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Exit Scam? Dublin-Based Exchange Bitsane Vanishes With Users’ Funds

Ireland-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitsane has apparently vanished, taking as many as 246,000 users’ crypto deposits with it.

Ireland-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitsane has apparently vanished, taking as many as 246,000 users’ crypto deposits with it. The news was reported by Forbes on June 27.

Launched in 2016, Dublin-registered Bitsane LP was formerly listed as one of Ripple’s approved exchanges — a January 2018 CNBC article had also pitched the exchange as an option for investors seeking to trade XRP ahead of its listing on major platforms such as Coinbase.

According to Forbes, user withdrawals on Bitsane began faltering in May of this year, with allegedly technical reasons cited as the reason for their temporary disabling. By June 17, both the Bitsane site and its social media accounts had been deleted, with emails to Bitsane accounts bouncing back as undeliverable.

Moreover, neither the exchange’s CEO — Aidas Rupsys — nor its chief technology officer, Dmitry Prudnikov, could be reached by Forbes during the magazine’s investigation into the case. At press time, Prudnikov’s LinkedIn profile appears to have been deleted.

As of May 30 2019, Bitsane counted 246,000 registered users, with a daily traded volume of just over $7 million on March 31, per CoinMarketCap.

User groups on messaging platform Telegram and Facebook reveal users claiming to have typically lost up to $5,000, with Forbes citing an anonymous U.S. resident who says he had $150,000 in XRP and bitcoin (BTC) on the exchange prior to the company’s disappearance.

Forbes further reports on a separate firm, incorporated in the United Kingdom as Bitsane Limited by Maksim Zmitrovich in August 2017, which apparently attempted to purchase the intellectual rights to Bistane’s code and use it as the basis for its own platform, dubbed Azbit. 

According to Zmitrovich, the firm has assumed the Bitsane name to fulfil a condition set by Bistane’s developers, yet the desired partnership between the two firms failed to materialize. 

In a blog post published earlier this month, Zmitrovich has vehemently denied any substantive link between Azbit and the apparent exit-scam, noting that the Bitsane team has failed to respond to any of his correspondence since April of this year.

While Forbes notes that multiple Bistane users based in the U.S. have reportedly filed complaints with the F.B.I., solutions for those affected by the platform’s disappearance currently remain unclear.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Polish crypto exchange Coinroom reportedly shut down its operations and disappeared with customer funds, having notified users they had just one day to withdraw funds before their contracts would be terminated.

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Irish University to Offer Blockchain Master’s Degree Following New Partnership

ICT Skillnet and Dublin City University have launched Ireland’s first master’s program in blockchain technology for IT professionals.

Dublin City University has partnered with tech company network Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet to create the country’s first master’s program in blockchain technology. The new educational certification was announced by the Irish government’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on May 29.

The “Master’s in Blockchain: Distributed Ledger Technologies” degree is the culmination of ICT Skillnet’s efforts to identify the skills upcoming blockchain engineers need to learn, with the help of blockchain educational hub Blockchain Ireland.

The course is reportedly conducted online as a two-year part-time course, which will begin with its first cohort of students in September 2019. The course is intended for IT professionals working in Ireland, preferably with a Level 8 Honours Degree (2.2) or higher in Computer Science, Computing, Computer Applications or a related discipline.

The acting network manager for Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet, Dave Feenan, commented:

“This new Master’s will provide Ireland will a real opportunity to upskill our already excellent IT professionals, preparing them for jobs of the future. The synergy between industry and education means these professionals will have the practical tools needed to bring the benefits of Blockchain technology to a variety sectors.”

The inauguration of the new master’s program occurred during Blockchain Ireland week, a governmental campaign to raise awareness and support for the blockchain industry in Ireland.

Last summer, IDA Ireland, an agency responsible for attracting foreign direct investment, began a campaign to promote the development of the blockchain industry in the country.  With a 12.5% corporate interest rate, Ireland has established itself as an advantageous jurisdiction for tech businesses in recent years.

As recently reported by Cointelegraph, the United States Ivy League University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) has announced that it is offering an online program on fintech, which includes topics on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. The course is offered by UPenn’s Wharton School division, Wharton Online, and is called “Fintech: Foundations and Applications of Financial Technologies.”

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Deloitte Tests Data Management on Ethereum Blockchain With Three Irish Banks

The Big Four auditor is midway through a beta test phase of a tool designed to handle staff credentials.

Three Irish banks have begun using a staff data solution running on blockchain technology, a joint press release confirmed on May 30.

Together with the Institute of Banking (IoB), Bank of Ireland, AIB and Ulster Bank partnered with Big Four accounting giant Deloitte on the project, which verifies staff credentials.

Deloitte developed the Ethereum-based tool using its dedicated EMEA Blockchain Lab.

“This is a great application of blockchain technology to a vital area of banking. We are delighted to support The Institute of Banking and the banks involved in this project and look forward to the results that this initiative will deliver,” David Dalton, EMEA lead and head of financial services at Deloitte, commented in the press release.

The distributed database will facilitate a wide range of staff-related data management processes, and is currently in beta test mode, with a full rollout expected by the end of summer 2020.

“The new platform is a first in the European financial services industry and will support the verification, tracking, direct access to, and management of, regulatory and other professional designations, education qualifications and lifelong learning credentials,” the participants summarized.

Deloitte is increasing its bespoke blockchain product range, in February completing a joint pilot scheme focusing on the technology’s application in the supply chain arena.

In March, Cointelegraph additionally reported on the state of blockchain in Ireland, which is seeing interest increase despite misgivings about the impact of a potential “no-deal” Brexit.

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Blockchain Boom in Ireland, but Brexit Looms

Financiers and investors fear that a “no deal” Brexit could spell “bust” for Ireland and the nations’ blockchain industry.

Strong growth has returned to Ireland one decade after the banking crisis and international bailout. But, financiers and investors fear a “no deal” Brexit — in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a trade agreement at the end of the month — could again destabilize Ireland’s boom-and-bust economy.

The U.K. received 11 percent of Ireland’s exports of goods in the past year, while supplying more than one-fifth of its imports. The Irish central bank conjectures that an orderly exit from the EU would decrease the gross domestic product by 1.5 percent, according to a Reuters story.

While the economic uncertainty — like in many countries — has driven curiosity in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and others in Ireland ahead of Brexit, it casts a shadow over a burgeoning blockchain boom.

“It’s hard to see beyond the shadow of Brexit at the moment,” said Dave Fleming, global head of research and development for Mastercard Labs in Ireland. “If Ireland is affected, it will probably be similar to 2008 and the whole world might be affected so possibly blockchains might help.” The Irish will have to wait and see, he says.

Ireland’s hope

If Britain leaves without agreeing to terms on the border with Northern Ireland, a more strongly enforced border could partially isolate Ireland and reignite conflict. According to Anthony Day, chief operating officer of Deloitte’s EMEA Blockchain Lab in Ireland, Brexit brings to mind the concept of a “digital border” between Ireland and the U.K. As Day explained:

“We see significant potential for Blockchain to provide the capability to enable secure, real-time and automated infrastructure to support trade, reporting, and the movement of goods and people. However, establishing the relevant working groups, governance, deploying such platforms and completing the necessary transformation within both public and private sector organizations would be a multi-year initiative, and the timescale for Brexit is immediate.”

Brexit has dampened Irish consumer confidence and stymied foreign investment. Ireland’s biggest companies are drawing up backup plans in case of a no-deal Brexit. Business owners fear tariffs, customs paperwork and delayed shipments of goods from Britain. AIB, Ireland’s biggest bank, said this past Monday that one-third of companies have canceled or postponed investments because of Brexit.

“A Brexit ‘no deal’ is clearly the biggest concern,” said Raul Sinha, a banking analyst at JPMorgan Chase.

Cryptocurrency and Ireland

According to Day, blockchain is flourishing in Ireland. The exchange Coinbase, development company Consensys, and Wachsman PR have all opened offices in Dublin. Deloitte deliberately chose Dublin as the home for the EMEA Lab and invested in a dedicated facility.

Day notes that the Irish government has committed 500 million euros toward its Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. Through the fund, business and research groups can apply for funding to progress blockchain and other technologies.

“From a Blockchain perspective,” Day said, “we have seen strong engagement from across Ireland’s major sectors (Financial Services, Food & Agriculture, Technology, Aviation and others) in applying Blockchain to address established industry pain points such as transparency, data sharing, fraud and driving efficiency in trading activity.” Fleming also sees many big enterprises adopting blockchain:

“Well, as far as I can see, there is a massive uptake of crypto inside financial firms. From people I have talked to inside the industry, I’d say most firms, including the Big 4, as well as most of the banks located here, will be moving most of their verification methods to the blockchain within a few years. People from all over the tech sector are picking up crypto and figuring it out.”  

ConsenSys, which opened an office in Dublin last year, remains active in the city.

“What is surprising is the amount of blockchain activity taking place in Ireland,” ConsenSys Ireland MD Lory Kehoe told Cointelegraph. “While the blockchain eco-system is relatively new in Ireland we are seeing rapid development of the market here.”

Ireland's Blockchain Landscape

Kehoe cites working groups like Blockchain Ireland (BI), a group of government and private companies and individuals, as a big part of the development of the ecosystem there:

“Ireland has a number of fantastic third level programmes in computer science and also a talent center of thousands of people who have come to work for some of the major social and tech companies that have their EMEA headquarters here.”

He believes, however, more needs to be done to ensure that coding and developer education is introduced to the education cycle early.

“Business and government need to work together to equip Irish citizens with the skills they need to work in the economy of the future,” Kehoe said.

The government’s role

Jillian Godsil, co-founder of Blockleaders.io — who also works with Blockchain Ireland — and Kehoe both mentioned “exciting news” coming soon from Blockchain Ireland.

“The whole of Ireland will go crazy for Blockchain,” Godsil said.

The growth of the blockchain industry comes as tech and finance companies move to Dublin — many are coming from the U.K. ahead of Brexit. So, while throughout history the Irish have left their homeland to seek work, hundreds of U.K. businesses are already relocating to the Emerald Isle in order to keep operations based inside the EU, thus creating more jobs for those living in Ireland.

Barclays, Bank of America, CitiBank, Google, Facebook and more are all moving their EU headquarters to Ireland from London. Citibank and Bank of America have merged U.K.-based subsidiaries into Irish subsidiaries, bringing in billions worth of assets to the country.

Still, Brexit looms. It could decide whether Ireland’s boom continues or goes bust. In the words of Mastercard’s Fleming, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Irish Bitcoin Broker Claims Country’s Banks Are Closing Crypto-Related Accounts

The co-founder of Irish Bitcoin (BTC) broker Eircoin accused the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) of discriminating against crypto-related accounts, The Irish Times reports June 21. Dave Fleming blamed the BPFI for, “seeking to muddy the waters with insinuations of dirty money.”

Eircoin, which is reportedly “Ireland’s only Bitcoin broker,” was closed in April. The firm’s co-founder Dave Fleming said they were “shuttered due to a negligent and defensive banking system”. According to Fleming and his business partner Roisin Coogan, banks also refused banking services to a new secondary consulting business.

Fleming claimed that the closing of the brokerage “reeked of regulatory capture,” which is entirely different from the “arms wide open attitude” of IDA Ireland. IDA Ireland is a state-sponsored agency responsible for attracting foreign investment to Ireland that recently led an initiative promoting blockchain development and investment in the country.

According to Fleming, banking and financial institutions should not be involved in the prosecution of illegal activities associated with crypto trading. Thus, they have no right to refuse firms that deal with cryptocurrencies.

“If any of the Bitcoin sellers in Ireland were involved in terrorist financing I’m sure it wouldn’t be a bank discussing it with us, it would be the law.”

The Irish banks, in turn, denied discriminating against crypto-related businesses. According to The Irish Times, the BPFI, which represents 70 financial institutions, stated that it was not aware of a policy that would allow banks to close the accounts of crypto-related businesses.

One of the leading Irish banks, AIB, also denied claims that it was refusing banking services to crypto-related firms. The bank argued that it “[doesn’t] discriminate in relation to providing banking services to cryptocurrency companies nor [has it] been systematically exiting such companies.”

However, the bank added that they are required to adhere to AML and know your customer (KYC) regulatory requirements for opening and operating bank accounts. According to AIB, some companies were unable to comply.

Banks in numerous countries have shut their doors to crypto businesses and exchanges. In May, Poland’s largest crypto exchange BitBay suspended its activities in the country because banks refused to offer them services. In April, the Reserve Bank of India announced that they will no longer service any person or business that deals with cryptocurrencies. Crypto exchanges in both Finland and Chile have risked total closure as the respective countries’ banks are unwilling to do business.

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Irish Bitcoin Brokers Accuse Local Banks of Cryptocurrency-based Discrimination

Bitcoin traders in Ireland claim local banks are systematically denying them access to banking services. This situation has resulted in the closure of some cryptocurrency trading firms while others have had to deal with offshore banks to remain in business.

Denial of Banking Services to Bitcoin Traders in Ireland

According to Irish Bitcoin brokers like Bitcove and Eircoin, banks in the country have made it a habit of closing the accounts of cryptocurrency trading companies. Thus, many startups have ceased operating in the country as the lack of access to banking facilities shuttered their businesses.

For Peter Nagle of Bitcove, one of such Bitcoin brokerage firms in Ireland, the situation is especially unpleasant given that the company was established on the back of a blockchain support initiative. Banks including the Bank of Ireland backed this blockchain support initiative. Commenting on the situation, the Bitcove co-founder said:

Particularly disappointing was Bank of Ireland. We were participants on the Ignite start-up programme, which is backed by the bank. Our business and its progress were reviewed monthly by a panel which included Bank of Ireland representatives. At the end of the incubator Bitcove won the award, but then just a few months later our accounts were frozen and eventually closed.

Recently, the firm’s accounts have been closed by both Bank of Ireland and AIB. Nagle shed some light on the reasons given by the banks for the account closures, saying:

The reasons cited have been that they do not support companies offering cryptocurrency exchange facilities despite the fact they had previously given us an account for this purpose.

Bitcove has since been forced to look overseas for banking partners that Nagle described as being “more progressive.” However, some other firms have shut their operations after what appears to discriminatory banking practices from lending institutions in the country. According to Dave Fleming, co-founder of Eircoin, another Ireland-based Bitcoin trading firm:

We are being shuttered due to a negligent and defensive banking system.

Banks Say they are Complying with KYC and AML Regulations

Responding to the allegations, both Bank of Ireland and AIB towed different lines. Bank of Ireland said in a statement that it does not offer services to cryptocurrency companies. However, the bank also said that there was no prohibition against its customers from engaging in the market.

As for AIB, it denied any knowledge of discrimination by banks against Bitcoin brokers. A spokesperson for the bank said:

We don’t discriminate in relation to providing banking services to cryptocurrency companies nor have we been systematically exiting such companies.

The spokesperson said that the bank had an obligation to adhere to the KYC and AML regulations of the country. According to the spokesperson, some cryptocurrency trading companies failed to comply with the laws.

As for Fleming, he believes the KYC and AML argument is an attempt delegitimize cryptocurrency trading in the country, saying:

If any of the bitcoin sellers in Ireland were involved in terrorist financing I’m sure it wouldn’t be a bank discussing it with us, it would be the law.

Ireland isn’t the only country where banks seem averse to cryptocurrency trading operations. In both India and Iran, the country’s central bank instructed regulated financial institutions not to facilitate virtual currency transactions. In Chile, banks closed the accounts of some crypto exchange platforms much to the chagrin of the cryptocurrency community in the country. A recent appeals court ruling overturned the policy.

Do you think Irish banks are discriminating against cryptocurrency traders in the country? Keep the conversation going in the comment section below.

Image courtesy of the Irish Times.

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MoneyConf Dublin Kicks Off Today with Crypto, Wall Street, Gov’t Speakers

Cointelegraph will be live-streaming crypto and fintech conference MoneyConf in Dublin, Ireland as the event’s official media partners starting today, June 12.

The conference – organized by the team behind annual tech conference Web Summit – includes speakers from across the crypto, blockchain, and fintech industries, including Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Joseph Lubin of Consensys, Square CFO Sarah Friar, and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne.

From the cultural side, musician Imogen Heap, also founder of music blockchain ecosystem Mycelia, will lead a panel titled “Is all fair in music and blockchain?”

Today’s lineup kicks off with opening remarks from Paddy Cosgrave, the CEO of Web Summit. Opening remarks will be streamed live starting at 9:45am UTC+1.

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MoneyConf will cover topics ranging from the Asian cryptocurrency landscape, the relationship between Wall Street and the crypto sphere, and the implementation of blockchain to bring more decentralization to banking, finance, and asset management.

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DHL Announces Partnership With Global Blockchain Trade Finance Platform TradeIX

DHL is partnering with blockchain trade finance platform TradeIX, according to a presentation today, June 5, at the Money20/20 conference in Amsterdam.

Becky Taylor, Vice President of Commercial at DHL Supply Chain UK and Ireland, spoke about how the company has been looking to “create more efficient networks” through digitization, including a way to “serialize products to be able to track that product through its life.”

Taylor then announced the partnership by saying that DHL on its own “can’t achieve those types of funding rates to create an attractive price [for customers], so we started to work with Trade IX.”

Daniel Cotti, CFO of TradeIX, noted that the current lack of standards and interoperability in the trade finance market creates disconnected trade systems that rely on “manual, costly, tedious, error prone and redundant processes.”

According to the presentation, blockchain technology can power “leaner, more automated and error free processes and increased visibility.” TradeIX’s TIX platform will reportedly allow DHL to “embe[d] multiple funding and risk mitigation options into their product offering.”

This is not DHL’s first foray into blockchain tech – in mid-March, DHL and consulting firm Accenture announced they had jointly created a blockchain-based supply chain prototype for the pharmaceutical industry.

In mid-May, the CEO of delivery service FedEx said that blockchain is the “next frontier” for global supply chains.