to share opinions on several questions of local importance, including the fireworks display during the annual Lakeside Festival and the use of digital IDs to borrow books and pay parking fees. This and other fintech and crypto-related stories from the Alpine nation and other corners of Europe are featured in today’s edition of Bitcoin in Brief.   

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Tuesday: POT Saves World, Coinbase Pumps ETC, Binance Wants EUR

Zug Experiments with Blockchain-Based Vote

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsAuthorities in the Swiss city of Zug plan to ask local residents to participate in a consultative blockchain-based vote this month utilizing the city’s electronic ID system. They will be able to vote via their smartphones by downloading and installing an app. The experimental vote will be held between June 25 and July 1. Citizens will be asked if they are in favor of setting alight fireworks during the annual Lakeside Festival, and whether they think digital IDs should be used to borrow books from the library, pay parking fees, and for identification on regular referendums.

According to Swissinfo, the results of the vote will be non-binding. Nevertheless, the initiative, which aims to test whether blockchain can be used on a broader scale, highlights again the positive attitude of Swiss authorities towards cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology. The canton of Zug, dubbed Switzerland’s Crypto Valley, has become home to many fintech startups and even established crypto companies like the Chinese giant Bitmain, which has opened an office there.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsFor some time now, Zug has been accepting cryptocurrency payments for municipal services, including company registrations using bitcoin and ether. The city introduced its eID system to provide citizens with digital access to council services. The pilot phase of the project started last fall. The system is based on blockchain technology.

New Swiss Body to Simplify Capital Markets

In another example of Switzerland’s serious approach to fintech innovations, leading representatives of the country’s financial, technological, academic and legal sectors have recently formed the new Capital Markets and Technology Association (CMTA) to facilitate the use of blockchain in financial markets. In a press release, they noted that “the blockchain technology has the potential to reduce the complexity of the capital markets system and lower the barrier of entry for startups.”

According to CMTA’s founders, the lack of legal certainty is slowing and can potentially compromise development in the field. They hope to facilitate access to funding for new businesses by defining a set of industry-supported open standards. These should ultimately contribute to value creation throughout the economy said Jacques Iffland, CMTA’s chair and partner at Lenz & Staehelin, the largest Swiss law firm.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

Swissquote Bank Ltd, a leader in online banking, and Temenos, which specializes in banking software, are also behind the initiative. CMTA promises to work to create toolkits that can be used by new or established companies, businesses and startups to access funding and raise capital securely and efficiently, using new technologies and leveraging digitalization. The association is based in Geneva.

Irish Blockchain Startup Delivering Aid to Refugees Raises €1m

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDsAn Irish startup, using blockchain to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, has raised an estimated €1 million from investors, according to industry sources quoted by The Irish Times. The Dublin-based Aid:tech is working in refugee camps, often in hotspots like the Middle East. On Wednesday, Enterprise Ireland and SGInnovate, the venture capital arm of the Singaporean development authority, announced simultaneous investments in the Irish company. This is the first time both state-backed organizations have allocated funds to support a blockchain business, the Irish daily notes. Amsterdam-based Blue Parasol Investments and Tin Fu Fund, a closed private equity fund managed by Shenzhen Capital Group, also took part in the funding round.

Aid:tech aims to increase transparency in the distribution of aid, welfare, remittances, donations, and healthcare services through digitizing their delivery using blockchain technology on its platform. According to the company, only a fraction of the estimated €306 billion (~$360 billion) transferred each year by non-governmental aid organizations is currently delivered via transparent systems which, the startup claims, are extremely expensive to administer. The blockchain technology employed by the Irish firm would allow all international aid to be accounted for, including the distribution of medicine, food and other essentials, the publication details.

Government-Backed Platform to Promote Ireland as a Blockchain Hub

In an attempt to highlight Ireland’s capabilities in the blockchain ecosystem, authorities in Dublin have launched a new government-backed platform. Blockchain Ireland, founded in partnership with a young company called Consensys, aims to create conditions for greater cooperation between startups working in the sector, both on national and international level. The platform was launched by the Irish Blockchain Expert Group and backed by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Department of Finance, leading members of the country’s blockchain industry and representatives from a number of academic institutions.

Bitcoin in Brief Wednesday: Zug Tests Blockchain to Decide on Fireworks and IDs

The online platform is a source of useful information about the Irish blockchain ecosystem. It will be used to promote the country as a blockchain hub by highlighting the Irish technology sector and business environment which turn Ireland into an ideal location for blockchain-enabled business, Silicon Republic reports. The services it will be offering include providing information on setting up a new company and support for blockchain projects in Ireland. Its activities, however, will stretch beyond Irish borders. Blockchain Ireland will be working to develop the European and international blockchain ecosystem as well.

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


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The Daily: Swiss Vote on “Sovereign Money”, Russian Banker Against Crypto Ban

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban

Swiss voters will decide this Sunday whether to turn back on fractional-reserve banking and support a “sovereign money” concept for the nation’s finances. Proponents of the initiative prescribe deeper centralization to remedy the shortcomings of the traditional financial system – a vision quite different from the decentralization that came with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, following the 2008 global financial crisis. In today’s Bitcoin in Brief, we also cover a statement by a prominent Russian banker who warns that tight crypto regulations would hamper the development of blockchain technologies.

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Friday: Bitpanda Offers New Coins, Microsoft Dips Data Center in the Sea

Switzerland Decides Fate of Fractional-Reserve Banking

Decentralization vs deeper centralization – the two alternative visions on how to respond to the 2008 financial crisis have been competing for attention and support in the past decade. The first strategy has been at the core of the crypto revolution. It is the remedy prescribed by both the growing global bitcoin community and the supporters of the small government/low taxes concept, like the followers of the Tea Party movement in the U.S. The proponents of the second approach have advocated granting more power and even greater responsibility to centralized financial authorities.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban

On Sunday, June 10, Swiss voters will be asked to support “Vollgeld,” a radical reform aimed at further centralizing financial authority in the hands of the country’s central bank. On the “sovereign money” referendum, the Alpine nation will decide whether to ditch the fractional-reserve banking system, which allows banks to create money by lending far more than what they hold in deposits, Quartz reports. The proposal is to give the Swiss National Bank a monopoly over this function, while commercial banks will be required to lend only what they have.

The initiative would centralize money creation at the central bank, but also concentrate there the corresponding profits and the decisions on who should or shouldn’t receive loans. Its opponents claim that the referendum is a populist response to the previous financial crisis and warn that if it succeeds, that will lead to a new crisis and even spark Brexit-like panic in the country’s huge banking sector. This, however, is an unlikely result. The predominant expectations are that Swiss citizens will vote for more of the same, until the next crisis.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban

In recent years, Switzerland has become a crypto-friendly jurisdiction, where many crypto businesses are headquartered or represented. The Chinese mining giant Bitmain opened a branch there, and one of Russia’s largest banks, Gazprombank, announced plans to test cryptocurrency deals in the Alpine confederation. The country has established a crypto valley in the canton of Zug and has been formally considering the possibility to issue a state-backed cryptocurrency.

Banker Warns, Tighter Crypto Regulations Will Hurt Blockchain Development

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban
German Gref (right)

A ban on cryptocurrencies on state level would endanger the development of blockchain technologies and prevent the disclosure of the full potential of digital currencies, according to German Gref, a prominent banker and former minister of economy and trade of the Russian Federation. Although he admits he does not use cryptocurrencies, Gref notes that he considers them a source of financing for the blockchain development. In April, he said the technology was still “unripe and overvalued.”

German Gref is the president of Sberbank, which is the largest bank in Russia and among the biggest in Europe. Earlier this year, reports suggested that Russia’s “savings bank” was planning to circumvent local regulations and offer clients overseas crypto-trading services.

Gref also shared his opinion that the majority of countries do not recognize cryptocurrency because of its decentralization. “No state will part with the monopoly on money issuance. Most governments believe that cryptocurrency is a property and, like any other property, must be taxable,” he said, quoted by Kommersant, a leading Russian business daily. The banker also cautioned that investing in digital assets is associated with high risks.

New Telegram Trading Bots Announced

The Intelligent Trading Foundation (ITF), a developer of an artificial intelligence-powered crypto trading assistant, has announced two new trading bots for Telegram. They will provide users with important trading signals and notifications about market opportunities.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Switzerland Votes on “Sovereign Money” Referendum, Russian Banker Warns Against Crypto Ban The Intelligent Trading Bot, which comes with both free and premium subscriptions, sends users trading signals and suggest strategies based on technical analysis signals such as Simple Moving Average, Relative Strength Index and Ichimoku Cloud Breakout. The data covers hundreds of cryptocurrencies, offering traders valuable insight.

The other free option displays brief information about a specific cryptocurrency on request from the members of a Telegram Group that has enabled the service. The Intelligent Trading Infobot can be added to any group in the messenger, and will offer current price and trading volume data, as well as the latest trading alerts for hundreds of coins and pairs on three crypto exchanges.

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


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Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto Friendly

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto Friendly

A well-known bank in Belarus will begin offering a bitcoin contract for difference (CFD) product through its platform, a joint project with a Swiss bank. Meanwhile, Belarus is growing less crypto friendly, reportedly amending its decree to impose strict KYC rules.

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

New Bitcoin CFD Product

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto FriendlyMtbankfx is an accredited FX dealer and the first banking forex platform in Belarus. Launched in July 2016, it is a joint project between Minsk Transit Bank (Mtbank), one of the most well-known banks in Belarus, and Swiss Dukascopy Bank SA.

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto FriendlyThe platform will start offering a bitcoin CFD product next week, according to local media. It has already added information and updated its terms of service to reflect this new offering.

Mtbankfx explains in its terms of service that its tools, including the BTC/USD tool with 1:3 leverage, are “available for transactions around the clock – from the opening of the market on Sundays at 21:00 GMT in the summer (22:00 GMT in the winter) until the market closes on Fridays at 20:00 GMT in summer/winter time.” For the bitcoin CFD specifically, the company wrote:

All open positions as of 20:00 GMT Fridays will be forcibly closed.

While the platform offers CFDs for many underlying assets, the bitcoin CFD is the only one that will be forcibly closed.

On March 29, Switzerland’s Dukascopy Bank SA launched its own BTC/USD CFD product for European clients. “Bitcoin to US Dollar (BTC/USD) with leverage 1:3 has been added for live trading,” the company stated.

Belarus Becoming Less Crypto Friendly

Major Belarusian Bank Starts Offering Bitcoin CFD as Belarus Gets Less Crypto Friendly
Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko signed the decree “On the development of the digital economy” in January that legalized cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, and smart contracts. The decree went into effect in March.

However, local media reported this week that amendments to that decree are already being prepared to obligate cryptocurrency exchanges operating within the High-Tech Park (HTP) to disclose their data and identify customers.

Ria Novosti’s source explained that “beneficiaries must meet the requirements for reputation” such as having no criminal record and no bankruptcy proceedings against them, in whole or part. “They should [also] show the availability of funds in accounts of at least $5 million and confirm the sources of their origin.” Additionally, Forklog elaborated:

Operators are required to identify the clients of the exchanges, as well as record and store all types of communications with them. In certain cases, exchange-residents of the HTP will be required to conduct customer verification procedures.

The news outlet added, “information about customers and their transactions should be stored at crypto exchanges for at least five years.”

Do you think Belarus will become even less crypto friendly? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs Away

Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs Away

Ever since ICO mania exploded in early 2017, Switzerland has served as Europe’s de facto crowdsale launchpad. Financial authorities have welcomed crypto startups, and the likes of Tezos, Mysterium, and Arcblock have all heeded that call. Guidelines laid out by Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) in February were meant to add clarity for ICOs. Instead, they’ve had the opposite effect.

Also read: Switzerland Enacts ICO Guidelines

FINMA Guidelines Are Causing Concern

In February, news.Bitcoin.com reported how FINMA had published guidelines with the intention of “creating clarity for market participants”. Among the risks addressed by the 11-page document was the concern that money could be laundered through crowdsales. Under section 3.7 (Compliance with AMLA), the document states:

Anti-money laundering regulation gives rise to a range of due diligence requirements including the requirement to establish the identity of the beneficial owner and the obligation either to affiliate to a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) or to be subject directly to FINMA supervision. These requirements can be fulfilled by having the funds accepted via a financial intermediary who is already subject to the AMLA in Switzerland and who exercises on behalf of the organiser the corresponding due diligence requirements.

In plain English, this means that ICOs must use a Swiss company to perform KYC on all ICO participants, which is where the problems have started. With only a handful of companies in a position to perform such checks, these entities effectively hold a monopoly. The average cost for a KYC check ranges from between $0.6 to $2 within the ICO space – but Switzerland is an exception. Accredited bodies are charging up to $25 per check, leaving projects that have already made the decision to host their crowdsale in Switzerland in an awkward position.

Grain Counts the Cost of Following FINMA

Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs AwayGrain is an infrastructure solution seeking to host work agreements and contracts on the blockchain. In February, it announced that it would be postponing its ICO for a month to accord to the new guidelines FINMA has introduced, writing: “Although there is no ICO specific regulation or consistent legal doctrine, we’ve decided to “better be safe than sorry”. We want Grain to be a sustainable, long-term success story and avoid potential compliance issues that might disturb that trajectory.”

One consequence of electing to follow FINMA’s guidelines to the letter was that Grain had to raise its minimum crowdsale contribution, which had been set at 0.1 ETH, in order to cover the increased costs of Swiss KYC. Anywhere else in the world, a typical crowdsale can conduct KYC on all participants for around $30,000. In Switzerland, companies such as ICO Engine charge 5% of all ethereum raised, which means they stand to pocket $200,000 or more simply for administering basic verification.

Swiss Regulations Are Driving ICOs Away
Dorado’s KYC comprises nothing more than a checkbox

Because FINMA’s guidelines aren’t legally binding, there is an alternative option – disregard them altogether and don’t conduct any sort of due diligence. This is a strategy that’s fraught with risk, but which some projects have chosen to follow. While the likes of Grain has chosen to do things by the book, other Swiss-based ICOs such as Dorado have skipped KYC altogether. Investors need only a Facebook or Gmail ID to login and contribute funds in fiat or crypto. Dorado’s sole means of ensuring that investors aren’t from the U.S., for example, is a checkbox. So long as FINMA’s guidelines remain unbinding and unamended, they risk driving ethical ICOs away and allowing the more gung-ho projects to proliferate.

Do you think ICOs should simply ignore FINMA’s guidelines, or is their best option to avoid Switzerland altogether? Let us know in the comments section below.


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“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker Says

“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker Says

Private digital currencies are better than any state-issued version, admitted a high-ranking representative of the Swiss National Bank. Cryptocurrencies are also less risky, according to Andrea Maechler, member of the central bank’s governing board. Her comments indicate that Switzerland has no intentions to emit a state-sponsored crypto.  

Also read: Centralized Cryptoruble Not Possible, Minister Tells Putin

Digital Central Bank Money Brings Risks

“Private-sector digital currencies” are better and less risky than any version that might be offered by a central bank, the representative of the Swiss National Bank’s management thinks. “Digital central bank money for the general public is not necessary to ensure an efficient system for cashless retail payments”, Andrea Maechler said during an event in Zurich. She went on to explain why a crypto issued by a central bank could increase the risk of bank runs.

“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker SaysA government-backed cryptocurrency would make it easier for people to transfer money out of their accounts, if they felt a bank was in difficulties. “It would deliver scarcely any advantages, but would give rise to incalculable risks with regard to financial stability,” Maechler said, quoted by Reuters. In her option, a state-issued cryptocurrency would be calling into question the „tried and tested two-tier system” in which the SNB acts as a bank to commercial banks, which in turn deal with end customers.

Not all of Mrs. Maechler’s remarks were positive about cryptos. She thinks “cryptocurrencies are not true competitors to conventional currencies”, despite the soaring interest in bitcoin. The hype has outweighed their actual use, the banker says. SNB’s representative also pointed out that money must be a viable medium of exchange, a stable unit of account and a long-term store of value – functions that, in her words, cryptos don’t perform. Digital coins are also highly volatile, and a speculative investment instrument rather than a means of payment, she added.

However, neither the unexpected recognition of cryptos, nor the usual talking points against them, are what makes Andrea Maechler’s speech important. What deserves attention is the indication that the central bank and the government of Switzerland have no immediate plans, or even desire, to launch a state-sponsored cryptocurrency.

Cryptos Have What Swiss Banks Used to Offer

With an “e-franc” project, Bern could join a club of governments tempted to control at least one “crypto”. The leader in this competition, Venezuela, became the first country with a state-issued digital coin. The ”oil-backed” petro comes to partially replace the hyperinflated fiat bolivar. Russia has been mulling over a cryptoruble but the idea has been put on the backburner for now. Its central bank thinks it is “not appropriate”, and the finance ministry informed Putin a centralized crypto is not even possible. Sweden has been thinking about an “e-krona”, and Poland is reportedly developing an “e-złoty”.

“Private Digital Money” Better than State-Issued, Swiss Central Banker SaysSwitzerland, however, has never been eager to join clubs of any kind, it takes pride in its independence. Swiss banking practices have been a good example of that for many years, before pressures from tax authorities, both American and European, increased. The attitude towards cryptocurrencies may become another proof of Switzerland’s independence.

The Alpine confederation is already regarded as a crypto-friendly jurisdiction, where many crypto businesses are headquartered or represented. It has become one of the first countries to establish a crypto valley, in the Canton of Zug. The Chinese mining giant Bitmain opened a branch there, and one of Russia’s largest banks, Gazprombank, announced plans to test cryptocurrency deals in Switzerland.

Decentralized, unregulated cryptocurrencies offer what the country provided to Swiss bank account holders for a very long time – security and anonymity. Sometimes it looks as if Switzerland is wondering whether it can do it again in a crypto environment.

Do you think Switzerland will continue to embrace cryptocurrencies? Share your expectations in the comments section below.


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Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland

Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland

Gazprombank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, is planning to perform some cryptocurrency deals by the end of the year. According to one of its top managers, the bank is responding to demand from “substantial clients”. The pilot transactions will be conducted through its subsidiary in Switzerland.

Also read: New Bill Aims to Allow Crypto Payments in Russia

Working on Procedures, Looking into Options

The state-owned Gazprombank may try to conduct some cryptocurrency transactions on behalf of its customers as early as this year, Russian media reported. They will be channeled through its Swiss-based subsidiary, Deputy CEO Alexander Sobol told Interfax news agency.

Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland“These will be pilot deals, not on a large scale. Some substantial private clients have asked for this kind of services,” Sobol explained. The bank is currently looking into different options to meet that demand. Gazprom’s subsidiary in Switzerland is studying the opportunities there. The alpine country has implemented more liberal regulations, he noted.

According to the high-ranking representative, the Russian bank has not yet developed crypto-related procedures. No decision has been taken to offer the new services to regular customers. However, Alexander Sobol stressed that the bank’s management is actively following [crypto] developments.

Gazprombank is the third-largest bank in the Russian Federation. It offers retail, corporate, investment and depositary services, as well as clearing and settlement products. It also deals with securities and forex instruments. Gazprombank owns shares in three other Russian banks and is operating in Belarus and Switzerland through subsidiaries.

Breaching AML Rules in Switzerland

About a month ago the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) banned Gazprombank (Switzerland) from attracting new private customers. The regulator found deficiencies in its anti-money laundering procedures. The agency inspected more than 30 banks within an investigation which began in 2016 after the Panama Papers revelations. FINMA said that the bank had breached its own AML requirements between 2006 and 2016.

The Swiss subsidiary was founded as Russische Kommerzial Bank AG in 1992. It was renamed after its acquisition by Gazprombank in 2009. The bank specializes in financial operations related to the bilateral trade between Russia and Switzerland. It also provides services to Swiss companies investing in the Russian Federation and the CIS countries.

Gazprombank to Try Crypto Deals in Switzerland

Cryptocurrency deals are not yet regulated in the Russian Federation. However, two draft laws aimed to change the status quo have been introduced in the State Duma this month. The bill  “On Digital Financial Assets” is going to legalize blockchain technologies, mining operations and initial coin offerings. The other draft is supposed to amend Russia’s Civil Code in order to regulate the use of “digital money” and protect the investors. The bills should be adopted in June or July.

Earlier in March, a working group proposed tax exemptions on profits from crypto-related transactions after a meeting at the Ministry of Economic Development in Moscow. It gathered representatives of several government institutions and the private sector. Gazprombank also took part in the consultations.

Do you expect more Russian banks to enter the crypto sector after its legalization? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ Zug

Some Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ Zug

Cryptocurrency foundations, community organizations, and entrepreneurs have helped put the lightly populated Swiss canton of Zug on the business world’s map. While the local administration has created one of the most welcoming environments for the industry, some voices fear possible negative repercussions such as bad press and an American regulatory backlash.

Also Read: Survey Says 8% of the American Population Now Own Cryptocurrency

Lamborghini Robin Hoods

Some Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ ZugA new report from Zug, Switzerland by the Financial Times showcases that despite the success ‘Crypto Valley’ has had in attracting businesses, there are still those that fear it might bring unwanted attention as well. A Swiss finance specialist commented: “I’m just waiting for Washington to call Bern and ask ‘what are you doing down there in Zug?’.” Another local insider said: “They say they are different to banks, that they are Robin Hoods — but we have Robin Hoods driving around in Lamborghinis.”

Besides flashy displays of wealth, critics also echo other familiar complaints. “My big worry is that the whole intransparency will lower Zug’s standing worldwide,” said Andreas Hürlimann, a local Green party councillor. “You don’t know from where to where the money is flowing, whether it is drug money for instance.” He also added that the council accepting bitcoin payments was “clearly a marketing gag”.

For their part, the entrepreneurs appear to be pleased with the region’s politicians and  regulations. The only issue they raised in the FT report was reluctant cooperation by the local banks, something that they can bypass by turning to other places such as Liechtenstein.

Black Sheep

Some Swiss Officials Fear ICOs Will Tarnish Reputation of ‘Crypto Valley’ ZugThe main concern that rises from the report is that some ICO could mess up in a way that will bring foreign pressure to harshen the local legal framework for all others. “Switzerland remains under pressure to follow a ‘clean money’ strategy. It was hard work to get Switzerland off the blacklists — and there is of course no appetite for it to be back on them,” explained Jan Seffinga, blockchain expert at Deloitte.

“These ICOs require blind trust in the founders. You can’t do much if the raised funds are misappropriated,” commented Luzius Meisser, founder of the Bitcoin Association Switzerland. Heinz Tännler, Zug canton’s finance director, said: “The risk is when you have ‘black sheep’. We have our eyes open. But there is never an opportunity without risks.”

Still others seem to be overwhelmed by the fast development of ‘Crypto Valley’. Dolfi Müller, Zug town council president, said: “We play the background music . . . We don’t have great plans — we don’t want to be a ‘smart city’ like Dubai. It’s step by step. It’s Asterix against Rome.”

Should the people of Zug be grateful for ICOs bringing business to their community or cautious? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National Cryptocurrency

The chairman of Switzerland’s stock exchange, Romeo Lacher, has spoken in favor of developing a Swiss national cryptocurrency. Mr. Lacher suggested that the proposed “e-franc” would provide a boost to the Swiss economy, in addition to comprising a payment system offering benefits over traditional systems.

Also Read: Chinese Entrepreneur Warns Against Mining and ICO Bans 

Swiss Stock Exchange Head Advocates Development of “E-Franc”

Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National CryptocurrencyRobert Lacher, the head of Switzerland’s stock exchange, has spoken in favor of the development of a Swiss national cryptocurrency backed by the country’s central bank.

Mr. Lacher stated his belief that “there would be a lot of upsides” to developing a state-administered cryptocurrency, adding that the stock exchange “would be strongly supportive” of any initiative in favor of such.

“An e-franc under the control of the central bank would create a lot of synergies — so it would be good for the economy,” Mr. Lacher said, adding “I don’t like cash.”

Swiss Central Bank Sees “No Need” for National Cryptocurrency

Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National CryptocurrencyThe chairman described the hypothetical development of a national cryptocurrency as an excellent opportunity for Switzerland to extend its position as a leader in virtual currency innovation and adoption.

In response to Mr. Lacher’s comments, the Swiss National Bank issued a statement asserting that the bank sees “no need” to develop a national cryptocurrency, adding that existing cashless and cash-based payment systems are working smoothly.

Despite Mr. Lacher’s enthusiasm for a state-administered cryptocurrency, the chairman reasserted that the stock exchange and its owners, SIX Group, will not allow trading in cryptocurrency tokens. “We have actually no plans to admit trading of cryptocurrencies or ICOs. But we see a lot of advantages for blockchain across our businesses,” he said.

Switzerland Positions Itself as International Leader in Distributed Ledger Technology

Swiss Stock Exchange Chairman Advocates National CryptocurrencyMr. Lacher also spoke in favor of the Swiss government’s policies designed to position the nation as a global leader in distributed ledger technology, however, acknowledged the risks associated with being a pioneering adopter of a disruptive phenomenon.

“I think the strategic direction is good, but it’s like going into fog,” Mr. Lacher said. “You don’t know what you will see on the other side. Many mistakes will be made, but we will also learn a lot and I am sure, we will be successful.”

Last month, The Swiss Economics Minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann, said that Switzerland should strive to “become the crypto-nation” whilst speaking at the Crypto Finance Conference in St. Moritz. During the conference, Mr. Schneider-Ammann described virtual currencies as comprising “part of the fourth industrial revolution,” but added that “It is too early” to determine if cryptocurrencies require regulatory oversight.

Are you for or against national cryptocurrencies? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For Crypto

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For Crypto

Russia’s largest bank, the state-controlled Sberbank, has reiterated that it is not mining cryptocurrencies. However, the bank says that it has often caught its employees crypto mining using the bank’s equipment.

Also read: Japan’s DMM Bitcoin Exchange Opens for Business With 7 Cryptocurrencies

Sberbank Claims It’s Not Mining Crypto

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For CryptoThe state-controlled Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia and the third largest in Europe. The bank is in possession of a large quantity of graphics cards that can be used for cryptocurrency mining. The bank’s senior vice president, Alexander Vedyakhin, apologized publicly in November of last year for causing a shortage of these cards in the Russian market, as news.Bitcoin.com previously reported.

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For Crypto
Herman Gref.

Since admitting to scooping up most of the graphics cards on the domestic market, Sberbank has maintained that it is not mining cryptocurrencies with them. Instead, Vedyakhin claimed these cards are for the bank’s “laboratory for the development of artificial intelligence,” Tass quoted him.

On Wednesday, Chairman of the bank’s Board, Herman Gref, reiterated at the “Leaders of Russia” forum that Sberbank is not mining cryptocurrencies on a corporate level. However, the publication quoted him proclaiming:

We bought [graphics] cards of a slightly different configuration. Sberbank is not engaged in mining, but we often catch employees who are engaged in mining on the bank’s equipment.

Gref elaborated that he believes the bank is not interested in mining because it is a “primitive business,” adding that “I can tell you a dozen other investment objects with higher yields,” RBC detailed.

Sberbank’s Engagement with Cryptocurrencies

Russia’s Largest Bank Caught Employees Mining For CryptoAt the end of January, Sberbank announced that its subsidiary in Switzerland will start offering cryptocurrency trading. This Swiss part of the plan is to “avoid violating domestic rules,” Reuters explained. Meanwhile, Russian regulators are working on finalizing the legal framework for cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

In addition, the bank opened a blockchain laboratory last month for researching the latest technology in this area. “The laboratory will cooperate with start-ups, associations and various communities,” RBC conveyed, adding that the bank will introduce “educational programs in this area.”

Gref also recently stated that he “opposes the ban on cryptocurrency and calls for tolerance and patience in their regulation,” Tass described and quoted him saying:

Before trying to regulate, you do not need to rush, but you do need to maintain a normal background around the technologies of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Do you think Sberbank is mining cryptocurrencies? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Sberbank.


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Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurrencies Overseas

Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurencies Overseas

The largest bank in Russia, the state-owned Sberbank, has reportedly announced its plans to bypass the Russian cryptocurrency regulations and offer crypto trading to customers overseas. The bank is looking at trading pairs of the most liquid and well-known cryptocurrencies.

Also read: Japan’s DMM Bitcoin Exchange Opens for Business With 7 Cryptocurrencies

Bypassing Russian Regulations

Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurencies OverseasAt a news briefing on Tuesday, Sberbank’s Head of Global Markets Andrey Shemetov said that the bank “plans to start trading cryptocurrencies outside Russia in order to avoid violating domestic rules,” Reuters reported. Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia and third largest in Europe. It is majority-owned by the Russian government.

According to Shemetov, “Russian laws bar Sberbank from trading cryptocurrencies.” However, “the state-controlled bank wants to be able to serve clients in what is a popular market for some investors,” the news outlet explained. “That’s why we think that we need to have a strategic access to these products,” he told reporters. Tass then quoted him emphasizing:

In Russia, we cannot trade [cryptocurrency], but we want to satisfy the interests of clients, and we believe that we must have access to a wide range of products.

The Russian finance ministry recently published the draft law on the regulation of digital assets in Russia including cryptocurrencies. This bill is expected to enter into force in September.

The Swiss Operation

Sberbank to Bypass Russian Regulations and Trade Cryptocurencies OverseasSberbank’s solution for crypto trading is its branch in Switzerland called Sberbank (Switzerland) AG, headquartered in Zurich. Shemetov revealed that the bank’s Swiss subsidiary is creating “an infrastructure for trading in cryptocurrencies,” Tass reported. He clarified, “We completely build the trading infrastructure so that we can open our own positions and give customers service, that is, buy and sell for clients,” reiterating:

Swiss laws allow cryptocurrency trading, and we are working on infrastructure to start offering these services through our Swiss subsidiary.

Initially, “The product will be available only to legal entities,” Ria Novosti detailed. Shemetov noted, “The product is very risky, the volatility is very high, so we will not provide these services to a large number of customers,” adding:

We are looking at all of the cryptocurrency pairs that are the most liquid, [and] their names are known. We will see what’s interesting to the clients, where is some liquidity…Obviously, we will not go into a low-liquidity crypto.

In November of last year, Sberbank bought up a lot of graphics cards that can be used for cryptocurrency mining, causing a shortage of these products on the Russian market. The bank said at the time that these cards were for its “laboratory of artificial intelligence.”

The president and chairman of the board of Sberbank, Herman Gref, said earlier this month at the annual Gaidar forum, as reported by local media, “Cryptocurrencies cannot be banned, it’s a wonderful new technology which has not yet been fully captured and studied.”

What do you think of Sberbank offering cryptocurrency trading outside of Russia? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Church in Zürich Accepts Donations in Bitcoin, BCH, Ether, Ripple and Stellar

Church in Zürich Accepts Donations in Bitcoin, BCH, Ether, Ripple and Stellar

While some mainstream media sources will have you believe that bitcoin is only used for buying illicit drugs, contracting hitmen and laundering money, the truth is that it is being used for so much more than that – just like fiat currency. The latest example is a religious body that now allows members to donate using cryptocurrency.

Also Read: U.S. Rating Agency to Issue Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Grades Wednesday

Swiss Bitcoin Church

Church in Zürich Accepts Donations in Bitcoin, BCH, Ether, Ripple and StellarICF Zurich, an evangelical church from the largest city in Switzerland, has begun accepting voluntary offerings from its parishioners using cryptocurrency. According to its website, the church accepts donations directly via bitcoin (BTC), bitcoin cash (BCH), ether (ETH), ripple (XRP) and stellar lumen (XLM).

“Digital currencies and the blockchain technology will change our daily lives more and more in the next years,” the spokesperson of the church, Nicolas Legler, told Swiss news agency Idea. “Cryptocurrencies will be implemented, be it Bitcoin or other currencies controlled by the State. We are convinced that this technology will soon belong to our daily lives. Twenty years ago, no one would have believed that internet would determine our lives so much,” he added.

Church in Zürich Accepts Donations in Bitcoin, BCH, Ether, Ripple and Stellar
“We also accept donations in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ripple and Stellar Lumen.”

Preaching to the Young

Church in Zürich Accepts Donations in Bitcoin, BCH, Ether, Ripple and StellarAccording to an evangelical European news portal, this church is known for its use of all kinds of new technologies in its worship services and has many young members, some of which “are increasingly using this way of doing financial transfers.” This explains the choice of accepting cryptocurrency now, as the invention has taken a strong hold on early adopters in Switzerland, as it can help the church appear innovative and relevant to them.

We should also note that this is just another example of how young people are changing the donations practice. A couple of notable other examples include Pineapple Fund, the $86 million bitcoin charity which contributed towards developing MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, scalable healthcare in Nepal, combating elephant poachers, testing universal basic income in Africa, and much more; as well as Paxful’s #BuiltWithBitcoin initiative to help fund 100 schools in developing countries.

Is bitcoin acceptance an effective way of reaching young believers? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


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Do you like to research and read about Bitcoin technology? Check out Bitcoin.com’s Wiki page for an in-depth look at Bitcoin’s innovative technology and interesting history.

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