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Prasos Secures Payment Institution License From Finnish Watchdog

Cryptocurrency services firm Prasos has received a payment institution license from a Finnish regulator, allowing it to offer payment services in EEA countries.

Finland-based cryptocurrency firm Prasos has secured a payment institution license via the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority (FFSA). The news comes by way of an official announcement via its crypto exchange website on July 12.

According to the announcement, Prasos is now the third crypto firm in Europe to secure a payment institution license. According to its website, Prasos operates a crypto exchange, a crypto investment platform, and Bitcoin (BTC) ATMs.

Prasos stated that, thanks to its new license, its crypto investment platform Coinmotion is now capable of supporting a payment service in the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes EU member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The license will also reportedly allow Coinmotion to cooperate more smoothly with banks and traditional financial institutions, and extend its capabilities pertaining to traditional fiat money.

Prasos Oy’s managing director Heidi Hurskainen said it took around one-and-a-half years to complete the application process; Hurskainen also noted that over this period, crypto legislation within the EU has become more clear.

Looking forward, Prasos is planning to apply — again with the FFSA — for a virtual currency provider license in May, as will apparently be required when new legislation comes into effect that month.

As recently reported by Cointelegraph, two companies in the United States have received notable licensure through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Blockchain startup Blockstack announced on July 10 that it was running the first SEC-approved public token offering under Regulation A+, while the blockchain org Props announced on July 11 that it had received the first SEC-approved consumer-facing token offering, under Reg A+ as well.

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Breakthrough In Iceland, Electronic Money (Crypto) Now Legal

Iceland Crypto

Apart
from Bitcoin miners preferring Iceland due to its cold weather, the country is
making headlines in other fronts closely related to blockchain technology. The
country’s financial watchdog, FME (Financial Supervisory Authority), has
legalized the use of cryptocurrency in payments.

Iceland’s Financial Supervisory Authority has authorized its first ever crypto institution, Monerium, which is based in Reykjavik. By being able to issue electronic money using blockchain technology, the institution was “recognized as a company that can conduct business in compliance with the first electronic money regulation in Europe.”

Electronic Money Was Not
Approved

With an FME approval, Monerium will be able to offer services across Europe in the European Economic Area. The consent is a breakthrough considering that earlier, electronic money was not approved for transmission using blockchain technology.

Before
the approval:

“Electronic money was generally recognized as available only to the country that issued it, but this time blockchain technology is used without intermediaries being intervened this time in payments, e-commerce, finance and securities settlement across the European Economic Area. The company aims to make it possible to use a wide range of electronic money transactions.”

According
to Monerium’s CEO, Sveinn Valfells, working under a regulated space provides a
competitive advantage for the company.

Valfells
added:

“For practical purposes, fiat will be the currency most people and institutions will want to use in the near and the medium term. And if you are touching fiat in any way, you just have to comply with the relevant regulations.”

Regulations Are Part of The
Protocol

As noted by Valfells, Monerium took a different path unlike other companies developing similar products in Europe. For example, the CEO pointed out, instead of developing a product and then seeking to comply with regulations, Monerium developed a product that took care of the set regulations right from the start. The CEO said that the regulations formed part of its product’s protocol.

Monerium
is using regulations formulated in 2009 during the financial crisis. Since then,
the regulations have been employed to govern firms developing products around
prepaid debit cards.

Jon H. Egilsson, the co-founder of Monerium, noted that the company’s e-money takes into consideration all the advantages of blockchain technology when money is programmed into it.  For Egilsson, “in addition to being the closest form of central bank money, there is – based on a proven EU regulatory framework.”

Crypto Mining to
Blockchain-Based Activities

Towards the end of 2018, experts anticipated that Iceland would be shifting from just crypto mining to other blockchain-based activities.

According to Halldór Jörgensson, the chairman
of a data center in Iceland:

“The demand is shifting more towards the pure blockchain business… We strongly believe that when the whole Bitcoin thing has settled down to some kind of a level that is not as crazy as it was a year ago. We believe there’s another wave that crops up that will utilize these infrastructures that have been built up during the Bitcoin mining phase.”

However,
even as Monerium gets licensed to operate across Europe, as an electronic
institution, it will have to separately safeguard client’s funds away from
other activities.

The post Breakthrough In Iceland, Electronic Money (Crypto) Now Legal appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Iceland’s Financial Regulator Approves Blockchain-Powered E-Money Firm

The Financial Supervisory Authority of Iceland approved a ConsenSys-backed blockchain firm to operate as e-money business.

The Financial Supervisory Authority (FME), Iceland’s sole financial regulator, has approved the first blockchain-powered e-money firm in the country, crypto media outlet CoinDesk reported June 14.

Reykjavik-based Monerium, backed by blockchain software company ConsenSys, has reportedly been approved by the Icelandic financial watchdog to provide fiat payment services using ethereum (ETH) blockchain.

According to the report, Monerium has become the first company to operate under an electronic money framework, a major European regulatory framework that enabled the firm to offer blockchain-powered e-money services across the European Economic Area (EEA).

Monerium co-founder Jón Helgi Egilsson, a former chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Central Bank of Iceland, will reportedly announce the news at a digital currency conference in Stockholm on June 15.

According to CoinDesk, Monerium is planning to launch a blockchain-based fiat currency pegged to Icelandic krona (ISK) to enable cross-border payments in the currency without a financial middleman. The digital ISK will be reportedly operable across the European Union on the initial stage, while the firm also plans to introduce the e-currency to more countries depending on their regulatory policies in the sphere.

In January 2019, ConsenSys participated in a $2 million seed funding round for Monerium, with the company’s co-founder Andrew Keys claiming that investment in the Icelandic firm aligns with the incubator’s purpose to create “the infrastructure needed for a more decentralized and self-sovereign future.”

Recently, Cointelegraph published an interview with ConsenSys co-founder Joseph Lubin, who declared that the ethereum blockchain had scaled significantly to date.

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Genesis Mining Compels Certain Customers to Upgrade BTC Mining Contracts

Iceland-based hashpower hosting service Genesis Mining is compelling some of its customers to upgrade their Bitcoin (BTC) mining contracts following this year’s significant cryptocurrency price decline, according to an August 17 statement.

In 60 days, the company will terminate services for open-ended contracts that mine less than the daily maintenance fee. Genesis claims that the downward trend of BTC around January and heavy decline in crypto mining in April and May resulted in a reduction of mining outputs.

If customers wish to continue using Genesis’ services, they have to upgrade their existing BTC mining contracts to premium five-year contracts. Genesis notes in the announcement:

“…as a hashpower hosting service, we can only influence one out of the three main factors that determine mining rewards, and that is the infrastructure… The market price of Bitcoin and the mining difficulty are factors we cannot control.”

Genesis Mining was started in 2014, with locations in Bosnia and China. The company subsequently moved to Iceland and Canada due to the cold climate and cheap electricity rates.

In March, Genesis was issued a cease and desist order and asked to leave the state of South Carolina due to selling “unlicensed securities.” South Carolina demanded Genesis not only halt operations within its borders, but pay an “appropriate civil penalty for the wrongdoing.”

Since Bitcoin slid from it’s famed $20,000 peak last December, miners have struggled to stay above water as the combination of low prices and regulatory pressure continues to put a squeeze on the industry.

In June, Canadian provincial utility Hydro-Quebec proposed new rules, under which blockchain companies will be required to bid for electricity and quantify the jobs and investment they expect to generate per megawatt. The new regime seeks to allocate up to 500 megawatts, in addition to 120 megawatts of already existing initiatives.

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Bitcoin Miner Heist – From Iceland To China

Given the surge in popularity of cryptocurrencies over the past few years, mining has become a seriously lucrative endeavor. All over the world miners have set up operations, big and small, as they look to capitalize on dwindling Bitcoin rewards from processing transactions and validating the blockchain.

With plenty at stake, the costs of setting up even a small operation can be hefty, from the actual hardware to cooling systems and electricity consumption. However, those with enough capital to buy the best hardware, namely ASIC miners, put themselves in a commanding position.

But that also makes them a target for criminals. Whether these crooks want to hack your system and steal your valuable cryptocurrency or make off with your physical hardware, the potential dangers are real.

The latter scenario grabbed headlines this month, as over 600 computers used to mine Bitcoin have been seized in China, valued at over $2 mln alone.

From Iceland to China?

The seized equipment is being linked to a series of thefts in Iceland late last year. Three separate incidents spanning from December to January led to a total of 600 computers being stolen by a number of culprits.

The Associated Press reported that eleven people were initially arrested, while two men were kept in custody for the burglaries — one of which took place in January at a data center that was housing computers used for Bitcoin mining.

Icelandic IT firm Advania produced surveillance footage of thieves stealing computers from a data center in Reykjanesbær in January, which positively identified the two men that were in custody, according to local news outlet Visir.

In April, one of the culprits managed to escape from custody and fled to Sweden using a fake passport to board a flight to Stockholm. Sindri Þór Stefánsson later said he would return to Iceland in a statement. He claimed he had the right to travel at the time since his custody ruling had expired on April 16.

To date, Icelandic authorities have been unable to trace the stolen equipment. Police had asked IT service providers, electricians, and storage units in the country to report any unusual spikes in power use in the hopes they could track down the stolen mining computers.

Two months later, Chinese police seized 600 computers in Tianjin in what seems to be more than just a crazy coincidence. The operation caught the attention of Tianjin police after the local power grid operator reported abnormal electricity usage at the location where the equipment was being operated.

Given that the number of computers is exactly the same, there’s a good possibility they could be the PCs from Iceland. Icelandic police have reached out to Chinese authorities to try and link the two cases.

Still need to be connected

Icelandic authorities are still waiting on their Chinese counterparts to respond to their requests for collaboration. If and when they do, it shouldn’t be difficult to link the computer equipment at the very least. Given that the computers were stolen from Advania’s data center, it’s almost certain that the serial numbers of components will be available.

This could then be cross-checked with the computers seized in Tianjin to positively link the hardware. While the owners of the hardware will no doubt be pleased to recover their property, the investigation has the potential to uncover a nefarious crime syndicate.

Icelandic police commissioner Olafur Helgi Kjartansson was quoted saying, “This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before,” adding that it was a “highly organized crime”. With numerous suspects being investigated in both China and Iceland, authorities have the chance to apprehend criminals that are preying on the cryptocurrency community.

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600 Stolen Bitcoin Miners From Icelandic Heist Suspected To Be In China

The missing machines from an unsolved Bitcoin (BTC) mining hardware theft in Iceland earlier this year may be in China, Icelandic media outlet RUV reported May 5. Icelandic police are reported to have now issued an enquiry to Chinese authorities, after news broke in late April that 600 devices used to mine BTC had been seized in the northern city of Tianjin.

The number of confiscated machines exactly matches that of the missing hardware that was stolen in three burglaries at data centers in Iceland last December and January. Icelandic police were soon able to identify and arrest two suspects in February. One of them now faces an international arrest warrant, after he escaped from an Icelandic prison and fled to Sweden in mid April.

The missing equipment has to date not been found. Its total worth is estimated at 200 million krónur, equal to almost $2 mln. Icelandic police have been monitoring energy consumption locally for abnormal increases without success.

In Tianjin, it was precisely a pattern of highly irregular electricity usage that is reported to have attracted the attention of a local grid operator, leading to the authorities’ confiscation of the suspect mining hardware.

Chinese police have not yet responded to the Icelandic enquiry, according to RUV.

With its cold climate and widespread access to renewable energy, Iceland is a hot spot for crypto mining. Local industry sources have predicted a doubling of the country’s crypto mining energy consumption this year, more electricity than the Iceland’s 340,000 residents will consume for personal use.

Access to geothermal and hydroelectric power plants makes mining in Iceland potentially more environmentally sustainable than in China’s coal-burning mining sites.

The latter has long been a stalwart crypto mining superpower. In 2017, allegedly 50 to 70 percent of BTC mining took place in China. This January, however, news broke of plans to toughen regional regulatory oversight and potentially restrict the power use of miners in future.

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Iceland's Missing Bitcoin Miners May Be In China

Iceland’s 600 missing bitcoin mining machines may be in China, local news reported last week.

According to RUV, Icelandic police have sent Chinese authorities an inquiry after the latter country confiscated 600 mining computers. Police in the Tianjin area reportedly seized the machines after detecting unusually high electricity consumption, per Xinhua News.

The Chinese news agency explained that this may have been the “largest power theft case in recent years,” noting that eight high-power fans were also confiscated. The individuals running the mining farm short-circuited their electricity meter, thereby avoiding receiving a bill for the energy used to power the miners.

Left untouched, the meter would have recorded “hundreds of thousands of yuan” in bills, Xinhua reported.

However, it is unclear whether the machines seized in China have any relation to Iceland’s “Big Bitcoin Heist.” As previously reported, the machines were stolen across several incidents during December and January, and officials have so far had no luck in locating them. A $60,000 reward is offered by the machines’ owner for any information which could lead to the computers.

The alleged mastermind behind the thefts is set to be extradited to Iceland from the Netherlands, where he was arrested after escaping a low-security prison and fleeing to Sweden.

As previously reported, Sindri Thor Stefansson reportedly took a taxi to a nearby international airport and flew out of the country on an aircraft which also carried the nation’s prime minister.

Mining rigs via Shutterstock

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.

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Iceland's 'Big Bitcoin Heist' Suspect Has Been Arrested

Iceland’s now-infamous bitcoin miner thief has reportedly been arrested.

A Dutch police spokesperson confirmed that Sindri Thor Stefansson – who is accused of masterminding the theft of $2 million worth of mining hardware in what’s being called the “Big Bitcoin Heist” – was arrested in the Amsterdam on Sunday night.

Prosecutors are now looking to extradite him back to Iceland, the News Observer reported.

Stefansson walked out of a low-security prison and traveled to Sweden last week, as previously reported. In a letter sent to Icelandic news organization Frettabladid, he claimed he was held “for two and a half months … without evidence,” and kept in isolation during his imprisonment. After his order of detention expired, he left the prison and took a taxi to the airport.

“I simply refuse to be in prison of my own will, especially when the police threatens to arrest me without explanation,” he wrote to the newspaper.

Stefansson did say he wanted to return to Iceland and claimed that he had been negotiating with police to arrange his return. He also threatened to use a fake identification to stay hidden from authorities.

In his letter, Stefansson did not address the 600 computers he was accused of stealing, nor have police given any indication that they have located the missing machines. The owner of the bitcoin mining hardware has offered a $60,000 reward.

The computers were stolen across four separate thefts in what is Iceland’s largest crime to date. Last month, police officials said that “everything points to this being a highly organized crime.”

Police car image via Shutterstock

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.

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Iceland: $2 Mln Bitcoin Mining Theft Suspect Vows To Return Home After Fleeing To Sweden

The Icelandic man who allegedly stole Bitcoin mining hardware worth $2 mln vowed to return home in a statement reported by local news media outlet Fréttablaðið April 20.

As reported April 18, Sindri Þór Stefánsson had escaped from from Sogni prison and fled Iceland to Stockholm, Sweden. He reportedly used another man’s passport when he boarded a flight at Keflavik International Airport.

In the April 20 statement, Stefánsson said that he was “legally allowed” to travel on the day he boarded the plane to Stockholm.

Having been held in police custody since his arrest in February, Stefánsson said he was within his rights to travel as the custody ruling expired April 16 and a judge required 24 hours to renew it.

According to the statement, the fugitive was “under the threat that the police would arrest him if I left the prison without any explanation.”

“I was forced to sign a paper stating that I was free travel, but if I could, I would stay in a prison room until the extension of custody was approved,” he claims.

Stefánsson’s heist was called by local media “one of the largest criminal cases in Icelandic history.”

Despite apparently being offered the means to continue living abroad despite an international arrest warrant closing in on him, Stefánsson said he “would rather” return home to Iceland and that he “would be there soon.”

He told reporters that he would challenge his two-and-a-half-month custody at the European Court of Human Rights.

As Cointelegraph reported previously, the alleged crime involved various devices being looted from Iceland’s giant data centers involved in cryptocurrency mining operations between December 2017 and January 2018.