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UK Regulator: Crypto Firms Undeterred by Strict Regulation — ‘They Know We Have a Good System’
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Britain’s top financial regulator, has revealed that many crypto firms are still seeking licenses to operate in the U.K. despite failing to meet regulatory requirements the first time. “They know we have a good system of regulation and if they meet our standards that’s important for every jurisdiction that they seek to apply for around the world,” said the regulator.
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) executive director for competition and consumers, Sheldon Mills, talked about cryptocurrency regulation at a City & Financial conference Thursday.
British lawmakers and the crypto industry have criticized the country’s top financial regulator for being slow in processing license applications and for rejecting many applicants despite the government previously stating that it wants to make the U.K. a global hub for crypto assets.
Mills explained that crypto companies are not deterred by strict licensing requirements, noting that many of them are reapplying for a license to operate in the U.K. even after being rejected the first time. “It’s no surprise that I still see many crypto firms still seeking to get licenses here in the U.K. even though some have been denied those licenses at the first pass,” she said, elaborating:
They know we have a good system of regulation and if they meet our standards that’s important for every jurisdiction that they seek to apply for around the world.
“That is a benefit to the U.K. economy and U.K. financial service industry, and is good for competition, inward investment, and growth,” Mills added, noting that 95 people have been hired to join the FCA’s licensing team and the number of pending applications has fallen by 40%.
The FCA previously said that 90% of crypto firms seeking a license to operate in the U.K. have either withdrawn their applications or been refused because they could not meet the standards.
Over time, we expect faster, better decisions will support us in bringing down the costs of the regulatory system.
Crypto regulation may be undergoing changes in the U.K. under the new prime minister, Liz Truss. Several key officials who previously worked on the country’s crypto policy resigned from government before she took office, including Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen.
The British government introduced the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill in the House of Commons last week. It “aims to strengthen the U.K.’s fight against economic crime,” the government detailed. In May, the U.K. government outlined its plans to support crypto adoption and confirmed its commitment to regulate stablecoins.
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While the US Dollar Tramples the Euro, Pound and Yen, Russia’s Ruble Skyrockets Against the Greenback
While the U.S. dollar has soared in value against a basket of worldwide fiat currencies, Russia’s ruble climbed 4.5% against the greenback this week. During the first week of September, Russia told the press China would pay for natural gas with rubles and yuan. Moreover, Switzerland’s imports of Russian gold reached a high not seen since April 2020.
This week the U.S. Dollar Currency Index (DXY) skyrocketed to new heights leaving a great number of fiat currencies worldwide badly bruised. For instance, two days ago, the European Union’s euro tapped a 20-year low against the U.S. dollar dropping to $0.973 on Friday.
Presently, the euro is even lower at $0.9690, and it is down 2.82% against the greenback during the past 30 days. 30-day statistics indicate the yen is down 4.72%, the sterling pound shed 8.17%, and the Canadian dollar lost 4.78%. The Chinese yuan breached a 7:1 exchange rate against the U.S. dollar for the first time in two years.
However, Russia’s native fiat currency the ruble has been more resilient this year, and it started to see gains a month after the start of the Ukraine-Russia war. Toward the end of June, Russia’s ruble tapped a seven-year high against the U.S. dollar, and at the time economists said “don’t ignore the [ruble’s] exchange rate.”
This Friday, while America’s native fiat currency climbed to new heights against various currencies worldwide, the ruble climbed 4.5% against the USD. The ruble managed to do this while the DXY breached a 20-year high following the Federal Reserve’s recent rate hike. The rising ruble follows Russian president Vladimir Putin explaining earlier this week that he vows to use “all means available” to win the war with Ukraine.
There were also hints of nuclear retaliation from the Russian president, and he detailed he was mobilizing more troops. Additionally, Reuters reported during the first week of September that China would be purchasing fuel from Russia with rubles and yuan payments.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller told the press at the time that China paying in rubles and yuan rather than dollars was “mutually beneficial” for both partners. Furthermore, reports indicate that the Swiss Federal Customs Administration revealed Switzerland imported 5.7 tons of Russia’s gold reserves in August. The stash was worth roughly $324 million, and the Swiss have not purchased a cache that size in over two years.
The country’s customs department, however, claims that the Russian gold originally stemmed from Britain, and it further stressed that no financial sanctions were violated. Switzerland fully denied breaking any sanctions and said the 5.7 tons of bullion was originally shipped from the U.K. back in May.
While the ruble’s exchange rate against the greenback has dropped a hair, it remains at 56.87 per dollar, at the time of writing on Sunday, September 25, 2022. While 30-day stats show the euro is currently down 2.82% against the U.S. dollar, the Russian ruble is up 4.32% this month.
Investing Geoffrey Smith says the surge for cash derived from Russians withdrawing massive amounts of money from their savings accounts. Smith further claims “Russians emptied their savings accounts in the wake of Wednesday’s mobilization call by President Vladimir Putin.”
He noted, however, that the surge in Friday’s ruble withdrawals was not nearly as large as the ruble withdrawals recorded last February. “The rise in demand for rubles led to a squeeze in interbank ruble rates, pushing the currency up in a market,” Smith wrote on Friday.
Nasdaq 100 Futures Plunge as Investors Anticipate Another Interest Rate Hike
The United States stock market is retrogressing further as investors are taking a cautionary approach as evidenced in the plunging Nasdaq 100 futures.
The futures tied to the tech index slumped by 0.74% while those of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX: .DJI) shed off 179 points or 0.53%. The futures tied to the S&P 500 (INDEXSP: .INX) were not also spared from the slump and were down 0.6% in pre-market trading.
The current losses were ushered in last week after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Consumer Price Index (CPI) data and other core markers that pointed out that inflation was pegged at 8.3%. While this arguably comes off as a milder figure compared to the 8.5% recorded in July, it is still sky high and the Federal Reserve has revealed how it will not sit back until the inflation level is down to the 2-4% range.
At the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting slated for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the Fed is expected to raise interest rates by as much as 75 basis points. Should this be the hike that will be announced, it will be the third time in a row the Fed will be raising rates this way.
The stock market indices dropped massively last week with the bearish anticipation brought about by the uncertain inflation offsets. Considering the economic outlook, an American multinational conglomerate holding company focused on transportation, e-commerce, and business services, FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX) gave a warning that the global economy may be “significantly worsened.”
The pressure on the Nasdaq 100 futures may be compounded this week as the projected meeting of the Federal Reserve will take into account the economic growth and inflation data that has been released thus far. Also, it will take into account the August housing data that is bound to be released on Tuesday.
“As the S&P 500 hovers below the all-important 3,900 level, and the 10-year Treasury yield inches ever closer to 3.5%, the Fed-sensitive 2-year Treasury note flirts with 3.9%, suggesting that the Fed’s aggressive campaign to kill off inflation is to be taken seriously,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial. “The canary in the coal mine may not yet be dead, but is probably struggling to breathe.”
With the current market outlook, choosing what to invest in calls for a major permutation among investors and traders. While the primary focus is to maintain the current asset or capital base, investors are also interested in positively changing their status quo with possible profits in these uncertain times.
With indexes, stocks, and the broader cryptocurrency industry buckling under the weight of these uncertain economic times. Nonetheless, investments like specialized Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) that have the potential to spike upwards when the market conditions are right are some of those that investors should analyze and place their bets on provided they have the needed risk appetite.
UK Regulator Warns Crypto Exchange FTX Is Providing Services Without Authorization
Britain’s top financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has issued a warning about cryptocurrency exchange FTX operating in the U.K. without authorization. “Almost all firms and individuals offering, promoting or selling financial services or products in the U.K. have to be authorized or registered by us,” said the regulator.
The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a warning on its website Friday regarding crypto exchange FTX. The regulator detailed:
We believe this firm may be providing financial services or products in the U.K. without our authorization.
The FCA explained that FTX is not authorized but is targeting investors in the U.K. Firms carrying out specific crypto asset activities in the U.K. must comply with the amended “Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations,” and register with the FCA.
“You will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so you are unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong,” the financial regulator warned, elaborating:
Almost all firms and individuals offering, promoting or selling financial services or products in the U.K. have to be authorized or registered by us.
FTX has been trying to expand its operations in Europe. The company established FTX Europe in March and said it had secured approval from the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC).
In May, the U.K. government outlined its plans to support crypto adoption and affirmed its commitment to regulate stablecoins.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in April: “It’s my ambition to make the U.K. a global hub for crypto asset technology, and the measures we’ve outlined today will help to ensure firms can invest, innovate, and scale up in this country.” His former colleague, Glen, similarly said: “We want this country to be a global hub — the very best place in the world to start and scale crypto-companies.” However, the government’s crypto plans may change under the new prime minister, Liz Truss.
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Bitcoin Academy in Brooklyn Backed by Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey Airdrops BTC to Class Participants
Rap star Jay-Z, otherwise known as Shawn Carter, and Block CEO Jack Dorsey, recently airdropped bitcoin to members of the Bitcoin Academy in Brooklyn. Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter explained in a statement that a myriad of residents from Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant participated, and more than 350 people attended the crypto classes.
During the first week of June, Bitcoin News reported on Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z teaming up to launch the Bitcoin Academy in Brooklyn for residents of Marcy House. A report from Business Insider details that the academy’s classes saw hundreds of people. “Marcy residents showed up,” Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter told the publication. “The over 350 people who attended The Bitcoin Academy classes let us know that this education is important to them—and that it matters,” she added.
The report further discussed the project with a Marcy House resident who participated in the classes. Furthermore, at the end of the courses, the residents from Bedford-Stuyvesant could enroll in a grant that gives each person $1,000 in bitcoin (BTC) sent to their Cashapp or Munn Wallet. The 12-week educational course was free exclusively to Brooklyn’s Marcy House residents. Marcy resident Mariela Regalado said that the academy reminded her of when she saw Jay-Z growing up in the neighborhood.
“I remember when I was younger, growing up in the project, Jay-Z and his team would come and give us toys and things like that,” Regalado told Business Insider. “My friends and I would call it this kind of ‘hood philanthropy,’ — So for me, this is kind of like an evolution of that.” Regalado further detailed that the academy offered free daycare for her daughter, and as a single mother she was able to attend the courses. Regalado added:
The classes were purely this fun, educational journey that I got to do with my neighbors. It always felt like we were at a family dinner, and like that cousin that discovered Bitcoin is telling everybody else about it.
Brooklyn’s Bitcoin Academy was also backed by Crypto Blockchain Plug (Najah J. Roberts) and Black Bitcoin Billionaire (Lamar Wilson). Wilson was an instructor and the person that connected with the Block CEO Jack Dorsey to propose the program. Courses that were taught included subjects like “Careers in Crypto,” “Wealth Building and Assets,” “Bitcoin & Taxes,” and “Why Decentralization Matters.”
“A lot of times, information doesn’t get to our community. Not because people are being intentionally discriminatory, it’s because they’re not being intentional about getting the information there. And so somebody has to pick up the mantle and do it,” Wilson said. The Brooklyn Bitcoin Academy instructor added:
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Cannabis Producers Could Use Some Crypto After Snub From Banks
Still a taboo in many countries, the U.S. Cannabis industry sees cryptocurrency as its saving grace after being declined by the traditional banking sector. Being ignored by banks is just one of the many gnawing hurdles that the weed industry is facing today.
Even though cannabis use has been legalized for both recreational and medical or therapeutic use, it is still considered illegal under most laws. In fact, the pressing regulatory issues have caused many financial institutions to snub or leave out any transactions involving cannabis and the like.
Cannabis dispensaries and companies have been snubbed by credit card networks and banks that forced them to keep their cash mostly on-site which make them a common prey for robbers.
With cryptocurrency use, marijuana traders can easily send and accept crypto payments as well as hold crypto securely on cold wallets. However, there are some notable downsides to using crypto instead of cash for this type of transaction.
For one, using crypto could be inconvenient, especially for those who are new to the crypto space and have no idea about paying with digital assets.
More so, for companies that decide to use crypto for pot transactions, they still are prone to risks of being shut down by the government in lieu of federal regulations.
This is exactly what happened in 2018, when Coinbase had to close down an account that belongs to a medical marijuana dispensary based in Washington.
Now, considering that crypto may be the key to solve the banking dilemma of marijuana companies, there are still many problems it won’t manage to remedy at this point including low profit margins and ridiculously high taxes.
While it may not be the perfect solution to pressing banking problems, this is seen to be better than nothing.
The crypto and cannabis industry had its first collaboration in the Silk Road founded by Ross Ulbricht before it has been chased and permanently closed down in 2013. Crypto was used for marijuana transaction, regarded as a criminal activity at that time.
It has been nine years since the closure of Silk Road by the FBI, and a lot has changed with the Web3 and cannabis sectors.
In 2018, the Farm Bill enabled the removal of hemp from being paired with marijuana as indicated in the Controlled Substances Act.
In the same way, many states have lobbied to legalize cannabis use. In 2021, Colorado was able to collect roughly $423 million in tax from the sales of marijuana which is higher when pitted with its tax revenue of $387 million in the previous year.
Cannabis and crypto have definitely morphed into something bigger and better just like in the case of the Crypto Cannabis Club, founded by CEO Ryan Hunter, which is a popular social club that allows pot users to use NFTs as a membership card.
Hunter’s vision for the Crypto Cannabis Club is to build a supportive community that is available for both real-life and virtual immersive experiences.
Cannabis and crypto share the same objectives – and miseries – and it doesn’t look like the banks will be changing its mind anytime soon with regards going easy on cannabis traders and lend them money to make their business grow.
Ethiopian Crypto Providers To Register With Cybersecurity Agency
Cryptocurrency service providers operating in Ethiopia have been ordered to register with the country’s cybersecurity agency known as the Information Network Security Administration (INSA), according to a report by the Ethiopian Monitor.
INSA, the agency in charge of Ethiopia’s cybersecurity has begun to register cryptocurrency service owners and transfer providers in the country. Cryptocurrency service providers have been ordered to register following an announcement from the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) in which they said people are widely using crypto transactions in the country, where the use of digital currencies is currently illegal. Earlier in the year, lawmakers amended a law to re-establish the INSA which added provisions to pave the way for the legal use of digital currencies. According to the report, the amended law gives the cybersecurity agency the power to oversee cryptographic products and related transactions. The INSA is also tasked with developing operating procedures as well as the cryptographic infrastructure. The NBE warned residents against the use of cryptocurrencies to make payments but also encourage them to report such transactions.
Despite the NBE’s hostile stance toward cryptocurrencies, the INSA has advised crypto service providers operating in the country to adhere to its registration requirement, saying:
There is interest among individuals and entities in providing crypto services including mining and transfer. [Therefore] to properly regulate this field, INSA has begun to register individuals and entities that are involved in crypto operations (services) including transfer and or mining.
According to the Ethiopian Monitor’s report, crypto service providers have been granted a ten-day period in which they must complete the registration process. The INSA has also said that necessary “legal measures” will be taken against entities that fail to comply with its directive.
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SARB Issues Crypto Guidelines For Local Banks
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has issued guidelines for local banks to do business with cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency companies. The country’s central bank has directed financial institutions to serve customers handling cryptocurrency transactions.
In the guidelines released by the Reserve Bank’s Prudential Authority, the SARB stated that financial institutions should not place an overall ban on cryptocurrencies, but instead called for banks to conduct due diligence when dealing with clients that have digital assets. The guidelines advise banks to employ anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing for all crypto transactions. The guidelines were issued after some banks closed clients’ accounts that own cryptocurrencies, citing a lack of appropriate regulations to govern the sector. The directive stated:
Banks may act as a conduit for funds linked to crypto asset service providers activity and may play a role in customers wishing to purchase crypto assets or receive pay-outs for the sale of crypto assets via fiat currency into their bank accounts. Banks must ensure that they maintain adequate records in respect of all customer transactions, including fiat-to-fiat, fiat-to-crypto and crypto-to-fiat transactions.
In response to banks shutting down crypto-related accounts due to greater risk exposure, the SARB acknowledged that risks do exist in the market, but banks should rather conduct a comprehensive assessment instead of resorting to such grave measures.
In July, the SARB deputy governor Kuben Naidoo confirmed that the country will roll out cryptocurrency regulations over the next 12 – 18 months, and said that it would not identify them as a payment option, but rather as a financial asset that can be utilised in the mainstream sector. As a financial product, cryptos will fall under the purview of South Africa’s Financial Intelligence Centre Act and will be monitored for money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing activities. He added that the SARB plans to develop a regulatory framework for South African exchanges to allow crypto listings which would include traditional banking regulations such as KYC rules and exchange control regulations.
The SARB is also investigating the possible introduction of a CBDC, after having completed a technical proof-of-concept in April 2022.
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Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe ‘Developed a Roadmap for Adoption of CBDC,’ Says Governor
The governor of the Zimbabwean central bank, John Mangudya, recently said his organization “has developed a roadmap for adoption of CBDC [central bank digital currency] in Zimbabwe.” Mangudya also revealed that two fintech startups had been admitted into the central bank’s fintech regulatory sandbox.
Nearly six months after announcing the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s intention to explore the feasibility of launching a central bank digital currency (CBDC), the bank’s governor John Mangudya recently revealed that the central bank now has a roadmap for the envisaged digital currency. He said the bank’s development of the roadmap is in line with the government’s decision on the CBDC which was made in November 2021.
Nevertheless, Mangudya suggested in his second monetary policy statement of the year that the RBZ is now eager to get the views of stakeholders. He said:
The role of stakeholders in the CBDC journey is paramount and in that regard, the Bank has developed a public consultation paper on CBDC to be released soon. The consultation paper is aimed at fostering a broad and transparent public dialogue regarding the potential benefits and risks of CBDC.
According to the RBZ, once the document has been released, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the consultation paper. This must be done within 90 days after the release of the consultation paper, Mangudya said.
Besides the consultation paper, the RBZ will also “carry-out consumer perception surveys on CBDC.” The findings from the two undertakings “will enable the Bank to engage in pilot programmes related to CBDC.”
Meanwhile, in the same statement, the RBZ governor revealed that two fintech firms; namely Llyod Crowd Funding and Uhuru Innovative Solutions had been admitted into the fintech regulatory sandbox. Of these two, Llyod Crowd Funding has already commenced its sandbox operations that will run until 2023 while Uhuru Innovative Solutions is expected to start regulatory testing soon.
According to Mangudya, the admission of the two startups and “the initiation of regulatory testing is a signal of the Bank’s commitment to promoting responsible innovation.”
At the same time, the results that are derived from the regulatory testing are expected to furnish the RBZ with “critical evidence in the formation of an appropriate regulatory framework for financial technology in the country.”
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Alleged BTC-e Operator Alexander Vinnik in US Custody After Immediate Extradition From Greece
Russian IT specialist Alexander Vinnik, accused of owning and running the infamous crypto exchange BTC-e, has been handed over to the U.S. This week, Greek authorities proceeded with the extradition, after his return from France, despite Vinnik’s defense protesting the move and calling the case a “judicial, diplomatic and humanitarian scandal.”
The presumed co-founder and operator of the notorious crypto exchange BTC-e, Alexander Vinnik, was extradited from Greece to the United States on Thursday. The Russian national is facing charges in the Northern District of California and has already appeared in federal court in San Francisco, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the department’s Criminal Division, was quoted as stating:
After more than five years of litigation, Russian national Alexander Vinnik was extradited to the United States yesterday to be held accountable for operating BTC-e, a criminal cryptocurrency exchange, which laundered more than $4 billion of criminal proceeds.
The 42-year-old Vinnik was arrested while on vacation in the Greek city of Thessaloniki in the summer of 2017 on a U.S. warrant. He had been charged by American prosecutors in a 21-count superseding indictment in January of that year. Greece approved an extradition request filed by the United States but sent him first to France in December 2019, under a European arrest warrant.
A French court sentenced the Russian crypto entrepreneur to five years in prison for money laundering, and he recently served his term, taking into account his pre-trial detention. In France, he was also charged with identity theft and extortion. In July, U.S. authorities withdrew a request to get the Russian directly from France in an obvious attempt to speed up his transfer through Greece, which had already approved his extradition to the United States.
According to the U.S. indictment, the now-defunct BTC-e was a “significant cybercrime and online money laundering entity that allowed its users to trade in bitcoin with high levels of anonymity and developed a customer base heavily reliant on criminal activity.” It alleges the exchange facilitated global cybercrime transactions, receiving proceeds from a wide range of crimes, such as the Mt Gox hack, ransomware scams, and even drug trade.
BTC-e and Vinnik were charged with one count of operation of an unlicensed money service business in the U.S., and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering as well. The Russian is also facing 17 counts of money laundering and two counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. The Justice Department noted his platform had no system for know-your-customer verification and no anti-money laundering program as required by federal law.
Speaking to the Russian news agency Tass, Vinnik’s French lawyer Frederic Belot confirmed his defendant had been handed over to US custody, upon his return from France under the decision by the Investigation Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals from Thursday morning. “He was immediately transferred to another plane that flew to the United States. The plane landed in Boston and then flew to San Francisco,” Belot explained.
“Alexander Vinnik, who should be free based on three decisions by the French justice, was transferred yesterday as a prisoner to Greece and there he was literally ‘loaded’ on a private plane to the USA, without being allowed, as he requested and while seeking asylum, to have access to an interpreter, to me as his lawyer,” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who has been representing him in Greece and France, said quoted by the Greek newspaper Ethnos.
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Report: The Central African Republic Requests Regional Central Bank’s Assistance in Crafting Crypto Regulations
A new report has claimed the Central African Republic, which became the first country in Africa to make bitcoin legal tender, recently requested the regional central bank’s assistance in developing a cryptocurrency regulatory framework. The report also said the CAR had expressed its “commitment to the single currency and respect for the statutes of the Bank of Central African States.”
After initially clashing with the Central African Republic (CAR) over its decision to make bitcoin legal tender, the Bank of Central African States (BCAS) recently claimed it had received a request for assistance in developing the “regulatory framework governing crypto assets” from the government in Bangui. In a statement, the BCAS revealed the CAR had reiterated its commitment to the regional group’s statutes.
By sending this request for assistance to BCAS, which serves six countries that make up the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (EMCCA), the CAR may be signaling its willingness to end a feud that started after it made bitcoin legal tender.
As previously reported by Bitcoin News, the CAR decision has been criticized by its peers in the region. The global lender, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned the country’s leadership against making bitcoin legal tender. However, before this latest report, the CAR had largely ignored the warnings and had proceeded to launch a cryptocurrency known as the Sango coin.
Yet, according to a report in the Business in Cameron, the announcement of the BCAS rapprochement with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s government was made after a meeting of the Central African Monetary Union (CAMU)’s ministerial committee on July 21.
The report also added that the BCAS’ Herve Ndoba and the CAR’s Minister of Finance and Budget had both signed the statement that signaled the two parties’ commitment to work together again.
Outlining what the CAR’s reiteration of its commitment to a single currency means, the BCAS document states:
After examining the implications of the law governing cryptocurrency in the Central African Republic concerning the community’s regulatory architecture in monetary and financial terms, the Board of Directors welcomed the expression by the CAR of its commitment to the single currency and respect for the statutes of the Bank of Central African States, the texts governing the monetary union and its community commitments.
Meanwhile, the Business in Cameron report suggested that the comments by both the BCAS and CAMU signal that cordials have relations with France — the custodian of the regional economic group’s currency, the CFA francs — may have been restored.
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Ukraine’s New Fiat Restrictions to Boost Popularity of Crypto, Industry Says
The central bank of Ukraine has adjusted the fixed exchange rate of the national currency in U.S. dollars and introduced stricter limits on hryvnia transactions for citizens. The measures are likely to turn more Ukrainians to cryptocurrencies, according to a representative of the local crypto sector.
The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has introduced new rules in response to the changing fundamentals of the country’s economy during an ongoing military conflict with Russia. The monetary authority devalued the Ukrainian hryvnia against the strong U.S. dollars by 25% on Thursday and set new limits on banking operations with the national fiat.
According to the updated regulations for private individuals, enforced on July 21, banks can sell non-cash foreign currency to their customers only if the amounts are deposited for a period of at least three months, without an option to terminate the contract.
The 50,000-hryvnia ceiling for withdrawals from payment cards has now been substituted with a weekly limit of 12,500 ($340). Peer-to-peer transfers abroad from cards issued by Ukrainian banks have been cut from 100,000 hryvnia (approx. $2,700) to 30,000 hryvnia ($800). And the limit for cross-border settlements with hryvnia cards has been set at 100,000 per month.
All the measures introduced since the beginning of the war are temporary and allow the economy to survive, assured NBU Governor Kirill Shevchenko. However, they are seriously affecting Ukrainians, especially those millions of the nation’s citizens who have been forced to leave the country and are still unable to return.
The latest NBU restrictions may lead to a surge of Ukrainians’ interest in cryptocurrencies, the founder of the Ukrainian crypto exchange Kuna, Mikhail Chobanyan, commented for the crypto news outlet Forklog. “We expect an increase in turnover and use of cryptocurrencies. In Europe, 100,000 hryvnias is nothing,” the entrepreneur added.
Chobanyan also noted that the new limits will hinder the work of volunteers, since most of the humanitarian assistance is purchased with cards issued by Ukrainian banks and owned by individuals. “Now we will completely switch these flows to crypto,” said Chobanyan who described the central bank’s policy as aggressive and warned that Ukrainian banks and the state budget will be the losers.
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Report: Equitiesfirst Named as Mystery Debtor to Celsius, $439 Million Owed to Crypto Lender
Ever since Celsius paused withdrawals on June 12, the company has been the focus of attention due to the lender’s financial hardships. A month later, Celsius filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. by leveraging the Chapter 11 process. Two days after the bankruptcy filing, a report disclosed that two people familiar with the matter allege that the private lending platform that owes Celsius $439 million is Equitiesfirst.
During the last few weeks, bankruptcies, liquidations, and insolvencies have been a very hot topic in the crypto world. Three well known crypto companies have filed for bankruptcy protection which includes the digital currency exchange Voyager Digital, the crypto lender Celsius, and the crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC). Celsius filed for bankruptcy on July 13, 2022, or 31 days after the company froze withdrawals.
Prior to the bankruptcy filing in July, there was speculation during the second week of June that said Celsius had funds locked into specific decentralized finance (defi) protocols that needed immediate adjustment or significant collateral would be liquidated. A few days before Celsius filed for bankruptcy, the company’s wallets reportedly transferred millions of usd coin (USDC) at different times to pay down loans in Compound and Aave.
When Celsius filed for bankruptcy protection, the filing detailed that Celsius was owed a large sum of funds. On July 15, the Financial Times (FT) reported that “Equitiesfirst [has been] revealed as [the] mysterious debtor to troubled crypto firm Celsius.” The report claims two people familiar with the matter disclosed that Equitiesfirst is the ostensible borrower that owes the crypto lender $439 million.
Founded in 2002, Equitiesfirst is an investment firm that “specializes in long-term asset-backed financing,” according to the company’s website. While Equitiesfirst manages stocks, it has also been dealing with select cryptocurrencies since 2016. The managing director and head of Equitiesfirst Singapore, Johnny Heng, spoke about cryptocurrencies in April 2022.
“We used to be pure equities, until some six years ago, we started to offer loans against cryptocurrency as well, and that activity has really taken off [in] the past year or two,” Heng told hubbis in an interview. Speaking with FT, an Equitiesfirst spokesperson said: “Equitiesfirst is in [an] ongoing conversation with our client and both parties have agreed to extend our obligations.”
Meanwhile, celsius network (CEL) token investors tried to short squeeze the company’s native token well before the company filed bankruptcy. However, after the bankruptcy filing, CEL slipped by 58% against the U.S. dollar before it rebounded. Statistics recorded on July 16, 2022, indicate that despite CEL’s market volatility, the crypto asset has gained more than 30% during the last 30 days.
Crypto Payments Are Acceptable in Foreign Trade, Russia’s Financial Watchdog Says
Russian financial watchdog Rosfinmonitoring is ready to accept the use of cryptocurrencies in international settlements, the head of the agency, Yuri Chikhanchin, has indicated. The statement adds to growing support for the legalization of international crypto payments in Russia amid financial restrictions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.
The Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation, also known as Rosfinmonitoring, fully accepts that cryptocurrencies can be employed for settlements with foreign partners, Yury Chikhanchin, director of the regulatory body has stated.
Speaking in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russian parliament, Chikhanchin emphasized that payments with digital assets inside Russia are prohibited by law. The country’s current legislation bans “money surrogates.”
However, under certain conditions, such payments may well be used in international trade, Chikhanchin said. The high-ranking official believes this can help businesses oriented towards exporting Russian products. Quoted by the Bitsmedia crypto news outlet, he also noted:
If the supply chain is controlled, then this is quite acceptable.
Yury Chikhanchin further emphasized that in order to take advantage of cryptocurrency payments, Russian companies need to know to whom exactly they are exchanging the digital currencies.
The regulator revealed that his department has developed and already launched a special information system for tracking crypto transactions. It allows financial authorities to identify both the sender and the recipient of funds and has been used already in some investigations.
The debate over the future of cryptocurrencies in Russia is still ongoing. A new bill “On Digital Currency” is expected to introduce more comprehensive rules for crypto transactions after the law “On Digital Financial Assets” regulated only some aspects of the crypto market.
The idea to use cryptocurrencies in international settlements has been gaining support amid mounting Western sanctions over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. At the same time, most government institutions in Moscow agree that the ruble should remain the only legal tender in the country.
While the Bank of Russia, a strong opponent of the free circulation of cryptocurrencies, recently signaled it could back the legalization of crypto payments that don’t penetrate Russia’s financial system, the lower house of Russian parliament recently adopted a law banning domestic payments with digital financial assets.