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Thailand’s Stock Exchange Plans to Roll Out Digital Asset Platform in 2020

The Stock Exchange of Thailand announced it is ready to start building a new digital asset system.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) plans to roll out its digital asset platform in 2020, according to an official statement released on March 13.

Following recent reports purportedly revealing the plans, the SET has confirmed that it will build a digital asset platform as a part of its three-year strategic plan from 2019 to 2021.

In the announcement, the Thai exchange claimed that the local capital market will experience a transformation into the digital age in two areas.

The first field will be a complete digitization of the capital market infrastructure in order to provide paperless operations. The second direction will be building a new ecosystem that will support digital assets in order to create new opportunities and transform the investment landscape.

SET President Pakorn Peetathawatchai stated that the exchange is ready to start creating a new digital asset ecosystem, adding that such an initiative will be a turning point that will take the Thai capital market to the next level.

The SET’s plans to launch a regulated digital asset exchange were first reported in January, with the SET’s board of governors’ vice chair Pattera Dilokrungthirapop revealing that the national stock exchange plans to apply for a digital asset operating license from the country’s Ministry of Finance in 2019.

According to the SET’s plans, the exchange’s member securities firms will be able to apply to become brokers and dealers for trading on the new digital asset exchange.

Recently, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission’s reportedly authorized the first initial coin offering (ICO)-focused portal that allows for the screening of ICOs, as well as performing due diligence, confirming smart contract source codes and conducting Know Your Customer procedures.

In February, Switzerland’s principal stock exchange SIX Swiss Exchange announced it will test blockchain integration for its upcoming parallel digital trading platform SDX in the second half of this year. Recently, crypto outlet The Block reported that SIX will launch another crypto exchange-traded product for the Ripple (XRP) token as well.

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US Marshals Service Issues Information Request on Management of Forfeited Crypto Assets

The U.S. Marshals Service wants to set up a legal procedure for managing confiscated cryptocurrency.

United States federal law enforcement agency, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), is looking to set up an agent for managing confiscated cryptocurrency, according to public documents released on March 5.

The USMS has recently published two draft documents including a Request for Information (RFI) for legal procedures of the management and disposal of forfeited crypto assets.

As a key component of the department’s Asset Forfeiture Program (AFP) operating within the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), the USMS intends to assign an agent or contractor that will manage and dispose of seized or forfeited virtual currency. By initiating the RFI, the USMS expects to improve its current custodial operations by maintaining a complete and accurate accounting of the USMS’ virtual currency inventory.

In the first document, the Performance Work Statement (PWS), the USMS describes the full range of forfeited virtual currency management and disposal services, including general procedures and responsibilities of the contractor.

According to the document, the contractor must ensure the accuracy and security of all virtual currency transactions, including the direct exchange of virtual currencies into U.S. dollars, the exchange into a more liquid form of virtual currency, a return to the owner and others.

The PWS contract includes major activities associated with the management of virtual currencies, including accounting, customer management, audit compliance, managing blockchain forks, wallet creation, transformation of token assets into coin assets and others.

In the second document, the Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan (QASP), the USMS establishes an evaluation system for the performance of the contractor. The QASP describes major authorities such as Contracting Officer and Contracting Officer’s Representative that are responsible for performance measurement and effective evaluation of the contractor’s compliance.

The USMS noted that the recently issued RFI is provided solely for information and planning purposes and does not represent either a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP in the future.

Last year, the USMS announced a bid auction for approximately 660 confiscated Bitcoins (BTC), with the auction participants required to deposit $200,000 in order to take part.

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Russia: Financial Markets Committee Considers Requiring Identification From Crypto Users

Russia’s Duma Committee on Financial Markets wants to establish an identification process for users of digital assets.

Russia’s Duma Committee on Financial Markets is considering the adoption of a mandatory identification process for users of digital assets, local news service Izvestia reports on March 7.

The committee chairman, Anatoly Aksakov, revealed that the authority is planning to amend Russia’s crypto regulation, aiming to establish a special identification process for users of digital financial assets, including cryptocurrencies.

According to the planned amendment, dealing with crypto by unidentified users will become illegal, Aksakov said.

The chairman stressed that the new initiative is concurrent with the existing legislation against money laundering, with violation penalties reaching up to 15 years of imprisonment. Aksakov elaborated that the amendment will contribute to minimizing the risks of corruption and money laundering.

Aksakov noted that the authority has not suggested either the mechanism of the identification procedure, nor the responsible authority for the management of the process to date.

Neither Russia’s central bank nor the Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation (Rosfinmonitoring) have responded to Izvestia for comment on whether they support the new amendment.

Yesterday, Russia’s parliament adopted a crypto regulatory bill in its second reading. The bill, “On Digital Financial Assets,” was previously approved in a first reading by the State Duma in May 2018, but raised some concerns and criticism from those in both the crypto and legal industries.

Recently, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development has been reported to be working on the third set of measures for the development of Russian offshores — locations where companies can legitimately be exempt from paying taxes or follow relaxed regulations — that are expected to affect digital assets.

In late February, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially ordered that the government should adopt crypto regulations in the spring session of 2019.

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Medici Portfolio Firm Partners with Caribbean Bank to Pilot Digital Currency

Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to issue Digital Eastern Caribbean Dollar in partnership with Medici portfolio firm Bitt.

Bitt, a portfolio firm of Overstock’s blockchain firm Medici, has partnered with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) to pilot central bank digital currency (CBDC). Overstock announced the news in a press release on March 6.

Barbados-based Bitt initially signed a contract with ECCB to conduct a pilot of the blockchain-issued Digital Eastern Caribbean Dollar (DXCD) on Feb. 21. The digital currency will be used within the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), and is set to be distributed by licensed financial institutions and non-bank financial institutions in the ECCU.

DXCD intends to facilitate peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions between merchants and consumers through smart devices, enabling  transfers across the ECCU. The blockchain pilot aims to promote greater stability in the financial sector, reduce cash usage in the ECCU and foster economic growth in the Caribbean.

Jonathan Johnson, president of Medici Ventures, said that Bitt’s integration with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank will help advance blockchain technology. He claimed that Bitt’s technology significantly improves payments industry by using blockchain to provide banking options to countries with large “unbanked” populations.

ECCB first signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bitt in March 2018 to use blockchain tech for data management, ensuring compliance, and monitoring transactions.

Founded in 2014, Medici Ventures is a fully-owned blockchain subsidiary of retail giant Overstock. Recently, major investors in Overstock’s crypto subsidiary tZERO reduced their upcoming investment from $404 million to $100 million.

On March 1, the Central Bank of the Bahamas announced its key development partners for creating a digital fiat currency system in the island country. The Bahamas’ “Project Sand Dollar” aims to provide equal access to digital payments capabilities, reduce cash transactions and service delivery costs.

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Bahamas Central Bank Announces Key Tech Providers for Upcoming Digital Currency Pilot

The Bahamas central bank will work with NZIA.io and Singapore-based Zynesis to develop the digital fiat currency project.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas has announced its key collaborators for the development of a digital fiat currency system in the island country, according to an official document released on March 1.

Called “Project Sand Dollar,” the new initiative intends to provide equal access to digital payments capabilities, reducing cash transactions and service delivery costs. The pilot also aims to improve operational efficiency and overall financial inclusion in communities across the Bahamas.

In order to implement the project, the Bahamas central bank will reportedly cooperate with transaction provider NZIA.io — bringing “together the collective know-how and expertise of IBM” — and Zynesis, a Singapore-based software development firm offering blockchain solutions. The Bahamas bank stated that it will soon start talks with NZIA in order to agree on the final terms and the scope of the collaboration.

In the announcement, the Bahamas central bank also noted that the upcoming digital fiat currency will comply with the local regulations, including the draft regulatory Central Bank of the Bahamas Bill, 2019. The regulatory framework is set to include policies against money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as specifications to ensure the digital currency’s complementary status to that of the traditionally adopted banking system.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas first reported its plans to release its own state-backed digital currency in June 2018. At the time, the Bahamas’ deputy prime minister and minister of finance claimed that a digital Bahamian currency will be particularly important for the many islands, as many commercial banks have downsized and left communities without banking services.

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Russian President Putin Orders Government to Adopt Crypto Regulation by July 2019

The President of Russia Vladimir Putin has issued another deadline for the legislature to adopt digital asset regulation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued another deadline for the government to adopt regulations for the digital assets industry, according to instructions for the Federal Assembly. The document was published on the official website of the President of Russia, Kremlin.ru, on Feb. 27.

According to the document, Pres. Putin has ordered the government to enforce crypto-related regulation by July 1, 2019. The President has required the Council of the Federation of Russia and the lower house the Federal Assembly of Russia (Russian State Duma) to adopt the regulation during the spring session of 2019.

Specifically, the document requires the adoption of federal legislation that aims to develop the digital economy, including regulation of civil-law digital settlements. The legislation should also include a regulatory framework for digital financial assets, as well as attract greater financial resources based on digital technologies, the document says.

The recent instruction by the Pres. Putin echoes his previous statement in 2018, when he ordered the government to set up regulations for the trade of Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto mining by July 2018.

The Russian parliament passed crypto legislation in its first reading in May 2018, however, in autumn, all crypto- and token-related terms had been eventually replaced with the term “digital rights,” while the definition of crypto mining had also been cut out from the bill. As such, Russia’s crypto regulation bill was sent back to the first reading stage in December 2018.

Recently, Russian financial outlet Rambler reported that the Russian State Duma plans to review and adopt new cryptocurrency regulations in March.

Previously, the Russian Minister of Justice argued that the ministry does not see the need to legally define the concept of cryptocurrency, since cryptocurrencies cannot be used as a payment method in the country.

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Crypto-Fiat Payments Firm Wirex Launches Major Update, Adds 10 New Fiat Currencies

Digital payments firm Wirex released a major platform update offering new OTC and interbank rates for crypto and fiat.

Digital payments firm Wirex has released a major platform update, Wirex 3.0, adding ten new fiat currencies, according to an official press release on Feb. 27.

From now, Wirex users in the European Economic Area (EEA) can access “unconditional access” to over-the-counter rates for cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as interbank rates for traditional currency exchanges.

The press release clarifies that the update also brings these new features to residents of the Asia-Pacific region and Canada, letting said users operate their Wirex accounts in their local fiat currency for the first time.

According to the statement on Wirex’s “Money Management” page, the platform now supports 15 fiat currencies, including newly featured ones such as the Hong Kong dollar, the Singapore Dollar and the Australian Dollar (AUD).

Additionally, the recent update offers new ways to transfer money in and out of bank accounts, enabling support for the United Kingdom-based Faster Payments, SEPA and SWIFT.

According to the announcement, the new platform also features a transparent fee structure.

In August 2018, Wirex was granted the third e-money license issued by  U.K. regulator the Financial Conduct Authority to a crypto-related company.

Previously, management and technology consulting firm GreySpark reported that the United States dollar is the most actively traded fiat currency against cryptocurrencies.

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Blythe Masters Looks Beyond Finance for Next Wave of Blockchain Growth

To hear Blythe Masters tell it, the time has come for Digital Asset (DA) to spread its wings and fly.

The distributed ledger technology (DLT) company she founded in 2014 is entering a new phase, heralded by, among other things, a partnership with Google Cloud to simplify and proliferate the tech.

To date, DA’s strategy has stood out among the big enterprise blockchain players for its laser-like focus. Instead of spending a lot of time on consortiums, proofs-of-concept and the like, the New York-based company concentrated on landing the one big fish.

It achieved that goal late last year when the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) officially hired DA to replace its creaky Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS), a multi-year project that’s currently underway.

Now, having earned the rare distinction of a bona fide production customer, Masters’ startup wants to foster an ecosystem around its Digital Asset Modeling Language (DAML), which is about to become available with a software development kit (SDK) via Google Cloud.

“Having spent three and a half years in the design-and-build phase, this is the ‘open up and educate’ phase and [the time to] build a community of channel partners and developers,” Masters told CoinDesk.

This, in turn, will open a vast range of opportunities for DA, she said – both within the financial services industry where Masters spent most of her career and outside it.

“The application of this technology is by no means limited to the world’s biggest market infrastructures,” the former JPMorgan Chase executive said, adding:

“It goes well throughout financial services, well beyond capital markets and beyond financial services into all the other industries that have a vested interest in improving the efficiency of their workflow orchestration.”

According to Masters, there is “a lot of pent-up demand” for DA’s technology which the cloud-based DAML SDK can start to meet and a “potential addressable market that is almost unmeasurable.”

To give a sense of the breadth of this market, Masters rattled off a litany of new pastures for DA, including: healthcare and insurance claims; digital media rights; royalty streams; real estate; lending and collateral management within capital markets, derivatives post-trade, securities post-trade, reference data, supply chain, crypto wallet custody of assets and more.

However, Masters was careful to qualify this, acknowledging the fatigue felt in many corners following the blockchain hype of a few years ago.

“I think there was some fair criticism that blockchain was a technology solution looking for a problem to solve,” she said. “But our approach has very much been to work with customers to identify the problem first and sometimes not to recommend a DLT solution.”

‘Web-paced innovation’

The DA team recently returned from San Francisco, where Masters and Shaul Kfir, DA’s CTO, gave a talk on DLT partnerships at the Google Cloud Next conference.

The primary aim of the Google Cloud partnership is to make it easier for developers to deploy DA’s tech, which Masters describes as “a mission to unleash web-paced innovation across multiple industries.”

This means abstracting away the underlying complexity of the cryptography, the data architecture, the blockchain or DLT state engine, said Masters.

The Google Cloud-DA partnership appears to run deep as well as wide. To help drive the DAML platform-as-a-service (PaaS) program, DA has also welcomed former Google engineering executive AG Gangadhar to its board.

And adding to the symbiosis, Google Cloud has joined DA’s developer program private beta, giving Google Cloud developers access to DAML.

The DLT space has garnered extraordinary enthusiasm and Google’s developers and its customers are no less curious and motivated in this space than any others,” said Masters.

It’s now clear Google is getting serious about blockchain following candid comments last month from co-founder Sergey Brin that the search giant was playing catch up with the blockchain trend.

Google would not comment on the partnership or DLT generally, but an insider close to the DA-Google Cloud partnership confirmed to CoinDesk, “All of Google has access to the DAML SDK, and this includes Alphabet,” Google’s holding company, which has portfolio companies in a wide range of industries.

But not every influential figure in Mountain View is a blockchain convert. CoinDesk asked Google’s chief internet evangelist, Vint Cerf, if he thought tokens could perhaps be used to incentivize users and align them with the goals of tech platforms.

Cerf, who was not commenting on the DA partnership but on cryptocurrency generally, replied in a curt email: “Not clear yet. It could just turn into a speculation like tulip bulbs and bitcoin.”

Still, Masters said DA and Google share a common approach to solving engineering problems and “a focus on empowerment of enterprise customers, particularly in the workflow orchestration space that we have in common. So that is where the enthusiasm is coming from.”

Maverick Masters

To be sure, DA is far from alone among enterprise blockchain vendors in trying to expanding its ecosystem.

For instance, IBM and Hyperledger are hard at work exploring what they can do with partnerships. Meanwhile, a recent announcement from banking blockchain consortium R3 talked up the potential for its Corda platform to be interoperable across a wide range of industries.

There has also been an increase in blockchain-as-a-service announcements of late. BlockApps Strato has also been welcomed onto Google Cloud, while Amazon Cloud Services (AWS) recently cemented a partnership with ethereum design studio Consensys in the form of the Kaleido project.

But Masters pointed out that DA has always charted its own course, adding that the company’s strategy remains unchanged.

“It’s where we always intended to focus,” she said, referring to the new priority on building a developer ecosystem. “We just didn’t approach it via the same avenue necessarily as everyone else.”

Aside from ASX, other customers DA has publicly disclosed it is working with are the U.S. clearing and settlement giant DTCC and Dutch megabank ABN Amro.

Another thing enterprise blockchain watchers seem to be interested in is a possible amalgamation between private or permissioned DLTs and public chains, with their fluidity of tokenized assets.  

Asked for her opinion on the nascent token economy and where it might bleed into the enterprise world, Masters said she is “not ruling out tokens by any means.”

She agreed there is lots of good research and development work being done on this, but said the institutional use of enterprise tokens requires enterprise-grade command-and-control infrastructure.

“It won’t be until the kind of controls you routinely expect around transactions and post-trade processing of a stock or bond today can also be produced for the transaction of a tokenized instrument – whether it’s a stock or a bond or a cryptocurrency – that we will see widespread enterprise adoption of tokenized instruments that rely on public chain technologies.”

Ever the hard-headed businessperson, Masters would not be drawn on the merits or otherwise of one DLT architecture versus another, but answered categorically all the same when she said:

What I believe in is our technology. I don’t mix philosophy or religion with technology. I believe in solving business problems using tech in a cost-effective and safe manner.”

Blythe Masters mage via CoinDesk archives 

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.