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‘We’re at Home in Crypto Winter’: Winklevoss Twins Launch Crypto Trading App

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have launched Gemini’s mobile crypto trading app together with a new crypto basket investment vehicle.

Cryptocurrency trading platform Gemini founders Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have launched a mobile crypto trading app together with a new investment vehicle, according to an official blog post published Dec. 11.

As the post outlines, the new app allows users to buy and sell crypto, and monitor real-time and historical crypto market prices for Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and ZCash (ZEC). Users can also see the total value of their current portfolio, and set price and percentage value change alerts for their chosen coins.

Further functionality includes a “recurring buy” feature, as well as support for a newly-launched investment vehicle dubbed “The Cryptoverse” –– a basket of cryptocurrencies, weighted by market capitalization, to be bought as a single order.

In an interview with Bloomberg published today, the twins struck a bullish tone in regard to the recent crypto market slump, Tyler stating “we’re totally at home in winter,” and his twin Cameron adding that “it gives us time to build internally, and refine and kind of catch our breath.”

Cameron contextualized the new app as a bid to reach out to retail investors, telling Bloomberg that:

“A lot of our decisions have perhaps given off a perception that we’re more institutional-based. The reality of the situation is that we have a diverse customer base. And the retail story is just beginning.”

The twins also revealed their 2019 goal of expanding to the Asian crypto market, where they will face stiff competition from a thriving exchange industry that includes the likes of Bitfinex, Binance and Huobi. Gemini’s expansion plans have also been rumored to include possible entry to the United Kingdom market, as reported this September.

The twins, stalwarts of the crypto space, have had a checkered history with regulators. Successes include a recent seal of approval from the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) to launch their own U.S. dollar-backed stablecoin, the Gemini dollar.

Gemini also obtained insurance coverage for custodied digital assets from lending services firm Aon, which will complement Gemini’s already available Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) coverage for U.S. dollar deposits (in place under the New York State BitLicense framework since 2015).

The twins nonetheless faced a high-profile setback this July, when their application to launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) received its second rejection from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Most recently, the twins have made crypto news with a lawsuit they filed against Bitcoin Foundation founder Charlie Shrem concerning an alleged Bitcoin theft dating back six years.

As of press time, Gemini is ranked 51st among crypto exchanges in terms of adjusted trade volumes, seeing around $16.5 million in daily trades.

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Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange Insures Its Crypto Assets With Local Broker

The Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange has insured all of its assets with local insurance broker Callaghan.

The Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX) announced that it is offering insurance on all of the assets listed on its platform, in an official GBX blog post Dec. 10.

The exchange reports that it will use local firm Callaghan Insurance Brokers to insure its assets, specifying that “all assets in the custody of the GBX are fully insured, including both hot and cold wallets.” The policy also reportedly “covers all forms of professional indemnity.”

GBX, a subsidiary of the Gibraltar Stock Exchange (GSX), opened in July of this year and has raised a total of $27 million in funding. In the past 24 hours, the exchange saw about $8.5 million in trades, currently placing it in 60th place on CoinMarketCap’s exchange rankings by adjusted trade volume.

As Cointelegraph reported, last month the exchange was awarded a license by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC).

As the firm’s blog post states, Callaghan Insurance Brokers is a privately held insurance company based out of Gibraltar The firm’s managing director is also a member of the GFSC’s board.

This is not the first crypto exchange that has managed to obtain insurance on the assets it holds. Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange owned by the Winklevoss twins, also secured coverage for its custodied digital assets from insurance firm Aon this October.

For its part, Gibraltar’s government has recently shown interest in the regulation and development of blockchain technology in the country. As Cointelegraph reported in October, the local government launched an advisory group meant to develop blockchain-related educational courses.

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South Korean National Assembly Holds Regulation Debate With Local Crypto Exchanges

Major Korean crypto exchanges have arranged a crypto regulation debate in the National Assembly, discussing Anti-Money Laundering policies and customer protection.

South Korea’s representative body, the National Assembly, has held a crypto regulation debate arranged by major local cryptocurrency exchanges, IT media oulet ZdNet Korea reports Monday, Dec. 10.

According to local business outlet Financial Leaders, the topics of the debate were proposed by seven crypto exchanges — Bithumb, CobitCoin, Coinone, Upbit, Gopax, Coinplug and Hanbitco.

The debate was attended both by crypto entrepreneurs and politicians, such as Democratic Party member Kim Byung-wook and representatives for the Liberty Korea and Bareunmirae parties, both with a significant number of seats in the National Assembly. The country’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), also sent a representative to the discussion.

ZDNet reports that Lee Seok-wu, CEO of Dunamu — a subsidiary of Kakao that operates Upbit — led a discussion that was attended by FSC members and the president of Gopax, among others. The discussion reportedly focused on Anti-Money Laundering (AML), customer protection and Know Your Customer (KYC) practices..

The debate in the National Assembly was preceded by the FSC’s decision to allow banks to service crypto exchanges, as soon as they have adequate AML safeguards and apply KYC checks.

At the same time, South Korea has a strict policy against Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), issuing strong warnings against them back in 2017. However, local blockchain startup, Presto, is reportedly going to file a constitutional appeal over this policy.

According to a recent report prepared by CryptoCompare, the crypto industry in South Korea is consistently growing. In November Korean crypto exchanges overtook Maltese competitors by average daily trade volume. As per report, major Korean players produced over $1.4 billion daily.

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Crypto Exchange ErisX Appoints Digital Markets and Exchange Veteran Matt Trudeau as CSO

New crypto exchange ErisX has announced the appointment of veteran exchange founder Matt Trudeau as its chief strategy officer (CSO).

New crypto exchange ErisX has announced the appointment of veteran exchange founder Matt Trudeau as its chief strategy officer (CSO), according to a press release published Dec. 10.

As reported this October, ErisX is a reboot of traditional futures market Eris Exchange, and is expected to offer spot trading in Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Litecoin (LTC), alongside futures contracts in 2019 Q2, pending United States  regulators’ approval.

According to the ErisX press release and his LinkedIn profile, Matt Trudeau has to date assisted in ten global market launches — including Instinet, Chi-X, IEX and Tradewind. The latter is a platform which leverages blockchain technology to tokenize the trading, settlement and ownership of precious metals. Trudeau is also currently CEO of a Brooklyn-based crypto- and blockchain-focused startup consultancy firm.

More broadly, as the press release notes, Trudeau’s experience in the digitalization of the U.S. equities market over the past decade has consolidated his expertise in trading technology and electronic exchanges within the context of regulated global financial markets.

Trudeau’s official statement today characterizes the new ErisX venture as a “needed evolution to the way individuals and institutions trade digital assets” by integrating crypto spot trading and regulated futures contracts under one canopy. In his new role as CSO, he will reportedly be tasked with exploring “new avenues for revenue growth” and driving the firm’s “market structure efforts.”

As reported in early December, ErisX raised $27.5 million from Fidelity Investments and Nasdaq Ventures, among others, following a prior investment from retail brokerage firm TD Ameritrade and others this October.

The platform enters the crypto space as competition between major new trading and crypto investment ventures is set to gather pace; the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), operator of 23 leading global exchanges including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), plans to launch its “Bakkt” digital assets platform at the end of January 2019.

Bakkt, as is ErisX, is pending approval from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for its own physically-delivered Bitcoin futures product.

Meanwhile, Fidelity, which administers over $7.2 trillion in client assets, announced the launch of a new company, Fidelity Digital Asset Services, this October. The newly-created business will reportedly focus on providing a “secure, compliant, and institutional-grade omnibus storage solution for bitcoin, ether and other digital assets.”

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Huobi Opens First Russian Office in Partnership with State Bank’s Digital Tech Center

Huobi has launched its first branch in Russia in partnership with local state-owned VEB bank’s blockchain and crypto center.

Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange Huobi has officially launched its first branch in Russia on Thursday, Dec. 6, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph today.

The Moscow-based exchange, dubbed Huobi Russia, is established in partnership with the state-owned Russian Development Bank’s (VEB) Digital Transformation Center and supported by Huobi’s regional exchange partnership program, Huobi Cloud.

The Center of Digital Transformation was created by VEB to promote blockchain and other crypto-related technologies, as its website states.

Back in September of this year, Huobi first joined Russia’s VEB Innovation Fund and became a resident of the Digital Transformation Center to share experience on crypto regulation, with the fund’s CEO claiming that Huobi’s expertise will assist in building a “legal basis that could compete with current promising jurisdictions.”

Speaking at a private event on Thursday, Huobi senior business director David Chen claimed that the launch of Huobi Russia will help to promote the company’s “leading technology and trading expertise to Russian users,” including such skills as “unmatched safety, stability, and user experience.”

Huobi Russia CEO Andrei Grachev also noted the increasing volumes of crypto trading in Russia, claiming that the volumes have “recently exceeded US $20 million in a single day,” regardless of the current bear market.

Russia’s VEB Innovation Fund, created in 2011, is reportedly the “first” Russian specialized center for support and development of disruptive technologies in the fields of management and the functioning of enterprises and government corporations, according to the center’s website.

The innovation center is exploring and implementing various blockchain projects, and houses more than 20 branches of major blockchain and tech companies such as the Ethereum Foundation, Bitcoin (BTC) tech company Bitfury, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and others.

Vladimir Demin, chairman of VEB’s Innovation Fund, claimed that Russia is “actively promoting the blockchain market,” with VEB willing to play an “important role as a leader in blockchain research and legislation,” as reported in the press release.

Founded in 1922, VEB bank, or “the state corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs,” is the first international bank of the Soviet Union, originally named Roskombank. The bank is responsible for developing the Russian economy, as well as managing Russia’s state debts and pension funds.

Other Russian banks have also shown an interest in blockchain technology.

Recently, major Russian state-backed bank Sberbank conducted an over-the-counter (OTC) monetary repurchase agreement based on blockchain technology. And earlier in November, the Russian branch of Raiffeisen Bank International teamed up with local state oil giant Gazprom Neft to issue a blockchain-enabled bank guarantee.

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Gemini Adds Support for Bitcoin Cash Trading and Custody on the ABC Network

Gemini, a major cryptocurrency exchange and custodian, recently announced it launched support for Bitcoin Cash on the ABC blockchain.

Cryptocurrency exchange Gemini announced support for Bitcoin Cash (BCH) custody and trading today with a post on its official Medium blog, Dec. 8. Gemini, which is based in the United States, was founded in 2015 by the Winklevoss brothers.

The exchange pointed out that, at the moment, it will “only be providing support for the Bitcoin ABC network” which is identified on the platform as “Bitcoin Cash with ticker: BCH.”

Gemini declared that they “are continuing to evaluate Bitcoin SV over the coming weeks or months, and we may or may not choose to support withdrawals and/or trading of Bitcoin SV in the future.”

In order to ensure legal compliance, the company, which claims to be the world’s most regulated cryptocurrency exchange and custodian, reportedly “worked closely with the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) to obtain approval to offer Bitcoin Cash trading and custody services.”

Bitcoin SV and Bitcoin ABC are the two blockchains that contended for the Bitcoin Cash name after a controversial hard fork. What was often referred to as a “war” in the crypto community ended when Bitcoin SV backer and billionaire entrepreneur Calvin Ayre declared that the chain no longer wants the Bitcoin Cash name, as Cointelegraph reported Nov. 24.

In October, Gemini gained regulatory approval to offer trading of major cryptocurrency Litecoin (LTC). Gemini’s vice president of engineering Eric Winer noted Gemini’s thoroughgoing “banking compliance and fiduciary obligations” under oversight from NYDFS. He stated that Litecoin trading support came as the result of close cooperation with regulators, and that the exchange is approaching new assets with a “security-first” approach.

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Chilean Government Making Progress on Crypto Regulation, Says Finance Minister

The Chilean finance minister told local media that the government is making progress on clear crypto legislation.

Chile’s Minister of Finance Felipe Larrain claims that a group of state institutions “is making progress” in developing crypto regulation, local daily newspaper La Tercera reports Friday, Dec. 7.

According to Larrain, the Ministry of Finance is working with Chile’s central bank and Financial Stability Board to provide a balanced legal framework for the crypto industry. He noted that crypto regulations are but one aspect of a wider project to provide legal definitions for the fintech sector. Larrain noted that crypto regulation might take time:

“We are aware that it is important to move in this direction. But all countries in the world are facing similar problems [with crypto regulation], and there is no magic wand to solve them. We are exploring the best solutions to see how to regulate this brand new phenomenon.”

In March, following the closure of crypto-business accounts in major Chilean banks, Larrain promised to develop a legal framework to normalize the situation. Nine months on however, no such legislation has come forward, although the Chilean parliament has made some forays into regulating blockchain technology.

Larrain’s recent statement comes shortly after a Chilean Supreme Court decision, annulled a previous ruling by an anti-monopoly court to protect local crypto exchange Orionx and to reopen its banking accounts. In the decision, a judge claimed that cryptocurrencies “have no physical manifestation and no intrinsic value.”

Despite the alarming publications in local media, Chile’s crypto entrepreneurs told Cointelegraph that the new decision has nothing to do with prohibiting crypto exchanges. Both Orionx and Buda.com, which have been involved in a legal battle since March, assure that their banking accounts will not be affected, as the anti-monopoly court’s decision is still in force.

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Major Crypto Exchange Coinbase ‘Explores’ Listing XRP, Cardano, EOS, Others

U.S.-based crypto exchange Coinbase “explores” adding support for 31 cryptocurrencies, including major coins such as XRP, EOS, ADA.

Major United States-based crypto exchange Coinbase is “exploring” the possibility of providing trading support for over 31 cryptocurrencies. Potential new additions include Ripple (XRP), EOS and Cardano (ADA), according to a press release published Friday, Dec. 7.

The company has revealed a list of 31 cryptocurrencies, including the aforementioned three, as well as NEO, Tezos (XTZ), and others. Coinbase states that it “will be working with local banks and regulators to add them in as many jurisdictions as possible.”

List of cryptocurrencies Coinbase is considering to add

List of cryptocurrencies Coinbase is considering to add. Source: blog.coinbase.com

Coinbase added that a cryptocurrency being present in the list is not a guarantee that it will ultimately be added, as any coins could face some restrictions or might not be listed at all, after their evaluation is finished:

“Adding new assets requires significant exploratory work from both a technical and compliance standpoint, and we cannot guarantee that all the assets we are evaluating will ultimately be listed for trading. Furthermore, our listing process may result in some of these assets being listed solely for customers to buy and sell, without the ability to send or receive using a local wallet.”

Back in September, Coinbase announced a new listing process that would allow it to add digital assets faster than before. However, the crypto exchange has pointed out that the new procedure only applied to digital assets that were compliant with their local regulations. Thus, certain assets listed by Coinbase might only be available to customers in particular jurisdictions.

In November, the U.S.-based crypto exchange added Ethereum Classic (ETC) and later Zcash (ZEC) trading to its platform.

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Inside Chilean Power Battle: Crypto Exchanges vs. State Banks

The prerequisites and aftermath of the Supreme Court decision regarding crypto exchanges accounts.

On Monday, Dec. 4, the Chilean Supreme Court welcomed the decision of state-owned Banco del Estado to close the accounts of local cryptocurrency exchange Orionx. The new phase in the legal battle between the banks and several crypto exchanges — including Buda.com and CryptoMarket (CryptoMKT), which had appealed against the denial of services — may look somewhat sinister from the outside. But the main players of the Chilean crypto market assured Cointelegraph that the recent decision could not prevent them from operating in the country.

Exchanges vs. banks — a brief outline of the confrontation

In March, two crypto exchanges — Buda and CryptoMKT — came out with a joint statement, claiming that some banks in Chile had closed their accounts. “We are killing the whole industry long before exploring it and understanding its approach,” the release read. CryptoMKT also claimed that another bank received instructions not to deal with anyone who is related to cryptocurrencies. Both crypto businesses then urged the Chilean Association of Banks (ABIF), which coordinates all the private and foreign financial institutions in the country, to intervene — or at least clear up its stance on cryptocurrencies.

A response was given within a few days of the statement: The president of ABIF, Segismundo Schulin-Zeuthen, told Chilean business outlet Diario Financiero that the banks were free to moderate relations with their clients. Schulin-Zeuthen also criticized Buda and CryptoMKT for “[generating] false judgments about the institutional role of the ABIF,” while the association’s role consisted of discussing and analyzing existing regulation in the finance sector.

The bank that closed the crypto exchanges’ accounts was soon revealed to be Itau Corpbanca, the fifth-largest bank in Chile, along with a branch of Latin American banking giant Itau Unibanco and Scotiabank Chile, a branch of a Canadian banking group by the same name. They were soon joined by Banco del Estado — the only public bank in the country managing up to $52 billion in assets, as of 2017.

Later in April, Itau Corpbanca opposed the crypto industry’s stance that the move was illegal and insisted that the closure of accounts result in an internal investigation. According to Itau, Buda had failed to comply with their Anti-Money Laundering (AML) policy. Moreover, the bank accused the exchange of failing to verify the users’ data, as Buda’s website only requested basic information during the registration and did not verify the identities of its clients.

The whole story, including the media coverage and official responses, fueled a huge backlash on social media. As Cointelegraph reported in April 2018, crypto enthusiasts blamed financial institutions for “a huge negative blow to Chile’s reputation as a rational, innovation-friendly, free market economy,” stating that those actions “stifle innovation.” Twitter users created a hashtag #ChileQuiereCrypto (Chile wants crypto), urging the government to resolve the problem with crypto exchanges.

Chilean Banks Against Crypto Exchanges

In mid-April, the Chilean crypto exchanges decided to fight for their rights and started a legal battle, applying to Tribunal de Defensa de la Libre Competencia (TDLC) — an independent, anti-monopoly institution established to ensure that free competition rules are not violated. Buda and CryptoMkt, joined by Orionx (whose accounts had also been closed), had filed a petition against several banks, including Itau Corpbanca, Scotiabank and Banco del Estado.

Guillermo Torrealba, Buda’s co-founder and CEO, summed up the whole turmoil in an comment for Cointelegraph:

“There hasn’t been one regulator, legislator or government official saying that cryptocurrencies aren’t legal, it was just the decision of a very powerful sector of the economy: the banking industry.”

Blockchain regulation instead of crypto promises

Only a few weeks after the first complaint, TDLC ruled against Banco del Estado and Itau Corpbanca, forcing them to re-open Buda’s accounts.

Later in June, the same decision was made in favor of Orionx. As the company wrote on its official Facebook page, the anti-monopoly court ordered Banco del Estado and Banco de Chile — another major bank in the country that was mentioned in the initial lawsuit — to reopen Orionx’s accounts within three days.

It would be logical to assume that the long-term battle would force Chilean authorities to introduce relevant legislation on cryptocurrencies to prevent such situations in the future.

In late March, following the first news of the closure of the crypto accounts, Diario Financiero spoke to Chile’s Minister of Finance Felipe Larrain. He was reassured that both the Ministry and the Central Bank of Chile had started exploring the possibility of crypto regulation to normalize the situation:

“Technical progress and the digital economy bring people new services; we have to consider this fact. But when the regulation issues arise […], we have to avoid situations that could affect the normal development of markets and healthy competition.”

Chile’s central bank reaffirmed that intention in May. Mario Marcel, the president of the institution, proposed incorporating the crypto regulation in order “to allow having a registry of participants in these activities and thus have information to monitor the associated risks.” Marcel also stated that the industry needed more transparency and consumer protection — as cryptocurrencies could possibly be involved in illicit activities, such as money laundering and the financing of terrorists.

Six months after the recent claim, there is still no sign of a legal framework for cryptocurrencies in Chile. In October, local deputies instead introduced a resolution on blockchain adoption to the lower house of the country’s parliament. Miguel Angel Calisto and Giorgio Jackson — along with eight other MPs — urged Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera to implement blockchain in all the country’s public areas, along with carrying out studies on the advantages of decentralized security and energy solutions.

The Supreme Court comes into play

A new, unexpected chapter began on Dec. 4, when the Chilean Supreme Court published its resolution in favor of Banco del Estado. As cited by major Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, the document reads:

“The resolution taken July 11, 2018, is revoked. It is declared in its place that the protection appeal filed by Orionx SPA against the Banco del Estado is rejected.”

The Supreme Court further explained that the actions conducted by Banco del Estado were not “unjustified” or “illegal,” as the bank acted correctly and did not violate any rules of the Chilean constitution. Moreover, the top court stated that the cryptocurrencies “have no physical manifestation and no intrinsic value.” The document also proclaimed that they are controlled neither by a government nor by a corporation, citing the characteristics of crypto as reasons for letting banks refuse services to the exchange.

No pasaran: How Chilean crypto exchanges treat the highest court’s decision

Despite the apparent harshness of the Supreme Court’s decision, Chilean crypto exchanges believe it will have no bearing on the case. Reacting to the aforementioned resolution, Orionx published a statement on their official Facebook page:

“Orionx wants to clarify that this ruling does not imply the closure of the company’s current bank accounts. [D]ue to the fact there is a current precautionary measure issued by TDLC, which prevents banks from closing the mentioned accounts.”

Moreover, Orionx emphasizes that it disagrees with the arguments provided by the Supreme Court and regrets the latest ruling.

Buda shares the same stance, also citing the ruling of the anti-monopoly court in its official statement:

“The valid ruling in our favor pronounced by TDLC assures that our bank accounts will be maintained during the trial that is held in the mentioned court.”

Moreover, the firm insists that the Supreme Court’s resolution on Orionx has nothing to do with their company. Speaking to Cointelegraph, Buda’s co-founder Agustin Feuerhake said:

“The situation with Buda.com has been slightly different. Since [the] very beginning[,] we had a relevant KYC [Know Your Customer] policy. We also tackle money laundering and terrorism financing, so the bank’s argument to close an account does not apply to our case. There are no anonymous users on Buda.com.”

Feuerhake further added that the Chilean courts are not evaluating the ban on crypto exchanges, but rather seek ways to “condemn banks for abusive behavior” toward them.

As the decision of the Supreme Court did not mention Buda and CryptoMKT, it might be a turning point in the plot. The legal framework for crypto, if introduced, could side with crypto exchanges or stand with the banks.

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Japanese Police Note Uptick in Reports of Illicit Crypto Transactions This Year

There has been a significant increase in the reports of suspected illegal use of cryptocurrencies in Japan.

There has been a significant wave of reports of suspicious cryptocurrency transactions to the police in Japan, English-language local media outlet Jiji.com reports Dec. 6.

According to the report, the National Police Agency (NPA) have revealed that there have been 5,944 reports to the Japanese police about suspected illegal uses of cryptocurrencies, such as money laundering, between January and October.

By comparison, the number of such reports last year was 669, but their number increased “after the implementation in April of a law obliging the [cryptocurrency exchange] operators to make reports to the police if they detect dubious digital currency transactions.”

An NPA official declared that such an “increase indicates that the operators have become widely aware of the reporting obligation.”

As Cointelegraph reported recently, the Japanese government is searching for ways to prevent tax evasion on significant profits from cryptocurrency transactions. According to sources familiar to the situation, the government is working on a system that would let the National Tax Agency obtain data from cryptocurrency transaction intermediaries about crypto users.

Earlier this week, Cointelegraph reported that the Japanese Financial Services Agency (FSA) is planning the introduction of stricter Initial Coin Offering (ICO) regulations in an attempt to protect investors from fraud.