Posted on

Italy Unveils ‘High-Level Experts’ to Help Develop Its Official Blockchain Strategy

The Italian government has announced that 30 blockchain experts will help integrate the technology at the state level.

The Italian government has published its list of 30 blockchain high-level experts to further its integration of the technology at state level, Cointelegraph Italy reported Dec. 27.

The result of a four-month hiring and consultation process, the group will work for free advising authorities how to create a “national strategy on distributed register and blockchain technologies.”

The project is being convened by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (MSE).

“Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain are intended to radically change our lives, the society in which we live and the economic and productive fabric of the country,” deputy prime minister and minister of economic development Luigi Di Maio said in September.

Maio added:

“Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, are bound to fundamentally change our lives, the society we live in and the economic fabric of our country.”

The participants all come from Italy and are involved in mostly domestic sectors. They include trade association Assobit co-founder Gian Luca Comandini, Italtel head of marketing portfolio Angiolini Giorgio and Blockchain & Society Policy Research Lab board of directors member Marcella Atzori.

Italy has sought to extend its monitoring of cryptocurrency-related activities within its borders as well as associated phenomena such as blockchain.

Authorities have released multiple warnings against illegitimate actors in the crypto this month, warning the public to exercise caution.

Italy was also one of seven European Union member states that signed a declaration to promote blockchain use earlier this month.

Posted on

Italian Financial Regulator Issues Cease and Desist Order to Crypto-Related Project

The Italian securities regulator has prohibited the activity of “Avacrypto” for allegedly violating securities laws.

The financial regulator of Italy has barred a cryptocurrency-related project from operations for the provision of allegedly unauthorized investment services, according to an official statement published Dec. 14.

Founded in 1974, the Italian National Commission for Companies and the Stock Exchange — or Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB) — is the government authority of Italy responsible for regulating the Italian securities market.

The company prohibited by the CONSOB, Avacrypto, allegedly offered its services to the Italian public without the required authorization, including operating through the website www.avacrypto.com. At press time, Avacrypto’s website is not accessible.

Earlier in December, the CONSOB suspended two other projects for a 90-day period for allegedly offering fraudulent cryptocurrency investment schemes. Both firms suspended by the CONSOB — Bitsurge Token and Green Energy Certificates — are allegedly scam projects from Avalon Life, a company that is not based in the European Union (EU).

While there is no established regulation in regards to digital currencies in Italy, the country’s Treasury Department of the Ministry of Economy and Finance had been working on a decree in the spring that aims to classify the use of crypto in the country. The decree was specifically set to define how and when “service providers related to the use of digital currency” should report their activities to the Ministry.

The legislation aims to avoid any unlawful activity associated with cryptocurrencies, in particular money laundering. However, compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws when acting with cryptocurrencies on a professional level had already been clarified on May 25, 2017, in the Legislative Decree № 90.

The definition of “virtual currency” is explained in the decree as a: “digital representation of value, not issued by a central bank or a public authority, not necessarily related to a fiat currency, used as a tool of exchange for purchasing goods or services, and electronically transferred, stored and traded.”

Later in June, Fabio Panetta, deputy governor of the Bank of Italy, shared his views concerning central bank digital currencies.

Panetta stated that a key potential justification for their issuance was to reduce costs in the production, transportation and disposal of cash. He also considered their advantages as “at best unclear” when compared with the existing digital payment mechanisms offered by the private sector.

Posted on

Italy: Securities Regulator Suspends Two Crypto Firms for Alleged Scam Investment Schemes

Italian securities watchdog CONSOB has halted two projects for allegedly offering fraudulent crypto investments.

The Italian securities regulator, CONSOB, has suspended two projects for allegedly offering fraudulent crypto investment schemes. The 90-day suspensions were reported in an official statement on the CONSOB website published Monday, Dec 17.

The Italian Companies and Exchange Commission, or Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB), is the Italian analogue of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and represents a governmental authority that regulates the Italian securities market.

Both firms suspended by CONSOB, Bitsurge Token and Green Energy Certificates, are allegedly scam projects from the non-European Union-based company Avalon Life, and both have been banned from offering investments for 90 days starting from Dec. 12, according to two official resolutions.

Allegedly fraudulent scheme Bitsurge was promoted on the website bitsurge.io and on the Facebook page dubbed “Bitsurge Token.” As described in the resolution, the company was offering investors “token contracts” with monthly returns from six to 13 percent, for capital amounts ranging from $1,000 to $25,000. The CONSOB document notes that customers reportedly did not possess any autonomy in the management of their tokens.

The second scheme, dubbed Green Earth Certificates, was reportedly promoted through the Facebook page “Progetto Crypto Green Earth” and offered “Green Earth Certificates” in order to protect rainforests from deforestation by purchasing forest areas via blockchain. The alleged scam intended to provide a six percent reward on the sum of crypto investments in forest areas such as Costa Rica, which have large areas of rainforests.

Recently, the CONSOB has issued a joint warning with Malta’s Financial Services Authority (MFSA) about an unlicensed cryptocurrency exchange named OriginalCrypto.

In mid-November, the CONSOB also sent cease-and-desists to three crypto-related firms for the alleged offering of unapproved investment services.

In regard to the issue of crypto-related advertising on Facebook, the social media giant had previously banned crypto and ICO ads in January 2018, claiming that it wanted to prohibit “misleading or deceptive promotional practices” associated with crypto.

However, the social media entity updated their policy to allow cryptocurrencies ads again in late June 2018, still maintaining their ban on promoting initial coin offerings (ICO).

Posted on

Malta, Italy Issue Joint Warning Over Potential Unlicensed Cryptocurrency Exchange

A statement from Maltese regulators requires site OriginalCrypto to stop serving the Italian and Maltese markets.

Malta has warned citizens about an unlicensed cryptocurrency exchange serving its domestic market. Regulators ordered the platform to stop operating in a notice Dec. 5.

The offending platform, OriginalCrypto, had first come to the attention of Italian officials concerned it may not have the required license to offer authorized “investment services and activities.”

The platform’s owner, SolutionsCM Ltd., has now come under scrutiny from both countries, with Malta’s Financial Services Authority (MFSA) sharing the warning from Italy:

“The Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB) has ordered the following companies to cease infringement of art. 18 of the Italian Legislative Decree No. 58/1998, consisting of the provision of unauthorised investment services and activities to the Italian public performed by SolutionsCM Ltd. via the www.originalcrypto.com website.”

As Cointelegraph frequently reports, Malta has sought to become one of the world’s most permissive jurisdictions regarding both cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

As part of its bid to transform into a so-called “Blockchain Island,” various regulatory overhauls have accompanied MFSA-endorsed deals with industry businesses, including major exchanges such as Binance and Huobi.

OriginalCrypto remains far from those legitimate activities, however, sources warning about the likely “scam” scheme earlier this year.

“Portraying their platform as a cryptocurrency financial brokerage, OriginalCrypto.com has engineered a clever marketing approach to promote their illicit investment services to consumers across the world,” monitoring site ScamBitcoin wrote in February.

According to the site’s investigations, OriginalCrypto had made dubious claims about its setup, including being operated by a Bulgarian-based parent company “Bali Limited Ltd.”

“We could find no evidence to support that Bali Limited Ltd was an actual corporation,” the site warned:

“Furthermore, the alleged corporate address provided for Bali Limited Ltd does not appear to be a factual physical address and computes to a variance of their disclosed address.”

Last week, the U.S. state of Ohio’s decision to accept cryptocurrency for tax payments drew the ire of the mainstream press after it emerged officials involved were unaware of the scams that had affected previous such efforts elsewhere.

Posted on

Seven EU States Sign Declaration to Promote Blockchain Use

During an EU meeting, seven southern EU member states released a declaration asking for help in the promotion of blockchain.

Seven southern European Union member states have released a declaration calling for help in the promotion of Distributed Ledger Technology’s (DLT) use in the region, the Financial Times (FT) reports Dec. 4.

The declaration was reportedly initiated by Malta and signed by six other member states, France, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Greece, during a meeting of EU transport ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

The participating governments explained that DLT –– one type of which is blockchain –– could be a “game changer” for southern EU economies.

Namely, the document cites “education, transport, mobility, shipping, Land Registry, customs, company registry, and healthcare” as services which can be “transformed” by this technology. The group also cites blockchain tech’s use for protecting citizens’ privacy and making bureaucratic procedures more efficient.  

The report further notes that this technology has potential beyond digital government services:

“This can result not only in the enhancement of e-government services but also increased transparency and reduced administrative burdens, better customs collection and better access to public information.”

In mid-November, a member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, Benoit Coeure, declared that he considers Bitcoin the “evil spawn of the [2008] financial crisis.”

Also in November, banking groups BBVA and Banco Santander joined the EU International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (IATBA), Cointelegraph reported. The association itself is set to be launched Q1 2019 and aims to develop blockchain infrastructure and standards.

Posted on

Global Retail Giant Auchan Expands Blockchain Tracking Solution to Five More Countries

French retail giant Auchan has expanded its blockchain products’ traceability solution after successful a 18-month pilot in Vietnam.

Global retail giant Auchan is expanding TE-FOOD’s blockchain solution to improve the transparency of products’ history, U.S.-based news agency Cision PRWeb reports today, Dec. 4.

The French retail group, which is reportedly the 13th largest food retailer globally with operations in 17 countries, has extended TE-FOOD’s FoodChain solution to five more countries.

FoodChain is the international traceability information ledger by TE-FOOD, first applied by Auchan in its Vietnam branch. After a 18-month test of TE-FOOD’s blockchain tool in Vietnam, Auchan has now decided to deploy the products’ traceability solution in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Senegal.

The blockchain-powered retail monitoring system provides tracking for selected product categories from farm-to-table, as well as recording food quality data and related logistics information. Auchan consumers are able to check products’ history via their smartphones by scanning the products’ QR codes and getting access to authentic data recorded on FoodChain.

According to the article, TE-FOOD’s blockchain solution implemented by Auchan is reportedly the world’s largest farm-to-table food traceability program in Vietnam, with over 6,000 clients including major global food giants such as AEON, CP Group, Lotte Mart, and others.

In mid-November, another French retail giant Carrefour revealed it was implementing a blockchain-enabled food tracking platform powered by Hyperledger for tracing poultry in Spain.

Earlier in September, U.S. retail giant Walmart and its division Sam’s Club, a membership-only retail warehouse club, also announced that they will require suppliers of leafy greens to deploy farm-to-store tracking system based on blockchain.

In late November, a fintech expert predicted that market value of blockchain in global retail will see a 29-fold increase in value in the next 10 years.

Posted on

Coinbase Takes on Cryptocurrency Gift Cards With Limited Rollout

Major U.S. cryptocurrency wallet and exchange Coinbase has entered the crypto gift card market, allowing customers in certain countries to exchange coins for brand e-certificates, according to their July 25 blog post.

In the post, Coinbase confirmed the new option was made possible through a partnership with UK-based startup WeGift, and will effectively allow cryptocurrency holders to pay for goods and services through brands such as Nike, Tesco, Uber, Google Play, Ticketmaster, and Zalando:

“Starting today, Coinbase customers in the EU and Australia are able to instantly spend their cryptocurrency balances on e-gift cards, making us the first trading platform to offer direct withdrawals into e-gift cards.”

The blog post notes that the new service will be initially be available in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia, with plans to expand both the number of retailers and markets “over the next three months, as well as looking to expand into other countries soon after.”

While cryptocurrency acceptance among major brands remains decidedly low — travel booking giant Expedia quietly removed their Bitcoin (BTC) payment option in June — other industries accepting crypto have met with positive responses. The nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation received a 1,000 Ethereum (ETH) (around $469,000 today) donation the first day it added crypto payment options.

Posted on

Italy and Crypto: Naples Mayor Talks About City’s Focus Group to Promote Blockchain and Possible Municipal ICO

A working group devoted to blockchain on the initiative of institutions, hundreds of volunteers from all over the world, a big and efficient plan for the future – it’s happening in Naples, the capital of the Italian region of Campania in the south of the country. The city, through a recent press release, announced the creation of a special “focus group,” whose purpose is to “develop and eventually implement objectives related to blockchain technology”.

In response, hundreds of scholars, experts, professionals and enthusiasts signed up as volunteers to participate in the project. We are talking about 300 people from all over the world.

Naples working group

We spoke with Felice Balsamo, an associate of the mayor of Naples, so that he could explain to us the details of one of the very first institutional projects in Italy. One could notice Felice’s competence in talking about ICOs, cryptocurrencies and blockchain as a tool to speed up government procedures.

Felice told Cointelegraph that Naples started discussing this project last December. Currently the administration is creating focus groups with participants divided by skills and goals. Among the volunteers there are students, engineers, developers, as well as lawyers, accountants and spokespeople of various institutions.

All the discussions start from a central theme: transparency. Volunteers will examine and develop possible solutions for birth records, elections and public administration in general. Another group will study the issue of transparency from a “private” point of view instead.

The focus groups won’t deal with just public administration, but also the businesses of the city — the beating heart of its economic life.

Solutions will be studied to train small- and medium-sized enterprises, teaching them to accept cryptocurrency payments and to embrace the advantages of these technologies.

Other focus groups will deal with international relations with other cities active in the sector, including Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Venezuela, involving city councilors.

There is also talk about fundraising for projects necessary for the city and even about an ICO aimed at developing a city cryptocurrency.

According to the mayor’s associate, the focus group could indeed create a new cryptocurrency, designed to promote transactions between public administration and citizens, but also contribute to the city’s economy with many different projects.

Among the participants there’s also ANN — a company which operates in the field of public transportation — and ASIA — a society specialized in environmental health services.

There are many ideas, but also many challenges. An example of this is provided by Felice Balsamo himself, who asks:

“What would happen if the city of Naples would receive a Bitcoin donation?”

The city often receives money and property donations, Felice explains, but what would happen with a cryptocurrency donation? Which institution should accept this donation? What regulation is necessary to accept it?

The Italian Agency of Revenue (Agenzia delle Entrate — the governmental body aimed at collecting taxes and revenue) is also a member of the group, and it will surely be an important resource to solve these problems.

After all, the various discussions will deal with issues that the Italian government would consider sooner or later. Will the focus group in Naples be an explorer for the institutions of all of Italy?

Vision of the Mayor

Cointelegraph spoke with Luigi de Magistris, mayor of Naples, to better understand the vision of the city council about the project.

Cointelegraph: Do you think these new technologies could be beneficial for an economy such as that of Naples?

Luigi de Magistris: Naples is considered the capital of the Mediterranean. In the last years we introduced important innovations in the field of administration, implementing a proper grassroots democracy. Just think of all our decisions considered innovative, such as the registry for civil partnerships we introduced, or the collective use of public assets: our experience is considered an example by many Italian and European cities. We were the first major city to issue an electronic ID through 24 registration ATMs.

Thinking about an economy based on blockchain, based on participation by the people, could be a valid solution for the regulatory and historical constraints of traditional finance.

Combining traditional economy with a new economy based on cryptocurrencies could lead to a huge economic potential for over 3.5 million residents of the metropolitan city of Naples.

Cointelegraph: What’s the purpose of “generating, distributing and using a new cryptocurrency (ICO) tied to the economy of the city,” as you can read on the official page of Naples City?

Luigi de Magistris: I have to say something first. In the last few years Naples has become the Italian city with the fastest-growing tourism sector, our airport is the first in terms of traffic, Naples is the most searched city for tourism on the web. This revolution, which happened in just a few years, involves the adjustment of supply and demand. This means improving our services and public transportation, experimenting with innovative payment systems, attracting a very different target, deploying an alternative system for electronic payments throughout the territory.

We are studying other [Italian] towns like Rovereto, or other cities in Europe like Barcelona, or Portugal, or our neighbor Switzerland. But in our case we want to open this new technology to cryptocurrency owners, generating a new economy in the city, regardless of whether we develop a new currency or not: this will be a long process, as shown by over 300 experts who signed up for our “public calling” from all over the world.

We want to involve trader associations and businesses in our city, that could expand their market thanks to the current availability of cryptocurrencies.

The creation of our ICO, in compliance with other programs already existing in Europe, could be one of the objectives of our project Napoli Autonoma [Autonomous Naples].

Our economy will be based on the specific historical features of the city, fueling a real economy based on our products, on the quality of our craftsmanship, on tourism, on our monuments, on our food. An economy based on the historical and social value of the city of Naples.

Blockchain and city administrations

The future of the economy and public administration could be dramatically changed thanks to the potential of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

Recently, the Barcelona administration has revealed that it wants to establish a digital center to promote the growth and development of the blockchain ecosystem.

In March, Dubai unveiled a virtual business-to-business market in the pipeline, designed for the tourism industry and based on blockchain technology.

Now there is also the southern Italian city of Naples that joined the innovative movement which is spreading throughout the world.

Posted on

Italian Authorities Seize Bitcoin From BitGrail Wallets Following Court Order

Italian cryptocurrency exchange BitGrail has announced that bitcoins (BTC) stored in the firm’s wallets have been seized by Italian authorities, according to official announcement published June 15.

The statement says that authorities removed the funds from the exchange’s wallets following a court order by the Tribunal of Florence on June 5, but did not mention the current worth of the seized assets:

“On June 5, 2018, pursuant to the Tribunal of Florence orders, the bitcoins contained in the company’s wallets were seized and brought under control of the judicial authorities pending further Court decisions in the pre-bankruptcy proceeding.”

The seizure of BitGrail’s BTC follows a petition to the court filed by victims of the BitGrail hack, asserting that the exchange is bankrupt under article 6 of Italian bankruptcy law. The petition was filed on behalf of a BitGrail creditor, Espen Enger, whom over 3,000 claimants have allegedly contacted so far.

In February, BitGrail suffered a cyber attack that caused the loss of 17 million Nano (XRB, formerly Raiblocks) that was worth $187 million at the time. After trading was halted, CEO Francesco Firano argued that it would be impossible to refund the stolen amount.

The hack caused a series of arguments between BitGrail and the Nano Foundation ас it was unclear whether hackers exploited a BitGrail security weakness or a vulnerability in Nano’s blockchain.

In April, the Nano Foundation announced it would support a legal fund to provide all victims of the hack with equal access to representation to pursue their legal interests associated with BitGrail’s insolvency.

On May 3, Bitgrail reopened, but three hours later shut down operations at the order of the court of Florence. The court ordered an immediate closure of the exchange in accordance with a request made by Bonelli law office on behalf of a client. The exchange stated, “Even though we don’t agree with this decision, we are obliged to respect the law and to suspend any BitGrail business immediately.”