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Russia: Central Bank Suggests Limiting Sale of Crypto Assets for ‘Unqualified Investors’

The Central Bank of Russia has suggested that the parliament set a yearly limit of $9,100 for crypto assets transactions performed by “unqualified investors.”

The Central Bank of Russia wants to set an annual limit for so-called “unqualified investors” that want to purchase digital assets, local business media giant RBC reported on Tuesday, March 12.

According to the documents obtained by RBC, the bank wants to amend the current draft crypto bill, dubbed “On Digital Financial Assets,” which recently passed a second of three readings in Russia’s parliament, the State Duma.

The central bank’s paper recommends equating investor limits to the ones set in a draft bill on crowdfunding, which is also being reviewed by the Russian parliament. The head of the State Duma’s committee on financial markets Anatoly Aksakov told RBC that the threshold will likely be established at around 600,000 rubles (about $9,100) per year — the same as the yearly investment limit in crowdfunding projects.

If the parliament passes the bill with the central bank’s current recommendations, unqualified investors will still be able to purchase and digital assets that were issued within the country, the report notes. Moreover, investors will be allowed to sell or purchase such tokens without intermediaries.

The Central Bank of Russia considers an investor “unqualified” if they have less than a one year minimum of investment experience. In order to be considered a qualified investor, one needs to obtain a qualification certificate — given they meet the minimum individual investment time requirements — or have at least two years of work experience in a company that is considered a qualified investor by the state.

As per RBC, the government also wants to establish requirements for financial intermediaries involved in crypto asset trading. According to the current version of the draft, banks, depositories and stock exchanges will be obliged to track all crypto transactions and reveal the amounts traded by unqualified investors to other counterparties, institutions or government bodies, if necessary.

The bill “On Digital Financial Assets,” which was initially approved in a first reading by the State Duma back in May, has raised a major discussion within Russian legal discourse. Its second reading was repeatedly postponed by legislators.

In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin set a deadline for the government to adopt regulations for the digital assets industry, urging MPs to adopt the bill during the spring session of 2019.

More recently, Aksakov told Russian news agency RNS that the crypto bill reaching the final stages before being put into law. The chairman of the financial committee expects that the bill will be adopted by the end of March.

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Egypt’s Central Bank Conducting ‘Feasibility Studies’ Around Digital Currency Issuance

A sub-governor from the central bank of Egypt has said the entity is looking into issuing a blockchain-based digital currency.

The central bank of Egypt wants to introduce a digital version of the Egyptian pound to reduce costs, local English language news outlet Amwal Al Ghad reported Dec. 16.

Ayman Hussein, sub-governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), told an Abu Dhabi conference on Sunday that “feasibility studies” were currently ongoing.

In line with various authorities in the vicinity, Egypt believes a blockchain-based digital version of its fiat currency can help keep issuance and transaction costs to a minimum compared to coins and banknotes, Amwal Al Ghad notes.

The move is one step in the journey to a cashless society.

“A number of international institutions” are involved in the studies, Amwal Al Ghad reported Hussein as saying, “without disclosing names or specifying whether the anticipated currency would be traded for banks only or between banks and clients.”

Egypt has traditionally taken a highly risk-averse stance to decentralized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC), stepping up its public rhetoric since the country’s first crypto exchange launched in August 2017.

At the time, CBE reacted saying there was no “legislation or law” in force “allowing” such activities to take place, the Egypt Independent reported. The exchange, Bitcoin Egypt, was not able to be found online today at press time.

In January this year, the country’s top cleric meanwhile added to the anti-crypto stance, declaring Bitcoin trading forbidden in Islam, while an advisor subsequently told local daily Egypt Today that Bitcoin is “used directly to fund terrorists.”

The Turkish government has also warned over the incompatibility of Bitcoin trading and Islam, while a report in April from an Indonesian-based fintech startup concluded that the coin is “generally permissible” under Sharia law.

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Bahrain’s Central Bank Publishes Draft Regulations on Crypto Assets

Central Bank of Bahrain has issued a draft of digital assets regulations which includes new licensing requirements for crypto service providers.

Bahrain’s central bank has issued draft regulations on digital assets, Reuters reports Friday, Dec. 13.

According to Reuters “the central bank said it had issued for consultation draft rules for crypto asset platform operators, providing regulations for the licensing and supervision of crypto asset services.”

Bahrain’s central bank has reportedly stated that the proposed regulations include “measures to safeguard customer interests, technology standards, and cybersecurity risk management.”

Bahrain first announced its positive stance toward blockchain over a year ago. At the time, Khalid Al Rumaihi, the country’s chief executive of the Economic Development Board called the technology a “huge opportunity for Bahrain.”

As Cointelegraph reported this November, Bahrain’s Institute of Banking and Finance launched its own “Blockchain Academy.” The newly established academy will provide courses in three competency areas of blockchain technology: development, implementation and strategy.

Abdulhussain Mirza, Bahrain’s minister of electricity and water affairs demonstrated a positive outlook on the technology in September, saying that “Blockchain’s ability to protect user’s data is a true mark of progress.”

As Cointelegraph reported earlier this week, the Dutch central bank also proposed licensing cryptocurrency service providers.

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Dutch Central Bank Proposes License Requirement for Cryptocurrency Service Providers

Cryptocurrency service providers will soon be required to hold a license issued by the Dutch Central Bank in the Netherlands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Russian Draft Bill Blocking Suspicious Financial Websites ‘Could’ Cover ‘Scam’ ICOs, Experts Note

Russia’s parliament will discuss a draft bill on blocking suspicious financial websites, and experts believe it might affect “scam” ICOs.

A group of Russian members of parliament (MPs) has introduced a draft bill on blocking suspicious financial websites on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Russian crypto media outlet Forklog believes it can encompass “scam” Initial Coin Offerings (ICO).

According to the document, the country’s central bank will be able to call to block websites as soon as they do not comply with the current legislation. Moreover, the state bank can apply to the court in order to block the page on the basis of pre-trial settlement.

Websites that fake existing banks’ URLs, offer financial services without having a license, or promote “financial pyramids” are mentioned among those that fall under the newly introduced restrictions.

The group of MPs working on the bill was headed by the chairman of the State Duma — a lower chamber of Russian Parliament — Vyacheslav Volodin. The document was developed in 2017 on the direct instructions from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Alexander Zhuravlev, an author of a blockchain-related education program supported by the Duma, told Forklog that the bill is likely to encompass the crypto area, and scam ICOs in particular:

“The central bank has been struggling to to clean the market of pseudo-credit organizations and financial pyramids. If we apply this to future ICO projects that fail to comply with their obligations, then the central bank will also be entitled to request the blocking of their websites.”

Russia’s State Duma is also working on a draft bill on crypto regulation, which had been pushed back to its first reading for significant edits in early December. The document had previously been heavily criticized, partly due to the lack of core crypto terms, such as “mining” and “cryptocurrencies” themselves.

However, the deputy prime minister of Russia announced earlier this week that the authors of the draft crypto bill did not intend to make any changes.

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UAE Central Bank, Saudi Arabia to Develop Joint Cryptocurrency for Interbank Transactions

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are jointly developing a digital currency meant for interbank transactions.

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) central bank is collaborating with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to issue a cryptocurrency accepted in cross-border transactions between the two countries. English-language Dubai-based media outlet GulfNews reported on this collaboration on Dec. 12.

Mubarak Rashed Al Mansouri, the governor of the UAE’s central bank, said during a meeting on the global banking standards and regulation for the Arab region that:

“This is probably the first time ever that witnesses the cooperation of monetary authorities from different countries on this topic and we hope that this achievement will foster similar collaboration in our region.”

Still, Al Mansouri also pointed out that this “is just a study” and that they “have not gone deeper into it.” The digital currency under development is supposed to be used only between banks. According to Al Mansouri, this would be ”much more efficient.”

Al Mansouri added that the recent development in financial technology brings both challenges and opportunities. The key, according to him, are regulators that better understand the risks and the best ways to mitigate them.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of October, a digital currency backed by the Dubai government will get its own payment system. Consequently, local consumers will be able to use the digital currency to pay for goods and services.

The Abu Dhabi Global Market also recently conducted a test of a blockchain-based Know Your Customer (KYC) system. The first phase of the pilot held in the international free zone in the capital of the United Arab Emirates has reportedly been successful.

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

The governor of the Chinese central bank has stated during a summit that STOs are an “illegal financial activity in China.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Malaysia: Finance Regulator, Central Bank Say Cryptocurrency Regulation ‘Being Put in Place’

Authorities are in the process of developing cryptocurrency and ICO rules, which could become law in Q1 2019.

Malaysia’s finance regulator and central bank issued a joint press statement Dec. 6 in which they confirmed they were “putting in place” legislation on cryptocurrency and Initial Coin Offering (ICO) assets.

The statement from the Malaysia’s Securities Commission (SC) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), which follows comments from senior government official that regulation of the sector could appear in Q1 2019, also reiterates the need comply with securities laws where appropriate.

“The SC will regulate issuances of digital assets via initial coin offerings (ICO) and the trading of digital assets at digital asset exchanges in Malaysia,” it confirmed.

“Regulations are currently being put in place to bring digital assets within the remit of securities laws to promote fair and orderly trading and ensure investor protection.”

Malaysia has slowly enacted a formalized stance on cryptocurrency activities this year. Last month, in addition to revealing the potential deadline, the country’s finance minister Lim Guan Eng also stated that anyone wishing to issue a new asset could only do so with BNM’s blessing.

“I advise all parties wishing to introduce Bitcoin (style) cryptocurrency to refer first to Bank Negara Malaysia as it is the authority that will issue the decision on financial mechanism,” he said.

Among those eyeing the developments is a local initiative dubbed “Hope Coin,” the creators of which may have to wait for the process to complete before launching.

The moves come hot on the heels of Thailand, which is around six months into the introductory phase of its own regulation.

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Israel: Former PM Calls Crypto a ‘Ponzi Scheme,’ But Underlines Importance of Blockchain

Cryptocurrencies are “Ponzi schemes,” while blockchain is “important,” says former Israeli prime minister.

Ehud Barak, a former Israeli Prime Minister, has compared digital currencies to Ponzi schemes, Israeli media agency Arutz Sheva reported on Dec. 3.

Barak had participated in the Camp David Accords in 2000 as part of an attempt to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and now serves as the chairman of medical marijuana producer InterCure.

Speaking an event hosted by Israeli financial outlet Globes in Tel-Aviv this Sunday, Barak fielded a question comparing the alleged marijuana investment “bubble” to crypto by underlining that “he would never invest” in cryptocurrencies as “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies [are] a Ponzi scheme.”

Meanwhile, Barak underlined that blockchain technology and smart contracts are important and useful technological and mathematical concepts, noting:

“Anyone who has patience and understands the depth of blockchain will find many uses, from holding sensitive medical information to smart contracts.”

Earlier this year, the Bank of Finland, the country’s central bank, had published a study calling cryptocurrencies not real currencies but instead “accounting systems for non-existent assets,” Cointelegraph wrote Jul. 2.

Back this fall, Israel’s central bank had also announced that it did not intend to issue its own digital currencies. A similar negation has been expressed by Masayoshi Amamiya, the deputy governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ), who has doubted in the effectiveness of central bank-issued digital currencies (CBDC).  

Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has urged international financial institutions to “consider the possibility to issue [state-backed] digital currency,” as Cointelegraph wrote Nov. 14.

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China: Central Bank’s Digital Currency Lab Launches Research Center in Eastern Province

China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), is extending the activities of its Digital Currency Research Lab beyond the country’s capital, local media outlet CNstock reports September 5.

The news reveals that the lab has opened a new fintech research center in Nanjing, the capital of China’s eastern Jiangsu province. The establishment of municipal fintech centers is reportedly intended to support the PBoC’s testing of its recently developed digital currency prototype, as the bank steers the prototype to production.

The Jiangsu center has been established in partnership with the municipal government, Nanjing University, the PBoC’s Jiangsu branch, and the Bank of Jiangsu, CNstock writes.

The center aims to serve as a bridge between “politics, production, study, research and use” and to this end will pool resources from across government departments, high-tech parks, financial institutions, and universities in order to pilot cutting-edge fintech applications and promote them across the country.

As CNstock notes, the new center has been founded several months after the Digital Currency Research Lab established its fully owned subsidiary in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, also in collaboration with the municipal government. Shenzhen is reportedly slated to be the first city to test the PBoC’s “legal” digital currency, and to provide the systematic preparation for its launch, including cooperation with the country’s regulators.

As Cointelegraph reported yesterday, the Shenzhen Central Sub-branch of PBoC officially launched the testing phase of its blockchain trade finance platform ahead of schedule.

PBoC’s lab has also been ratcheting up patent applications for its planned digital currency, which include several patents for a digital currency wallet. CNstock further reports that the PBoc has a host of newly unveiled patents, encompassing digital currency management methods and systems triggered by loan interest rate conditions, as well as digital currency exchange methods and systems.