UNICEF France Starts Accepting Dai Donations to Help Fund Blockchain Projects

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UNICEF France has recently started accepting donations in Dai, MakerDAO’s dollar-pegged stablecoin, to fund “bounties” and “research for open source tech and infrastructure projects,” that are set to help the “world’s most vulnerable people.”

According to an official website made to accept Dai donations, through an arm called UNICEF Ventures the organization is looking to invest in emerging blockchain projects that are working on solutions to some of “humanity’s greatest challenges.”

UNICEF Ventures has, in fact, already held vents in Mexico and Kazakhstan that focused on giving interested youth the opportunity to learn more about blockchain technology, and to help develop solutions for specific challenges their regions face.

In Mexico, the events focused on identity, payments, and tokens, while in Kazakhstan these focused on “app development for development situation,” the arm’s blockchain lead Christina Lomazzo told ETHNews.

Per the publication, Lomazzo believes work is still needed to assemble teams and encourage collaboration. Should these teams and their projects mature to become early stage start-ups, UNICEF’s Venture Fund will consider investing in them.

Lomazzo was quoted as saying:

UNICEF France has been able to accept Dai before because it is an ERC20 token, but we’re now promoting the fact that these Dai donations will help fund the blockchain development community that UNICEF Ventures is building.

UNICEF France notably started accepting cryptocurrency donations back in September of last year. It started by accepting major currencies, including BTC, ETH, XRP, XMR, and EOS. At the time Sébastien Lyon, the organization’s executive director, stated cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology “offer a new opportunity to appeal to the generosity of the public and continue to develop our operations with children in the countries of intervention.”

This wasn’t the first time the charitable organization launched a crypto-related initiative. In February, it started raising funds to help children in Syria, a country embroiled in a civil war since 2011.

‘Bitcoin Is My First Love’: Coinbase CEO Champions Top Coin on Its 10th Birthday

Brian Armstrong, founder and CEO of United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, has confessed that “Bitcoin is my first love” in a series of tweets commemorating the coin’s 10th birthday, Jan. 3.

Summing up a thread in which he explained how he entered the industry and built one of its most successful firms, Armstrong wrote:

“Bitcoin is one of the most important inventions of all time and has launched a global movement. It’s awesome to see an entire ecosystem spring up around it, but Bitcoin is my first love.”

Armstrong pointed out that Bitcoin is still the most popular asset both for new Coinbase customers and long-time hodlers. The firm’s CEO also tweeted about cryptocurrency’s future potential. As per Armstrong, the industry is only starting to develop:

“I believe we’re still at the beginning. The white paper signaled the start of a movement and the full promise of Bitcoin is still yet to be realized.”

In addition to that, the Coinbase co-founder briefly recounted the founding story of the major exchange, revealing that he first read Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper in 2010 and was thinking of it for the next six months.

As of press time, Coinbase’s professional trading platform is the world’s 30th largest crypto exchange by adjusted daily trade volume with, seeing $85.4 million in trades on the day to press time.

The Bitcoin whitepaper was released on Oct. 31, 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin whose identity has yet to be revealed. Yesterday, Jan. 3, marked ten years since the creation of the very first block, known as “genesis block,” on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Bitcoin’s anniversary this year was also marked by an event dubbed “Proof of Keys” — when crypto holders were encouraged to withdraw their funds from all exchanges and other third-party mediators to prove their control over their funds.

Crypto Markets Drop Slightly, Further Losses May Be Needed to Spark Rally

The crypto markets have extended yesterday’s losses into today, with most major cryptocurrencies trading down slightly at the time of writing. Bitcoin and Ethereum have both established levels of resistance over the past few days and are continuing to respect those levels.

Although the markets are expressing some levels of stability around their current price levels, one analyst believes that further losses may be necessary in order to spark a rally.

Crypto Markets Flat, Face Growing Resistance

The markets have been caught in a tight trading range over the past several days, with Bitcoin trading between $3,700 and $4,000 and Ethereum caught in a slightly larger range between $130 and $156.

The upper end of both these ranges appears to have been established as resistance levels that have not yet been broken by bulls.

Yesterday, The Crypto Dog, a popular cryptocurrency analyst on Twitter, told his followers that Ethereum faces strong resistance around 0.04 BTC (approximately $151), which is slightly above where Ethereum is presently trading.

“$ETH / $USD isn’t about to go parabolic, not without $BTC making a major push… $ETH / $BTC is facing serious resistance at .04, it’s unlikely we cross it on the first try,” he said.

Furthermore, The Crypto Dog later explained that he isn’t going long on Bitcoin until its price drops lower, pointing towards the declining trading volume and largely dismissing the possibility of Bitcoin forming a bullish inverse head and shoulders reversal pattern.

“I love getting excited about inverse head & shoulders as much as the next guy, but until we see a change in this declining volume trend, I’d like us to fall lower before I try and long $BTC,” he explained to his followers.

Stock Market Recovers from Yesterday’s Plunge

Yesterday, all the major benchmarks dropped significantly, driven primarily by a revision of Apple’s Q1 guidance that signaled significant economic slowdown in China. This news caused Apple’s stock to plunge, and worried investors about the future of the global markets.

Despite this, stocks rallied today after the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that the central bank will be more patient on raising interest rates, and that they’d be more sensitive to the current market conditions.

Powell’s comments caused the Dow to surge over 3% to 23,389, the S&P to jump nearly 3.2% to 2,525, and the Nasdaq to climb over 4% to 6,722.

“As always, there is no preset path for policy… And particularly with muted inflation readings that we’ve seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell explained.

He further explained that the Fed would be monitoring economic growth and inflation, and that they are prepared to adjust their policy in order to keep economic expansion on track and to keep inflation near 2%.

“But what I do know is that we will be prepared to adjust policy quickly and flexibly and to use all of our tools to support the economy should that be appropriate to keep the expansion on track, to keep the labor market strong and to keep inflation near 2 percent,” Powell said.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Pixel-by-Pixel, New Project Offers Game Where Crypto Players Can Create Blockchain Art

A new project is gearing up to be the “first arts and games smart economy on the EOS blockchain” — offering games and giving artists the chance to showcase their creative works and monetize their passion.

PixEOS says that the first game on its platform offers a new twist on the pixel-drawing titles previously seen on the EOS blockchain. Offering a 1 million pixel canvas, PixEOS Paint offers a profit-sharing system where players can paint pixels over one another and create a collaborative art piece. At the conclusion of every game, a blank canvas begins — meanwhile, the previous masterpiece is “immortalized in a blockchain gallery and becomes a valuable non-fungible token that can be bought as a collectible, sold and traded.”

According to the project’s white paper, the PixEOS Paint game is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2019, heralding the start of the artistic platform. The team hopes to build a collective where both established artists and newcomers can collaborate and bond in their shared passion, with an array of platforms where creators can share ideas, improve their skills and be compensated for their work. PixEOS has already established strategic partnerships with EOSphere, Cypherglass, TokenPocket, MeetOne and BetDice.

Empowering artists

The canvas created by PixEOS users is converted into a non-fungible token that goes up for sale as a piece of digital art in a specially created gallery. On a weekly basis, users will be given the chance to vote for their favorite canvas, and the winner will go to the highest bidder in the PixEOS Auction House.

This will be complemented by an Art House where crypto enthusiasts can ask their favorite artists on the platform to create works on their behalf. Through this service, users can commission “artworks, artwork prints, merchandise and print-on-demand cool stuff” from PixEOS talent. The white paper adds: “You need a customized sticker set, a logo, a gif, a banner or any other Creative Media service? You can hire one of the featured artists or content creators and support the artists community on the EOS ecosystem.”

PixEOS says that it is passionate about supporting crypto artists, and has high hopes that its platform will make it easier to prove authorship of both digital and physical works — an issue that has been something of a challenge in the online world.

In recent months, the startup has been working to build up its core team and says its executives boast “more than 20 years of experience in branding, activation, marketing, software development and UI/UX.”

PixEOS says it has confirmed listing on major exchanges with the support of its community, with the adoption of its platform increasing over time. Artists will be able to convert their creations to non-fungible tokens if they wish, and PixEOS’s NFT standard will be made available to the EOS ecosystem in the future.

According to the company, it has already established partnerships with wallets, DApp stores, other EOS-based games and block producers to “implement a healthy and long-lasting platform” and blockchain-based marketplace where art rights can be bought and sold for use or collection.

Community focused

PixEOS says that it is using an organic marketing strategy to generate a positive buzz within its community — eliminating the bear market that’s all too often seen in the crypto world these days. The project plans to distribute tokens through a plethora of contests and GIF competitions — and every 100th member who joins the platform receives a prize as a thank you for their support.

The platform has also taken pride in offering creative branding through eight featured artists and says the pixelated avatars they have created have gone viral throughout the EOS community.

Now, PixEOS is preparing to launch an art contest that it believes will be the biggest collaborative effort ever seen in the EOS ecosystem. This competition will boast a renowned international panel of judges.

 

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

Ethereum Studio ConsenSys Teams Up With Chip Manufacturer AMD

Ethereum development studio ConsenSys is partnering with computer chip maker AMD to develop a new cloud computing infrastructure based on blockchain technology.

The startup announced Friday that it was working with AMD and Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Halo Holdings on W3BCLOUD, a cloud computing architecture supported by the manufacturer’s computing hardware designed specifically for supporting decentralized applications.

ConsenSys will provide expertise on how blockchain transactions may need to be processed, as well as use cases, through this partnership.

In a statement, AMD’s director of product management for blockchain technology, Jerog Roskowetz, explained that the tech giant would provide ConsenSys with access to “high-performance hardware technologies capable of better scaling and proliferating decentralized networks and services.”

In turn, the platform should meet a growing demand from major firms and government agencies to use the tech to support smart identity, enterprise data centers, health ID tracking, licensing and supply chain management solutions, he added.

In the statement, ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin said that boosting blockchain networks’ computing power using AMD technology will aid “scalable adoption of emerging decentralized systems around the globe,” adding:

“The combination of hardware and software will power a new infrastructure layer and enable an accelerated proliferation of blockchain technologies.”

Blockchain shift

AMD chips have been popular in running blockchain networks, in particular by retail customers looking to mine cryptocurrencies.

At one point, as much as 10 percent of AMD’s quarterly revenue came from the crypto mining space, the company reported last year.

Interest has fallen in the months since, however, with sales to miners dropping to “negligible” levels by the end of 2018.

That being said, the company has previously released software updates for its miners specifically aimed at bolstering blockchain processes.

AMD and ConsenSys spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

AMD image via JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

First Ever Mimblewimble-Based Privacy Coin Beam Goes Live

Beam announced its live mainnet launch just in time for the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin. Based on the Mimblewimble protocol, the brand-new cryptocurrency has a few lofty goals, and among them is to make cryptocurrency transactions “drastically” more confidential.


Another noteworthy aspect about the cryptocurrency that could end up rivaling Zcash and Monero is that Beam is the first ever project to implement the ‘Mimblewimble’ protocol. This was a widely applauded blockchain protocol proposed anonymously in 2016 (sound familiar?) with the goal of bringing privacy back to crypto transactions.

If it all sounds like a bunch of Harry Potter Hocus Pocus to you, that’s probably because it is. The Mimblewimble protocol derived its name from a spell in the children’s books that prevents people from spilling secrets.

Beam: First Project to Use the Mimblewimble Protocol

The main premise behind the anonymous Mimblewimble protocol is to offer crypto transactions that are significantly more confidential than those made with Bitcoin, Ethereum, or even “privacy” coins like Monero.   

Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin in particular, originally emerged as a way of allowing for privacy-oriented value storage and transfer. However, as time went by, it became clear that Bitcoin was not as anonymous as people thought. Data leaks could easily lead to the mapping of public addresses using blockchain forensics. To tackle these issues, cryptocurrencies like Monero and Zcash appeared on the scene, but not without their own issues. To start with, while these coins have a strong inclination toward privacy, not all their transactions are ultimately private. And both blockchains face similar scalability issues.

Beam, then, is setting its sights on becoming the ultimate ‘storage-of-value’ and payment cryptocurrency, continuing the revolution set out by Bitcoin, through its focus on anonymity.

After all, true confidentiality and scalability for financial transactions is a requirement not just of institutions and investors, but individuals as well. Both of these factors are considered necessary for true mainstream adoption of crypto to occur.

CEO of Beam Alexander Zaidelson said:

Sovereignty over one’s own information is a basic human right, and applies to all aspects of life, and especially to financial transactions… Everyone, from the largest institutional investors to the individual cryptocurrency holder, should have the right to decide on what to disclose and to whom.

Combining Mimblewimble with Other Features

Beam will combine Mimblewimble with additional features in order to offer true privacy to users on its network. The Beam blockchain remains a distributed ledger that allows for decentralized validation of transactions. However, no observer can obtain any private information about the sender, receiver, or amount transacted.

Thanks to the Mimblewimble Transaction Cut-through feature, the blockchain size is expected to be between 3-10 times smaller than Bitcoin (if the same amount of usage is taken into consideration).

Another interesting feature about Beam is that users will have the option of opting in for audits of their accounts and transactions, which could be extremely useful for tax and accounting purposes.

Beam is brand-new on the mainnet and, according to its creators’ announcement on Medium, likely to contain bugs, defects, and errors while they work on implementing improvements.

As developers begin to add key features like atomic swaps with Bitcoin, mobile wallet, pool support, and bitcoin wallet integration, Beam has the potential to attract traditional crypto users that left the market due to privacy concerns, or who fail to see coins like Monero as an attractive option. Financial institutions are also likely to see the value in a blockchain that allows for private transactions for its customers.

Can Beam and MimbleWimble rival privacy-focused coins like Monero and ZCash? Share your thoughts below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

Thailand’s NECTEC Testing Blockchain-Based Voting Mechanism for Elections

According to a report from Bangkok Post, published on January 3, 2019, Thailand is contemplating the use of blockchain technology for elections. The voting model would combine traditional voting mechanism and e-voting.

Need for Digital Literacy in Thailand

Thailand’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) states that after the adoption of 5G, all voters can be easily connected in close groups. However, the Thai populace would require ample digital literacy to translate this idea into reality successfully.

Chalee Vorakulpipat, head of the cybersecurity laboratory at NECTEC, shared his thoughts regarding the development. He stated:

“Nectec developed blockchain technology for e-voting that can be applied to national, provincial or community elections, as well as business votes such as the board of directors. The goal is to reduce fraud and maintain data integrity.”

Some of the qualities that make distributed ledger technology an ideal fit for election purposes include its immutability, transparency, and the ease of being audited. This is in stark contrast to a centralized database which can easily be manipulated by hackers.

Using Blockchains in Elections

Commenting on the utility of blockchain technology in elections, Chalee stated that the process would require an election controller, candidates, and voters.

Before the elections take place, election controllers can establish voter qualifications and ensure eligible voters are registered in the system. Similarly, prospective candidates can also enroll in the system, which will help the election controller to verify their eligibility quickly.

Being the end user, voters are not required to know the technical intricacies of blockchain technology. They can simply vote for their candidate via email.

Once the voting is completed, candidates and election controllers can check the number of votes and compile results, respectively. As the voting data is sent directly to the election controller, results can be calculated quickly.

As one might observe, blockchains do away with the need to collect data from election points scattered all over the country. This largely mitigates the labor costs involved in managing and transferring data from remote locations to a central location.

However, Chalee noted that the implementation of the technology for Thailand’s general elections faces another ostensible barrier. E-voting would require every voter to have an affordable mobile internet connection and identity verification

Thai authorities have not been shy in using emerging technology for administrative purposes. BTCManager reported on December 4, 2018, how the Thai Revenue Department is testing blockchain technology to track VAT payments.

Similarly, on November 6, 2018, reports emerged that tax authorities in Thailand are mulling over the use of DLT to fight tax evasion.

Circle’s Cryptocurrency OTC Desk Swapped More Than $24 Billion in 2018

Finance company Circle claims its over-the-counter (OTC) cryptocurrency trading desk swapped a notional volume of $24 billion last year. The Boston-based company’s Circle Trade desk reportedly executed more than 10,000 cryptocurrency settlements between 600 unique counterparties in 2018.

Also Read: New Full Node Client ‘Bitcoin Verde’ Joins the BCH Ecosystem

Despite the Crypto Bear Market in 2018, Circle Sees Significant Growth

Circle's Cryptocurrency OTC Desk Swapped More Than $24 Billion in 2018Last year the digital asset company Circle made a lot of moves behind the scenes within the cryptocurrency economy. In a blog post written on Jan. 3, Circle explained how it expanded significantly over the last 12 months and now services over 8 million customers residing in 195 different countries. In 2018, Circle claims to have processed more than 200 million digital asset transactions, adding up to over $75 billion in value. The Boston-based firm says customers stemmed from all over the world, with 30 percent of volume coming from the U.S. This is followed by the EU and U.K. (24%), Asia (24%), and the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America (21%).

Additionally, Circle discussed acquiring the cryptocurrency trading platform Poloniex and emphasized that the exchange’s services have improved a great deal over the last 12 months. “Through expansion in support operations and engineering, we helped customers by reducing nearly 200,000 open tickets at the start of 2018 to fewer than 1,000 by year-end,” Circle noted. Circle also remarked that Poloniex now has enhanced risk and compliance operations which allow the company to onboard customers within minutes of enrollment. The parent company detailed that Poloniex would see more UX improvements this year and the “continued launch of new markets.”

Circle's Cryptocurrency OTC Desk Swapped More Than $24 Billion in 2018
The four flagship products Circle offers and the kinds of services each sector provides.

More Than 10,000 OTC Swaps Worth Over $24 Billion Last Year

Circle's Cryptocurrency OTC Desk Swapped More Than $24 Billion in 2018Circle’s retail investment services saw growth last year as well, explained the company’s founders Sean Neville and Jeremy Allaire. More than 30 percent of customers buy unique collections of digital assets regularly the founders noted. Over 30 percent of all purchases on Circle Invest are recurring and repeat purchases like these have doubled since last September. With the company’s OTC operations, even though 2018’s crypto prices were extremely bearish, Circle’s OTC desk still expanded. Circle Trade saw $24 billion in notional OTC cryptocurrency volume, with its 24/7 coverage in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. By utilizing 36 different digital currencies, Circle Trade facilitated 10,000 OTC swaps between 600 different entities. The corporation detailed that Circle’s clients and partners include asset managers, other OTC desks, family offices, high net worth individuals, endowments, token projects, and exchanges.

The company’s flagship stablecoin offering, USDC, saw “significant penetration” in 2018 and is now supported by 40 exchange platforms. The Circle-backed stablecoin is also being used by over 80 companies like wallets and other types of applications. Despite all the layoffs throughout the crypto economy, Circle’s institutional sales team grew 3x in size. Circle’s 2018 report shows that the ecosystem is still alive and well, but investment providers have somewhat shifted towards catering to institutional clientele. There’s been a huge influx of OTC buyers and institutional customers throughout 2018. Many other large digital currency-based firms like Coinbase, Blockchain and Etoro have announced OTC desks in order to capture these types of customers.

What do you think about Circle processing over $24 billion in cryptocurrency-based OTC volume last year? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Images via Shutterstock, and Circle.  


At Bitcoin.com there’s a bunch of free helpful services. For instance, have you seen our Tools page? You can even look up the exchange rate for a transaction in the past. Or calculate the value of your current holdings. Or create a paper wallet. And much more.

Crypto Is Tightening Up Its Anti-Money Laundering Game, While Banks Are Still Being Fined for Non-Compliance

In 2018, barely a month passed without an official at a financial institution or government department calling on crypto to clean up its act. In the last quarter of the year alone, the United States Department of the Treasury, the Canadian Parliament and the Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service all urged or announced the introduction of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws for cryptocurrencies, and all of them based their moves on the (noticeably mistaken) presumption that cryptocurrencies are a primary haven for criminals, who use them either as a medium of exchange for illicit goods or as a means of hiding (i.e., laundering) the source of dirty money.

However, when the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) dished out a $10 million fine on Dec. 26 for failures to comply with AML legislation, this penalty didn’t actually go to a crypto exchange or crypto-related business. Instead, it went to Morgan Stanley, the 38th-biggest bank in the world (and the sixth-biggest in the U.S.). For anyone who’s ever noticed the sheer abundance of news stories about crypto’s apparent problem with money laundering, this may come as a shock, yet a deeper inspection of recent history reveals that the traditional financial world, in fact, has just as serious a problem with laundering as crypto, if not a more serious problem.

And what’s particularly interesting about the issue of money laundering is that, while the cryptocurrency industry is rapidly tightening up its own codes and conduct, the established financial industry still seems stuck on a plateau of underlying illegality, despite its vastly superior position and resources. Indeed, crypto exchanges are increasingly observing Know Your Customer (KYC) and AML regulations, while new trade bodies are being established with the aim of erecting self-regulatory guidelines for the crypto industry to follow. And in the industry’s zeal to become a fully legitimate and secure feature of the global economic landscape, it might just have a thing or two to teach the pre-existing banking sector.

Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Société Générale, UBS and so on…

As reported by Reuters, FINRA slapped a $10 million fine on Morgan Stanley’s brokerage arm for long-standing failures in its AML reporting system. Between January 2011 and April 2016, Morgan Stanley’s automated monitoring system failed (for an undisclosed reason) to receive vital customer information and data from the bank’s other systems, thereby preventing it from being able to exhaustively track the movement of “tens of billions of dollars” (according to Reuters) in currency transfers and bank wires.

Making this lapse even worse for Morgan Stanley, FINRA learned that the bank became aware of deficiencies in its monitoring system as early as 2015, but didn’t actually begin taking action to address these issues until February 2017. FINRA also found that, between 2011 and 2013, Morgan Stanley had failed to “reasonably monitor” the transfer of 2.7 billion shares of penny stocks, something that needs to be done in order to ensure that the trading volumes of such stocks hadn’t been inflated. And tellingly, Morgan Stanley declined to contest both charges, with the bank simply stating, “We are pleased to have resolved this matter from several years ago.”

Such violations already present the non-crypto financial industry in a poor light, yet if there were any doubts that the non-crypto world isn’t at least as poor at AML compliance as the crypto world, numerous other episodes throughout 2018 would dispel it. For example, in November, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) levelled a 30.10 million rupee fine (about $420,000) on Deutsche Bank, which had failed to observe Indian KYC and AML regulations. Also in November, French bank Société Générale agreed to foot a hefty $95 million bill in order to settle charges that it had contravened U.S. AML regulations, a bill which comprised an even bigger charge of $1.34 billion for breaking U.S. trade sanctions against the likes of Cuba, Iran and Libya.

Moreover, in December, Latvia’s financial regulator levied a 1.2 million euro charge on BlueOrange Bank for AML noncompliance, while FINRA fined Swiss bank UBS $5 million for similar violations. And back in August, China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, fined five financial institutions anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 each for falling foul of AML laws, including Ping An Bank, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and the Bank of Communications.

Given that these fines were all imposed in the second half of 2018 alone, it’s hard to shake the suspicion that the traditional financial industry has a serious problem with money laundering. And this is actually more than a suspicion, because a September report published by Ireland-based financial services company Fenergo revealed that, over the past 10 years, a massive $26 billion in fines had been taken from the world’s banks as a result of noncompliance with AML and KYC regulations. Commenting in the report, Fenergo’s director of global regulatory compliance, Laura Glynn, said that the problem isn’t restricted to specific countries or banks, but is global in scope:

“Up until now, the focus of regulators had been on the US and European markets. However, we are now witnessing regulators in Asia Pacific and the Middle East markets becoming more proactive in their supervisory efforts.”

Crypto and AML

In contrast to what would appear to be an endemic problem in the traditional financial industry, crypto’s relationship with AML legislation is tangibly less fraught. First of all, there have been far fewer cases of fines for AML and KYC violations, with crypto exchanges doing much less to attract the attention of authorities than major international banks. Apart from the $110 million civil fine demanded by FinCEN from Russian exchange BTC-e in July 2017, and the $700,000 charge also demanded by FinCEN from Ripple in May 2015, there have been no high-profile fines imposed on crypto exchanges and platforms as a result of AML noncompliance.

Of course, the rejoinder to this point is that crypto exchanges have spent most of their lives outside the jurisdiction of the regulators responsible for AML enforcement. However, what’s worth underlining here is that, since governments and financial regulators first began beating their chests about crypto and money laundering, exchanges and platforms have been racing to make themselves fully compliant with all applicable regulations.

For example, Coinbase has been a registered Money Services Business with FinCEN since 2013, meaning that it has been subject to AML guidelines for over five years now. And since it registered, most major exchanges operating in the U.S. have followed suit, including Bitstamp, CEX, Huobi US (HBUS), Bittrex, Poloniex, bitFlyer, itBit, Gemini, Gatecoin, Kraken and OKEx. Such registration goes to show that, contrary to any bad reputations crypto may have gained in the public arena, the industry is serious about being accepted as a legitimate sector of the economy.

This willingness to be accepted as law-abiding members of the global financial community is also evident in the number of self-regulatory bodies that have cropped up in recent months and years with the aim of creating AML standards (among other guidelines) for crypto. In February, Coinbase, eToro and other exchanges formed CryptoUK, a United Kingdom-based regulatory body that aims to lay down “the blueprint for what a future regulatory framework will look like,” according to its chairman, Iqbal Gandham. Part of this blueprint will involve Anti-Money Laundering norms, something which Japan’s Virtual Currency Exchange Association established in June for exchanges operating in Japan.

Such self-regulatory moves toward effective AML guidelines have also been witnessed elsewhere. The Korean Blockchain Association revealed its rules — including provisions for Anti-Money Laundering — in April, while the South African Reserve Bank announced in the same month that it would be launching a self-regulatory body to oversee the country’s crypto industry and to ensure that cryptocurrencies didn’t undermine financial stability and observance of financial laws (such as AML).

Given that crypto didn’t really explode onto the world stage until 2017, such developments highlight just how quickly and effectively the industry is moving toward regulation and legitimacy. And not only is it moving willingly toward greater compliance, but it’s also being helped along its way by governments and regulators, which are busy developing clear, often international frameworks which will help exchanges understand just where they stand in terms of the law. Most notably, November saw the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — a body which formulates AML regulations to be adopted globally — update its guidelines on cryptocurrencies. These were changed so as to require the FATF’s 35 member states to subject all transmitters of crypto to AML regulations, something which in turn would demand that such transmitters be licensed and/or monitored.

Distraction

Clearly, if the FATF’s members — which include the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Australia and Brazil — adopt such guidance within their own jurisdictions, then crypto exchanges would be required to strengthen their observance of AML standards even further. Seeing as how crypto has hardly been called out by regulators to the extent that big international banks have, it’s arguable that additional legislation and monitoring isn’t really necessary, although it will be an important step in reassuring the general public that cryptocurrencies aren’t the shady underworld that the mainstream media likes to paint them as being.

Indeed, it’s an interesting story in its own right as to why, when “reputable” banks like Morgan Stanley, UBS and Société Générale are being fined left, right and center, it’s the comparatively small cryptocurrency industry that’s attracting most of the world’s glare as an alleged sanctuary for rogues and criminals. In the face of such peccadillos as the forex scandal, the LIBOR scandal, the Russian Laundromat scandal, the PPI mis-selling scandal (among many others), the idea that crypto is a serious weak point in an otherwise impenetrable financial fortress is almost laughable and should be viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism.

One possible explanation for this, aside from an obvious fear-of-the-new, is that cryptocurrency serves as a convenient distraction away from the problems currently being experienced by the traditional financial sector. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the financial services sector stands as the least-trusted industry internationally, with only 54 percent of the global public trusting it (compared to 75 percent and 70 percent for technology and education, for instance). This is perhaps unsurprising in light of the financial crisis of 2007-08 (and, in fact, trust was as low as 48 percent in 2014), so it’s fortunate that banks and financial institutions now have crypto to regularly denounce, so as to create the implied impression that the businesses they represent are somehow much better. However, given the speed with which crypto exchanges have taken to licensing and to self-regulation, and with which they’ve sought to demonstrate their compliance with AML legislation, it’s only a matter of time before the financial industry will have to look elsewhere for scapegoats.

India: Central Bank Report States Crypto Does Not Threaten Financial Stability

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stated that cryptocurrencies currently pose no threat to financial stability in its recent financial report, published Dec. 28.

The document entitled “Report on Trend and Progress of Banking in India 2017-18” reads:

“[C]rypto-assets do not pose risks to global financial stability currently. The market continues to evolve rapidly, however, and this initial assessment could change if crypto-assets were to become more widely used or interconnected with the core of the regulated financial system.

RBI quoted a conclusion drawn from a recent report by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) — an international agency consisting of banking and financial institutions from different countries, including India. RBI itself is a member of the FSB, along with country’s Securities and Exchange Board and Ministry of Finance.

In its study “Crypto-asset markets: Potential channels for future financial stability implications,” published October, the FSB claimed that bankers see no significant danger in the existence of cryptocurrencies, as their total market cap by that time had barely reached 2 percent of the global value of gold. However, the board urged watchdogs to keep an eye on the digital coin markets, given their quick growth.

RBI reiterated this stance in its December report, stating that сryptocurrencies need “constant monitoring,” given their rapid expansion in recent years.

The legal framework for cryptocurrencies in India remains unclear, as RBI formally stopped all banks from dealing with cryptocurrencies in April. The de facto prohibition came into effect in June, while the Supreme Court’s hearings on the case — initiated by local crypto firms — were repeatedly postponed. At the same time, an Indian government panel is reportedly considering a complete ban on crypto.

Initially, RBI had considered launching its own central bank digital currency, dubbed “Laxmi.” However, in January, the bank gave up the idea of making a stablecoin tied to the rupee, stating that it’s too early to even think about it.

Yesterday, Jan. 3, the police of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir issued a statement, warning the public against investing in cryptocurrencies due to the “heightened risk” associated with them. The authorities also added that digital currencies are not regulated by the Indian government.