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BitOasis Secures Preliminary Approval With UAE Financial Regulator

BitOasis has reportedly secured preliminary approval with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

United Arab Emirates-based cryptocurrency exchange BitOasis has reportedly secured preliminary approval with financial regulators, Bloomberg reported on May 13.

Founded in 2015, BitOasis claims to be the Middle East’s first digital currency wallet that uses multi-signature technology. The company previously announced that it was seeking to be fully licensed in the financial center Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) before the end of this year. Ola Doudin, the founder and CEO of BitOasis said then that “we are hoping to be one of the first regulated exchanges to get that licence.”

Today, Bloomberg reported that BitOasis received preliminary approval in April from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM to operate a crypto asset platform and wallets. To get a license, the exchange has to meet specific technical and operational requirements, which it expects to do in the second half of the year. Doudin reportedly said:

“This is a huge milestone. It gives us legitimacy as well, and we can now work with regulated financial entities. We’re able to work with other regulators in the region, such as Saudi Arabia. Overall, it will boost our growth in the region, legitimize the space and expand our reach in the market.”

The UAE has been demonstrating a proactive approach toward cryptocurrencies. Last September, Richard Teng, head of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of the ADGM, claimed that loss and theft of cryptocurrency negatively impacts its image as an asset. “This space needs to be properly regulated, otherwise there is the risk of financial crime. Every time a coin gets stolen or lost, it affects the confidence in this asset class,” Teng said.

In February of this year, six commercial banks from Saudi Arabia and the UAE joined a digital currency project after the authorities of both the countries announced an agreement to cooperate on the creation of a cryptocurrency in January.

As Cointelegraph reported last October, the Dubai government also intends to use a digital currency backed by the state and pegged to the UAE’s fiat currency, the dirham, for utilities payments.

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Global Telecom Blockchain Consortium Unveils Working Group for Remittances

A global blockchain consortium of telecom carriers has announced that six further major international telecoms firms are joining its ranks, CT Japan reports today, July 6.

The consortium, dubbed ‘The Carrier Blockchain Study Group’ (CBSG) has also today unveiled the creation of a new blockchain working group that will focus on global remittance services.

Launched in September 2017, CBSG counts as its founding members Japanese telecoms conglomerate Softbank, Taiwan-based telecoms carrier Far EasTone, and two U.S.-based firms – telecoms-focused blockchain firm TBCASoft and telecoms firm Sprint.

Three further members have since joined, these being South Korean LG Uplus, UAE-based Etisalat Telecommunication Corporation and the state-owned South Korean KT Corporation..

In Asia, the latest leading telecom carriers to join are Malaysia-headquartered conglomerate Axiata, the Philippines’ leading telecoms provider PLDT, Indonesia-based Telin, and Vietnam’s largest cell network operator Viettel.

Zain, which provides cell and data services to almost 47 million consumers across the Middle East and Africa, and Turkey’s leading cell phone operator Turkcell have also joined.

The Director of Viettel International Business, Doan Dai Phong, gave some insight today into the ambitions of CBSG’s global cross-carrier blockchain ecosystem, saying the new services would cover “[cell phone] top-up, roaming wallet, secured clearing and settlement, personal authentication [and] IoT applications.”

Blockchain’s potential, which a Axiata representative argued is “by design […] extremely well suited” to streamlining global telecoms “across trusted, connected and distributed parties,” is being recognized by increasing numbers of major industry players.

In May, Cointelegraph reported on the successful live testing of a blockchain proof of concept (PoC) that would automate inter-carrier settlement of services across the telecoms industry, completed by two major telecoms firms from Hong Kong and the U.K.

Earlier this spring, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei revealed its latest Hyperledger-fuelled blockchain cloud service, and South Korean telecoms operator SK Telecom also announced two new blockchain tech platforms, one for digital asset management, and one to support the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) investment ecosystem.

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Major UAE Bank Implements Blockchain Tech To Prevent Check Fraud

The National Bank of Dubai (NBD), one of the largest banking groups in the Middle East by assets volume, has reportedly become the first bank in the region to successfully implement Blockchain technology in a check-issuance system to prevent fraud, local news outlet Arabian Business reported Saturday, April 21.

According to Arabian Business, the system works by means of printing a unique Quick Response (QR) code on each check and putting the records on Blockchain. The so-called “Cheque Chain” technology is designed to provide higher authenticity of the issued checks, as well as to the security standards across the UAE banking sector.

According to the NBD official statement, the bank has registered around one million checks on Cheque Chain in the first month of the pilot deployment. Following the successful test, NBD is looking for opportunities to roll out the Blockchain-powered banking technology across other UAE financial institutions.

Abdulla Qassem, NBD’s group chief operating officer noted the importance of the innovative technology deployment and highlighted that NBD bank is the first bank that offered such a service in the region.

“Emirates NBD is committed to exploring commercial uses for this innovative technology. After a successful pilot phase, we are pleased to roll out Cheque Chain to our customers nationwide, becoming the first bank in the region to offer this service.”

The UAE, along with major city Dubai, have taken a very positive stance on adopting Blockchain technology. Last week,  the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai launched the ‘UAE Blockchain Strategy 2021’, with the goal of becoming a world leader in deployment of the technology.

Meanwhile, Blockchain technology is becoming increasingly popular in the banking sector worldwide April 12 saw the announcement of Bank of America’s patent on a Blockchain-based storage system with automated data authentication, and on March 30, PKO Bank Polski’s partnership with a Blockchain company to provide DLT-based storage and verification system for bank documents.

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Abu Dhabi Markets Watchdog Mulls Cryptocurrency Exchange Regulations

Abu Dhabi’s markets regulator is considering drawing up a supervisory framework for cryptocurrency exchange operations.

In an announcement, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of the Abu Dhabi Global Market said it is “reviewing and considering the development of a robust, risk-appropriate regulatory framework to regulate and supervise activities of virtual currency exchanges and intermediaries.”

The FSRA said the move would be an addition to guidance it issued in October 2017 regarding a regulatory approach towards token-based fundraising activities such as initial coin offerings.

Given the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies in the region, the FSRA said then that would apply existing anti-money laundering and know-your-customer (KYC) rules to token sales, classifying some as securities and others as commodities.

The FSRA now notes with concern the issues of cryptocurrencies being used in money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the risk of cyberattacks. Like its counterparts in other countries and regions such as Japan, the EU and Singapore, the FSRA said it’s also exploring a framework to supervise cryptocurrency exchanges regarding these risks.

According to the statement, the agency does plan to include advisory input from industry companies and relevant professional bodies.

The FSRA further cautions that before the regulatory framework is in place, investors and exchanges are advised to approach the agency for discussion on proper treatment of cryptocurrency transactions.

The news comes just a week after the United Arab Emirates’ securities regulator issued a warning to residents on the risk of investing in token-based fundraising activities.

Abu Dhabi image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

Disclaimer: This article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide, investment advice. Please conduct your own thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency.

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Kuwait's Ministry of Finance Says It Does Not Recognize Bitcoin

Kuwait’s Ministry of Finance has reportedly said it does not recognize bitcoin and that financial institutions are banned from trading in the cryptocurrency.

According to Arab Times, sources from the ministry explained that the Central Bank of Kuwait does not allow financial institutions, banks and affiliated companies to trade bitcoin in the wake of the recent surge in prices.

However, the sources added that neither the Ministry of Finance nor the central bank can regulate bitcoin trading more generally, as they do not recognize the cryptocurrency. Further, bitcoin trading is “out of control” of the authorities as it is managed through the internet, the sources said.

With bitcoin not backed by a central authority, the central bank has previously asked the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to take measures to inform consumers over the risks of the digital currency, the sources added.

The Arab Times reported on Dec. 16 that Kuwaiti citizens are at the “forefront” of trading bitcoin following the recent price gains. Sources from the public prosecution office indicated that the Kuwaiti law cannot prohibited online trading as it falls under the laws for “e-programs.”

“However, the proceeds of bitcoin that are wired from abroad to Kuwait are considered as illegal and unclean money, because the Kuwaiti law does not consider those currencies,” the sources said at the time.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates clarified in February this year that bitcoin is not banned in the country.

That statement followed the release of a digital payments framework on Jan. 1 from the central bank, stipulating that “all virtual currencies (and any transactions thereof) are prohibited.”

The bank said in its update: “These regulations do not cover ‘virtual currency’ which is defined as any type of digital unit used as a medium of exchange, unit account, or a form of stored value.”

Kuwait city image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Saudi Arabia arrests Billionaire Prince – Could Uncertainty Boost Bitcoin?

Political uncertainty in the Middle East has risen to an all-time high, with Saudi Arabia arresting the richest Arab in the world, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. Could this result in a shift to Bitcoin, the digital safe haven, in the Middle East?

Saudi Arabia’s crackdown

Saudi Arabia has initiated a sweeping crackdown, ostensibly against corruption, today. King Salman has ordered the arrest of senior princes and ousted many senior officials from ministerial roles. The list of people arrested includes Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest Arab in the world.

Prince Alwaleed was in the news recently for his negative views on Bitcoin, saying that Bitcoin would face an Enron-like collapse. While the public reason given by King Salman for the arrests is his drive against corruption, many commentators believe that the King could be clearing the route for his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to take over as the King.

Qatar under siege

From early June 2017, Qatar’s neighbors – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE have imposed a blockade on the country, accusing the country of harboring Islamic militants and maintaining a relationship with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s staunch enemy.

Qatar is a small country in the Middle East, with large natural gas reserves. According to the World Bank, it is the country with the highest per capita GDP based on purchasing power parity ($127.5K in 2016). It will also play host to the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

Many believe that the actual reason for Qatar’s neighbors imposing a blockade is Qatar’s support for Al Jazeera, a news organization which has aired views contrary to the established position in the Middle East. Given the absolute power enjoyed by governments in the Middle East, an independent news channel in the region has raised many hackles.

Bahrain on the verge of collapse

Bahrain is one of the smallest economies in the oil-rich Middle East, with its GDP five percent the size of that of Saudi Arabia. Its economy is oil dependent and the recent lull in oil prices has resulted in its economy getting strained.

The Central Bank of Bahrain has pegged its currency to the US dollar (0.376 Bahrain Dinar = 1 US dollar), but this has come under strain with dwindling foreign currency reserves. According to Bloomberg, Bahrain has approached Saudi Arabia for support to stave off a financial crisis and impending devaluation. Currency devaluation in Bahrain would spark a contagion effect in the Middle East, where most currencies are pegged to the US dollar.

Bitcoin rises when governments screw up

Misconduct by governments, either in the political or monetary space, results in people trying to find safe havens for their wealth. Traditionally this has been gold, but Bitcoin is fast developing as an alternate safe haven, with its decentralized and boundary-less nature.

The Middle East is strategically important, both because of its vast oil and natural gas reserves and the tremendous wealth of its citizens. If rich sheikhs in the Middle East think that parking a fraction of their wealth in Bitcoin makes sense given the uncertainty in the region, Bitcoin’s price could scale new highs.

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Dubai Land Department Launches Blockchain Real Estate Initiative

Dubai’s land registrar has revealed it is developing a system that would seek to record all local real estate contracts on a blockchain.

The project, part of a sweeping plan to secure all government documents on a blockchain by 2020, was announced this week by Dubai Land Department, the government agency tasked with overseeing land purchases and approving real estate trades.

In statements, the agency framed blockchain technology as a way to gain the confidence of global real estate investors, and as a convenience for tenants, whose leases would be recorded by the system.

Sultan Butti bin Mejren, the land department’s director general, said in a statement:

“Our aim is to unite all real estate and department services on a single platform. We hope to complete our project in the year 2019–2020.”

In a press release issued Saturday, the agency said, “The technology will allow investors residing in Dubai and around the world to verify property data that is backed by timestamp signatures, enhancing the accuracy of data, the credibility of investment transactions and the transparency and clarity of the market.”

On the leasing side, the department said, the platform will connect renters not only to landlords, but also to other property-related billers, such as electrical, water and telecommunications utilities.

The latter will allow tenants “to make payments electronically without the need to write cheques or print any paper … within a few minutes at any time and from anywhere in the world.”

Partnering with the Dubai Land Department on the initiative are Asset Management Group, one of the largest real estate developers in Dubai; Emirates NBD, one of the region’s largest banks; the furniture chain IKEA; and the Emirates Identity Authority.

Dubai has also explored the technology for airport security, trade finance and immigration controls, working with IBM and rolling out the red carpet for startups in a notable effort to become a blockchain innovation hub.

Dubai skyline image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].