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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary: Bitcoin Is Garbage, a Useless Currency

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary said that he believes bitcoin (BTC) to be garbage during an interview with finance news outlet CNBC published on May 14.

O’Leary founded SoftKey, a company that Owler estimates to have an annual revenue of $29 million. He has also appeared as a host on Shark Tank, an American business reality show on ABC, since 2009.

During the interview with CNBC, O'Leary claimed that bitcoin is a useless currency, since people accepting it want to hedge against its volatility. O’Leary noted that he tried to use bitcoin in Switzerland for a real estate transaction once, which led him to his negative views on the coin.

According to O’Leary, the reasoning behind his perspective is that “you can’t get in and out of it in large amounts.” He notes:

“But everyone says, yes, you can. But, what happens is the receiver wants some guarantee. Let’s say you want to buy a piece of real estate for $10 million in Switzerland. [...] They want a guarantee that the value comes back to you as currency at ten, you have to somehow hedge the risk of bitcoin. That means it’s not a real currency.”

O'Leary stated that this “means that the receiver is not willing to take the risk of the volatility it has.” He sustains that because of this, bitcoin is worthless.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier today, CME Group reported record volume for its bitcoin futures yesterday as the cryptocurrency’s surprise bull market continued.

Bitcoin also just broke $8,000 for the first time since July 2018 earlier today, as top altcoins also reported gains.

Senior SEC Official Amy Starr: Securities Laws Are ‘Written to Be Dynamic’

Securities laws are “written to be dynamic,” a senior official at the United States securities regulator claimed in a recent panel at Consensus 2019 on May 13.

Amy Starr, chief of the office of capital markets trends at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), expressed the regulator’s willingness to interact with local crypto and blockchain-related businesses in order to gain a better understanding of how securities laws can be applied in various cases.

Speaking at a panel titled “Perspectives on SEC engagement concerning digital assets,” Starr noted a high level of integration with the crypto industry and the SEC, particularly citing the engagement via the SEC’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology, as well as a number of peer-to-peer meetings conducted by the SEC’s “Crypto Czar” Valerie Szczepanik.

The SEC official stated that an active engagement with the regulator is the only way to facilitate a change in securities laws regarding crypto markets. She said:

“The more interaction, and willingness that people want to engage with us, the happier we are because we want this to work. We want there to be innovation in these markets. We want there to be change.”
During the panel, Starr also expressed her stance on the recent no-action letterto cryptocurrency startup TurnKey Jet, which allowed the firm to issue TKJ tokens for the purpose of paying for a private jet charter, since the tokens were not considered to be securities. In particular, the official noted that the decision by the SEC fell “on one end of the spectrum” of similar cases in terms of both the decision and the speed at which it was reached.

Following the SEC’s panel, SEC Commissioner Hester “Crypto Mom” Peirce delivered a speech devoted to the future of cryptocurrencies. In her speech, Peirce encouraged internal regulation between crypto actors, claiming that “testing each other is really healthy.” While still noting that the SEC will be able to detect certain malpractice actions on the market, Peirce suggested that people in crypto should “police one another,” adding that a “lot of regulation can happen without a government regulator.”

Previously, the SEC was criticized for being the biggest regulatory obstacle preventing the crypto markets from growing. In January, CEO and co-founder of Goldman Sachs-backed crypto finance company Circle claimed that the SEC was lacking clarity over how to define various crypto assets.

Recently, U.S. SEC Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation Valerie Szczepanik suggested that platforms seeking to list initial exchange offering tokens for a fee could face a regulatory problem

Samsung’s Budget Smartphones Will Reportedly Have Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Features

Budget smartphones released by South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung will reportedly feature cryptocurrency and blockchain features, local English-language local media Business Korea reports on May 14.

Per the report, the crypto and blockchain-related functionality included in the Samsung S10 will be included in other Galaxy smartphone models. The electronics producer also reportedly plans to cooperate with telecommunications companies on blockchain-based mobile identification cards and local currencies.

Chae Won-Cheol, senior managing director of the product strategy team at Samsung Electronics' Wireless Business Division, reportedly said:

“We will lower barriers to new experiences by gradually expanding the number of Galaxy models that support blockchain functions. We will also expand our service target countries after Korea, the United States and Canada.”

As Cointelegraph reported at the end of February, the new Galaxy S10 series smartphones released by South Korean tech giant Samsung will apparently have wallet functions for ether (ETH), bitcoin (BTC) and two other tokens.

At the end of April, an anonymous source told to a crypto industry news outlet Samsung may end up developing a public-private blockchain complete with its owntoken.

And this week, HTC also announced a low-cost version of its blockchain smartphone would appear around Q3 2019 with a full BTC node, as well as in-wallet ERC-20 token swaps.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Post-Hack, Binance Plans to Re-open Withdrawals and Deposits Tomorrow

Changpeng Zhao (CZ), CEO of major crypto exchange Binance, has announced that the platform plans to fully resume deposits and withdrawals tomorrow. CZ made the announcement in a security incident update published on May 12.

As reported, Binance had suspended deposits and withdrawals as it worked to rehaul its security systems in the aftermath of a major hack on May 7, which resulted in the theft of around 7,070 bitcoin (BTC) from the exchange’s hot wallets — worth over $40 million at the time.

In the latest update, the CEO kept details of the exchange team’s post-hack actions scarce, telling the public that he would reveal more information once the platform had fully resumed all of its operations. He thus briefly outlined that:

“Our team is making progress and has been working through the weekend. In the past few days, we have made some significant overhauls to our system, with a large number of advanced security features added and/or completely re-architected. We will share details on some of the changes later.”

This update represents the third official response from the exchange CEO since the incident took place — the first being a post-hack live AMA and the second being a short outline of measures being undertaken to mitigate the chances of future security breaches.

From Binance’s disclosures so far, it is known that the hack was reportedly premeditated and conducted by a range of tactics that included phishing and viruses to obtain a large number of 2FA codes and API keys.

The incident also sparked a further controversy when CZ publicly revealed he had considered — and rejected — the idea of responding to the hack with a contentious Bitcoin blockchain re-org approach: i.e. taking steps to incentivize miners to form a consensus to wield 51% of the network’s hashing power to reorganize the blockchain’s transactions after the loss.

In response to fervent community criticism, the CEO chose not to attempt the strategy — whose feasibility was in any case doubtful, according to some opinions — citing the likely reputational damage to bitcoin and threat to its immutability and decentralization principles.

To press time, Binance is ranked the fourth largest exchange globally, seeing a 24% decline in daily trade volumes over the past 24 hours.

Following a week of multi-month price highs, bitcoin (BTC) is trading 4.3% down on the day, but remains above the $7,000 mark at $7,058 to press time, according to CoinMarketCap.

Crypto Hedge Funds Saw 46% Loss in 2018 Bear Market, PwC Report Says

The 2018 cryptocurrency bear market cost the median crypto hedge fund almost 50%, a new survey headed by PwC revealed on May 12.

According to the findings, around 150 cryptocurrency hedge funds survived last year, which saw bitcoin (BTC) falling from $20,000 to just $3,000.

Of those, the median loss came in at 46%, while quantitative funds — which take bets on price drops in bitcoin and altcoins — still managed to achieve overall returns of 8%.

The figures underscore a troublesome time for the still-nascent crypto financial instrument economy, which has already undergone a recovery as 2019 sees bitcoin prices return to their highest in over six months.

In April, Polychain Capital, one of the largest crypto hedge funds, nonetheless reported its managed assets had dropped 40% in value in the last quarter of 2018 alone.

Henri Arslanian, PwC fintech and crypto leader for Asia, said in a press release:

“The crypto hedge fund industry today is probably where the traditional hedge fund industry was in the early 1990s. We expect the industry to go through a rapid period of institutionalisation and implementation of sound practices over the coming years.”

Other industry sectors also paid a price during the so-called “Crypto Winter.” In particular, those associated with mining saw dramatic fluctuations in profitability as prices dropped, triggering staff cuts and downsizing.

Last week, Canadian mining giant Hut 8 announced annual losses for 2018 totalling almost $140 million.

Sharing the optimism for the future meanwhile was Bin Ren, CEO of digital asset managed Elwood, which co-managed the survey with PwC.

“This broader interest from investors and regulators is undoubtedly a positive step towards digital assets being recognised as an asset class with true viability and longevity,” he commented

Tron Co-Founder and CTO Leaves Project, Alleging Excessive Centralization

Lucien Chen — the former chief technical officer (CTO) and co-founder of blockchain protocol Tron (TRX) — has announced he is leaving the project, claiming it has become excessively centralized and strayed from its founding principles. Chen revealed his decision in a Medium blog post published on May 10.

In his announcement, Chen recounts the history of the Tron project and TRX’s successful growth to become the 11th largest cryptocurrency by market cap globally.

Yet the former CTO said that notwitstanding this success, irreconcilable contradictions between himself and co-founder Justin Sun have prompted him to choose to leave the project.

Foremost among his concerns, Chen argued that the project is no longer faithful to its founding principle of decentralizing the web — becoming ostensibly excessively centralized, as well as neglecting to foster internet-focused commercial applications in its ecosystem.

He critiqued Tron’s delegated proof-of-stake [DPoS] consensus mechanism and Super Representative governance and block production nodes, arguing that:

“The DPOS mechanism of Tron is pseudo-decentralized. The top 27 SR nodes (block nodes) have more than 170 million TRX votes, and most of them are controlled by Tron. It’s hard for other latecomers to become block nodes, so they cannot participate in the process of block production.”
Chen continued to claim that some nodes have “more than 90% of the votes with only a few voters,” and that the vote of the ordinary retail investor has thus been ostensibly sidelined. “The total number of TRX in Tron is 100 billion, while the total number of votes for the super representatives is just less than 8 billion,” he added, stating in summary that:

“Token distribution is centralized, Super Representatives are centralized, code development is centralized. Even the community is organized under centralization.”
In addition to his concerns over centralization, Chen also said that as the former CTO who helped build the platform, he knows that real internet applications currently can’t function in the Tron network.

Having left Tron, Chen is now launching his own decentralized blockchain project, dubbed “Volume Network.” He claims that the new venture will stay more faithful to his ideological principles and focus on mining-based decentralization — in particular by enabling users to mine using non-specialist hardware in order to lower the participation threshold.

As reported earlier this month, the Tron Foundation recently fixed a critical vulnerability which could have crashed its blockchain, awarding the cybersecurity research who identified it with a $1,500 bounty and disclosing the findings after the bug had been fixed.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Vietnam: CMC Telecom, Akamai to Prevent DDoS Trading Floor Attacks for Blockchain Startups

Vietnam’s CMC Telecom and American cloud service provider Akamai have signed a joint agreement to deliver security services to a blockchain-based trading floor, according to a report shared on CMC’s website on May 2.

Akamai is one of the biggest global distributed computing platforms, with revenue in 2017 of more than $2.5 billion.

Both providers are going to give support to BCNEX, which offers support services for blockchain-based startups in Vietnam. According to the report, the aim of the partnership is to keep user data safe and prevent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

The co-founder and CEO of BCNEX, Ngo Hoang Quyen, told Vietnamese business news outlet Biz Hub:

“Many trading floors around the world had to close due to the pervasion of hackers, including cases of DDoS attacks. Maintaining an efficient and stable system is a minimum requirement for an e-commerce platform in general and a trading floor in particular.”

CMC Telecom and Akamai have been business partners since the start of 2015. Le Anh Vu, one of the Vietnamese company’s directors, said end users of BCNEX will benefit from faster speeds when they are using the trading platform.

Akamai has been involved with delivering similar projects before. In February, Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group announced it had partnered with the United States network to launch a blockchain-based payment system in the first half of 2020.

source : Thomas Simms

Myanmar’s Central Bank Warns Public Not to Use Crypto After Series of Scams Reported

The Central Bank of Myanmar has urged consumers to stop trading cryptocurrencies amid fears that inexperienced users could lose money, Southeast Asian news outlet The Irrawaddy reported on May 3.

In a statement obtained by the website, the central bank said it had received reports of several scams targeting those who lack understanding about virtual currencies.

Authorities in Myanmar, also known as Burma, say the likes of bitcoin (BTC,) ether (ETH) and litecoin (LTC) are being traded in the country through Facebookprofiles as well as websites.

According to the report, the central bank has stressed that the use of crypto is unauthorized in Myanmar — however, the country does not have any mechanisms or legal frameworks in place to regulate or block their use.

U Than Lwin, a former deputy governor at the central bank, told The Irrawaddy that price volatility, the lack of consumer protection and the difficulty of taking legal action were three reasons “why investing in cryptocurrencies should be avoided.” He added:

“The price is unstable all the time. Trading cryptocurrencies could result in losing everything you invested in them. It’s like gambling.”

In 2018, Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs issued a similar warning after receiving reports that people living in rural areas were being targeted for investment by crypto promoters because they were uninformed about the market.

However, the government’s stance on crypto trading does not mean that the nation is also avoiding blockchain, the tech supporting most cryptocurrencies. Last month, the central banks of Thailand and Myanmar endorsed an ETH-based remittance system designed for sending payments between the two countries.

source : Thomas Simms

Bitcoin Breaks Multiple Supports to Trade Above $5,800 as All Top 20 Coins Rally

Market visualization from Coin360

Friday, May 3 — the crypto markets have rallied today, with bitcoin (BTC) breaking new 2019 highs. All the top 20 cryptocurrencies by market cap are seeing significant gains over the past 24 hours, as well as over the past 7 days to press time.

Bitcoin has broken multiple price thresholds over the day, having surged to as high as $5,854 from an intraday low of $5,448. At press time, the biggest cryptocurrency is trading at

$5,808, up 6.5% over the past 24 hours. Following a significant price surge, bitcoin is up almost 10% over the past 7 days.

Bitcoin’s dominance has also increased, up from 54.5% at the beginning of the day to 55.2% at press time.

Bitcoin 24-hour price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Ether (ETH), the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, surged about 5%, trading at around $170 at press time and seeing 8.3% growth over the past 7 days.

Ether 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

XRP, the second-top altcoin, rose 2.4%, trading at $0.312 at press time. Over the past 7 days, the cryptocurrency is up 5.7%.

Ripple 7-day price chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Total market capitalization spiked to as high as $187 billion today, down to $186 billion at press time. Daily trading volume has again broken $50 billion to account for more than $56 billion at press time.

Total market capitalization 7-day chart. Source: CoinMarketCap

Out of the top 20 cryptocurrencies by market cap, Cosmos (ATOM) is seeing the biggest gains over the day, up more than 10%. Ranked 15th on CoinMarketCap, the altcoin is now trading at 4.8%, while the coin’s market capitalization accounts for $950 billion.

Earlier today, citing an analyst at market strategy firm Fundstrat Global Advisors, Bloomberg reported that bitcoin’s price may pull back soon, but the accumulation phase is not yet over.

Also today, the Wall Street Journal reported that social media giant Facebook is seeking a $1 billion investment to develop its rumored cryptocurrency project Facebook Coin. According to the report, Facebook is now discussing potential backing from major payment operators Visa and MasterCard.

Yesterday, American asset management firm Fidelity Investments published the results of a survey claiming that 22% of institutional investors already own digital assets.

Also on May 2, Intercontinental Exchange Inc, the owner of institutional crypto trading platform Bakkt, told Reuters that it took advantage of the bear market to buy crypto assets at a discount.

source : Helen Partz

Buy Bitcoin Before Next Bull Run in H2 2019, Fundstrat Analyst Advises

Bitcoin’s (BTC) price may pull back soon, but investors should leverage it to buy more, Bloomberg quoted market strategy firm Fundstrat Global Advisors as saying on May 3.

In a note to clients on May 2, Fundstrat analyst Robert Sluymer said that while bitcoin’s current strength marks the start of a longer-term bullish trend, the accumulation phase is not yet over.

BTC/USD has climbed throughout this week to hit 2019 highs on Friday, continuing on to achieve its highest levels since November 2018’s breakdown.

“Use pending pullbacks to continue accumulating Bitcoin in the second quarter in anticipation of a second-half rally through ~6,000 resistance,” he advised, signalling volatility should appear in the short term. Slyumer continued:

“While it’s premature to conclude Bitcoin will not retest support near $4,300, we would encourage traders and investors to remain focused on the bullish longer-term technical profile developing.”

Sluymer was following increasing bullish sentiment on Bitcoin from analyst circles, which this week included fellow Fundstrat executive Tom Lee, who also revealed he was positive on the coming year.

Specifically, 2020 should see Bitcoin post new historic all-time highs above $20,000, according to Lee.

Around the time of bitcoin’s November collapse, Sluymer had meanwhile correctly anticipated the trouble ahead, warning it would take time for bitcoin to recover its technical robustness.

source : William Suberg

Singapore Central Bank Says It ‘Does Not See Much’ in Ripple’s Cryptocurrency

A senior official from Singapore’s de facto central bank said it cannot find potential in payment network Ripple in comments during a conference panel on May 2.

Speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2019 Business of Blockchain event, Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), discussed the city state’s pro-blockchain stance and its progress implementing the technology at a national level.

Mohanty was commenting on the back of a cross-border payment trial that MAS conducted with Canada’s central bank earlier this week.

Formed by linking up the two states’ distributed ledger technology (DLT) networks, Project Ubin and Project Jasper, the funds transfer marked the first-ever such payment between two central banks.

At the same time, Ripple has sought to gain banking sector interest in its products, which utilize the XRP token to provide borderless payments.

One such implementation — MoneyTap — has seen considerable interest from Japanese banks, following Ripple’s long-term partnership with SBI Group.

For Singapore, however, it is hard to see tangible benefits, according to Mohanty.

“One thing which has been very compelling for us is the whole efficiency gain coming to cross-border payments,” he said about the DLT trial. He added:

“We don’t see much in the Ripple bank digital currency, but definitely still a lot of hope that we can remove a lot of inefficiency […] when it comes to cross-border payments.”

As of early 2018, Ripple had been in talks with MAS about potential use cases for its technology.

source : William Suberg

Wall Street Journal : Facebook Seeks Reported $1 Billion for FB Coin Amid Talks With Visa, MasterCard

Social media giant Facebook is seeking investments worth $1 billion for its rumored cryptocurrency stablecoin, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on May 3.

Citing people familiar with the plans, the publication revealed Facebook was currently talking to major payment networks Visa and MasterCard about potential support, along with payment processor First Data Corp.

The cryptocurrency project, dubbed “FB Coin,” has fuelled rumors for around a year that Facebook wants to provide in-house payments to users. As more information trickles down to the outside, it appears various options are under consideration by executives, including payments via a user’s Facebook profile.

“Facebook is also talking to e-commerce companies and apps about accepting the coin, and would seek smaller financial investments from those partners, one of the people said,” the WSJ added.

As reported, interest in a fiat-centric FB Coin has already reportedly come from within cryptocurrency circles, specifically in the form of VC investment mogul Tim Draper.

Last month, plans surfaced that Draper, who is a well-known bitcoin (BTC) bull and supporter of altcoin Tezos (XTZ), would meet with Facebook to discuss investment options.

According to the WSJ sources, however, the huge fiat backing is further deliberately designed to remove perceived doubts about FB Coin versus bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Volatility, they said, should be avoided in order to boost uptake.

source : William Suberg

Microsoft Releases Blockchain Manager App

Microsoft announced its fully managed Azure Blockchain Service in a press release on May 2.

The new blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform will purportedly allow users to build blockchain applications on preconfigured network.

According to Microsoft’s head of corporate communications, Frank Shaw, this service “simplifies the formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks.”

Shaw further noted that Azure Blockchain Service can create a new consortium network “in a few simple clicks,” or let the user perform basic operations like adding new members to the network.

Quorum, an open source blockchain platform backed by JPMorgan Chase, is the first platform that can be managed via Azure Blockchain Service. Azure CTO Mark Russinovich explained the choice:

“Because it’s built on the popular Ethereum protocol, which has the world’s largest blockchain developer community, Quorum is a natural choice.”

Microsoft Azure released its blockchain app creation service Azure Blockchain Workbench in May 2018. This platform was also designed to automate aspects of blockchain-related work — in this case to streamline blockchain app development by providing readily available infrastructure for the developer.

In October 2018, Microsoft Azure joined forces with Nasdaq. Nasdaq opted to integrate Azure blockchain technology into its financial framework with the expectation that it would speed up transactions.

On April 30, Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing wing of retail giant Amazon, released its own BaaS platform dubbed Amazon Managed Blockchain

source : Max Boddy

Former CFTC Chair Gary Gensler Says Crypto Market Needs Regulation in Order to Grow

Former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Gary Gensler said that the cryptocurrency market needs regulation in order to grow, because consumers must be protected. Gensler shared his views with at the Business of Blockchain event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on May 2.

Speaking about the perspective on such services and products as custody and bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded funds (ETFs), Gensler argued that for the market to prosper and potentially grow, investors should know that they have both investor and consumer protection embodied in the law in case of market manipulation or losing of private keys, among other issues.

When asked whether a bitcoin ETF would be impactful if approved, Gensler stated “the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] is doing their work to ensure that if there is an exchange-traded fund, that the markets themselves for those exchange-traded funds and the underlying bitcoin or ethereum it’s referencing is not really susceptible to manipulation.”

According to Gensler, it is important to make sure markets are appropriately overseen and sufficiently mature, and that the chance of manipulation is small or very limited.

At the MIT Bitcoin Expo 2019 in March, Gensler delivered arguments in favor of extending national level regulation over a broader spectrum of crypto trading, coordinating money laundering prevention and addressing the current regulatory and enforcement discrepancies across different states.

At the same conference, SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce advocated for a lighter regulatory touch when possible, while affirming that security offerings must comply with the SEC’s registration requirements.

Yesterday, current CFTC chairman Christopher Giancarlo said that the agency is expecting more applications to open clearinghouses, driven by increased interest in cryptocurrencies, particularly bitcoin.

source : Ana Alexandre

Upgraded Hyperledger Fabric Sees 7-Fold Increase in Transaction Speed

Researchers have re-engineered the Hyperledger Fabric to support almost seven times more transactions per second (TPS), according to a May 2 news release from Canada’s University of Waterloo.

A new series of optimizations increased the volume of data that the blockchain— used by financial institutions, IT giants and engineering companies — can process. Where it formerly maxed out around 3,000 TPS, the researchers claim they managed to achieve 20,000 TPS.

The university’s work focused on improving “end-to-end transaction throughput” by redesigning Fabric’s ordering service, transaction service and data management layer. This means that the blockchain is more practical for “fast-paced sectors such as e-commerce.” Christian Gorenflo, one of its PhD candidates, explained:

“Our modifications are completely under-the-hood. Fabric’s application programming interfaces and modularity stay intact, so existing applications work just as before.”

Professor Lukasz Golab said the researchers are now in discussions with major Fabric contributors who want to adopt their optimizations in future releases. Golab described the reception so far as very positive.

Professor Srinivasan Keshav explained that the team is now determined to pursue further optimizations, which they believe could take Hyperledger Fabric’s capacity to 50,000 TPS.

The Hyperledger community has been expanding apace. In February, Intellaunched a commercial package through the ecosystem. The package is designed for businesses that want to launch their own blockchain quickly and efficiently.

Italy’s postal service, Poste Italiane, joined in January, following in the footsteps of America’s FedEx, which claimed the technology has “big, big implications” for supply chains and transportation.

IBM is using its Hyperledger-based blockchain platform to improve supply chain management in the mining industry and ensure commodities such as cobalt are sourced responsibly.

source : Thomas Simms

US District Attorney Seeks to Retain Defendant in Crypto Shadow Banking Case

The United States Attorney for the District of Arizona (DA) is seeking to retain a defendant in custody in a case of alleged shadow banking for cryptocurrency companies. In a court filing released on May 1, the DA states that they are concerned the accused will flee.

The filing follows the official announcement published by the Southern District of New York Attorney in April, ordering to charge an Arizona citizen Reginald Fowler and Israeli woman Ravid Yosef for allegedly operating an unlicensed money transferring business and bank fraud.

The recent filing asks the court to detain the defendant pending trial as he purportedly presents a risk of continued economic danger. Since the defendant purportedly has access to millions of dollars in bank accounts around the world and overseas ties that would facilitate the flight — among other factors — the Attorney office declares that the defendant poses a flight risk. The document specifically states:

“A consideration of the facts show that Defendant is a significant flight risk given his connections overseas, his financial means to support himself outside the United States, his disregard for this criminal investigation, and his potential involvement in other criminal activity.”\

As previously reported, in 2018 the accused allegedly worked for several associated companies that provided fiat currency banking services to cryptocurrency exchanges, where Fowler made numerous misleading statements to banks in a bid to open bank accounts further used to receive deposits from individuals purchasing digital currency. Fowler and Yosef purportedly falsified electronic wire payment instructions to cover up the true nature of their business.

The recent filing claims that “companies associated with Defendant have failed to return $851 million to a client of Defendant’s shadow bank.”

In recent international cryptocurrency-related crime news, a Toronto judge ruled in April that an online drug dealer Matthew Phan must pay his entire $1.4 million bitcoin (BTC) holdings to the state in what is reportedly Canada’s largest ever forfeiture. Phan, who dealt in illegal narcotics online, had tried to convince law enforcement he had amassed his 281.41 BTC (worth around $1.4 million at press time) through other activities.

source : Ana Alexandre

New Zealand Churches Deny Affiliation With Crypto Ponzi Scheme OneCoin

A New Zealand church accused of colluding with a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme in targeting the congregation, has denied knowingly participating in illegal activity in a Facebook statement on May 2.

The Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (SISDAC) is one of two places of worship accused of having links to OneCoin, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide by luring investors with the promise of huge returns.

According to RadioNZ, the scam specifically targeted New Zealand’s Samoan community — with OneCoin workers using SISDAC and the Samoa Worship Center “to reach a vast network of would-be investors.” One woman estimated that approximately 100 members of her congregation had invested in the crypto scam.

Authorities in Samoa recently summarized a report about the allegations produced by New Zealand’s Financial Intelligence Unit, and claimed SISDAC had knowingly participated in money laundering activity, but the church said it takes issue with this characterization, writing:

“SISDAC has never knowingly participated or colluded in any way shape or form with any individual or organization in this type of illegal activity… [We are] seeking legal counsel over these matters that threaten the integrity and good standing of the church, its leadership, its missional work and the well-being of its loyal membership.”

An employee of the Samoa Worship Center told RadioNZ that it also denied the allegations, and it is exploring legal action against the Samoan government over defamation.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Samoa’s central bank banned any activities involving OneCoin in 2018, but despite this, pitches in New Zealand churches continued. One churchgoer said a minister was among the victims.

One of the scheme’s founders, Konstantin Ignatov, is being investigated by U.S. law enforcement, and in March, Manhattan’s attorney general charged OneCoin’s lawyer with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

source : Thomas Simms

Indian Tech Firm Tech Mahindra to Combat Spam Phone Calls With Blockchain

Indian technology company Tech Mahindra will be implementing an anti-spam call solution powered by blockchain, Indian business daily Business Today reports on May 2.

This solution will allow phone companies to comply with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)'s regulations to protect mobile phone subscribers from unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC), which will come into effect in the last week of May.

Rajesh Dhuddu, Global Practice Leader of Blockchain at Tech Mahindra said that the TRAI regulations will affect 800 million subscribers.

The solution uses blockchain tech to save and share a user’s incoming contact settings, i.e. who they have consented to receive communications from. Tech Mahindra says they provided proof of concept for this solution, in conjunction with Microsoft, to TRAI back in 2018.

On the topic of blockchain solutions, Dhuddu praised blockchain for its ability to help repair what he views as a trust deficit in Government to Citizen (G2C) services and business transactions:

“Blockchain, with its key features such as Secure Hash Algorithms, Consensus based decision making, immutable transactions and distributed ledgers, serves as a panacea for growing trust deficit not only in G2C services but also in overall business world.”

As previously reported, Tech Mahindra is now working with tech giant Samsungto implement solutions with the latter’s blockchain platform Nexledger. The arrangement allows Samsung to expand its international blockchain opportunities and for Tech Mahindra to grow its blockchain operations in India.

source : Max Boddy

Coinbase Wallet Adds Support for Dogecoin to Wallet App

American major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has added support for Dogecoin (DOGE) to its crypto wallet service Coinbase Wallet, according to an announcement published on May 1.

The announcement states that users can now store DOGE directly in the Coinbase Wallet app. The coin thus joined other digital currencies — bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), bitcoin cash (BCH), ethereum classic (ETC), Ripple (XRP), Stellar Lumens (XLM) — already supported by the wallet. The wallet also supports the DOGE Testnet.

DOGE was initially invented in 2013 as a joke currency, the logo of which features the likeness of a shiba inu dog from the “doge” meme. It’s inventor Jackson Palmer purportedly invented the token to poke fun at the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies in Silicon Valley at the time.

Last September, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Elon Musk asked Palmer to help him combat "annoying" cryptocurrency scammers on Twitter. In reply, Palmer sent Musk a script that he purported could help combat the problem.

At press time, DOGE is the 27th largest cryptocurrency on CoinMarketCap by market capitalization. The coin is currently trading at $0.002, having gained 3.2% over the past 24 hours. DOGE’s market capitalization is around $309 million, while its daily trading volume is around $33.8 million.

In March, Coinbase introduced a service to link users’ accounts on its main platform to Coinbase Wallet app. The wallet can now be connected to accounts on its main platform for quick transfers from the main account to the wallet.

source : Ana Alexandre

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Binance Unveils Latest Compliance Partnership Targeting Anti-Money Laundering

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has partnered with blockchain monitoring solutions provider Elliptic to boost its regulatory compliance as part of its international expansion, industry news outlet CoinDesk reported May 2.

As part of plans to ensure smooth operations in new countries with varying regulations on cryptocurrency, Binance will use Elliptic to ensure it can comply with various demands from authorities.

Specifically, CoinDesk references Binance’s chief compliance officer Samuel Lim as saying that the latest deal will focus on Anti-Money Laundering (AML).

Last month, the exchange also teamed up with blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace, also centering on AML, after regulators from Binance’s home jurisdiction of Malta approved its activities.

“The selection of CipherTrace as our on-chain security solution will augment our expansion drive and build greater trust among our users, regulators and financial institutions,” Lim said at the time. He continued:

“This partnership will bolster our existing world-class AML compliance program and help us expand into new markets in the most compliant fashion.”

The deal followed yet another compliance-based move from Binance in March, which involved risk management startup IdentityMind.

As reported Binance is seeking to debut its decentralized trading ecosystem, dubbed Binance DEX, in full in the coming months.

source : William Suberg

South Korea: Financial Regulator Authorizes 9 Fintech, Blockchain Firms for Trial Operations

The South Korean Financial Services Commission (FSC) has authorized nine fintech companies to operate in the country as part of a regulatory sandbox, English-language local media The Korea Times reported on May 2.

Per the report, the regulator has named the aforementioned nine startups and companies to provide innovative services using blockchain, fifth-generation telecommunications and other new technologies. The development is reportedly part of a broader financial regulatory sandbox initiative launched last January.

The sandbox will reportedly include new financial services being offered for a trial period of up to four years without regulatory limits. A service provided by the Woori Bank enabling customers to exchange currency and withdraw cash at restaurants and parking lots near the airport is also reportedly part of the sandbox. The companies that use blockchain have not been specified in the article.

The Korea Times claims that over 100 companies applied for the program since it first launched.

As reported earlier this week, research from software firm DataLight claims that the United States, Japan and South Korea are the world’s biggest fans of cryptocurrency exchanges.

Also, news broke last month that South Korean electronics giant Samsung may end up developing a public-private blockchain complete with its own cryptocurrency token.

source : Adrian Zmudzinski

World Economic Forum Teams Up With 100 Logistics Firms, 20 Gov’ts in New DLT Project

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has teamed up with over 100 global supply chain and logistics leaders to standardize blockchain apps in the industry, the organization announced on May 1.

The WEF, a Switzerland-based organization whose motto is commitment to “improving the state of the world,” has announced a new project called “Redesigning Trust: Blockchain for Supply Chains.”

The project aims to form a broad multi-stakeholder community to co-develop interoperable blockchain applications in the logistics industry and to leverage an open-source toolkit to deploy blockchain responsibly, eliminating the hype around the technology.

According to the press release, over 20 governments, major shippers and supply chain suppliers including Maersk, Hitachi, Mercy Corps, Korea Customs Service, Llamasoft and Ports of Los Angeles, Oakland, Valencia and Rotterdam joined the WEF’s Redesigning Trust blockchain project.

Nadia Hewett, project lead at WEF Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology, said supply chain solution makers need clear guidelines, tools, and frameworks in order to reduce risks and maximize the benefits of blockchain. Hewett outlined that the new initiative will help the community to “piece together the puzzle, so others don’t have to start from scratch.”

Recently, the WEF issued a report about blockchain cybersecurity, pointing out that the majority of data breaches do not result from how skilled the hackers are, but are instead caused by insufficient security measures.

On April 25, FedEx’s chief information officer urged industry providers to develop standards in blockchain applications.

source : Helen Partz

Stalwart Crypto Investor Andreessen Horowitz Raises $2.75 billion for Two New Funds

Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm and high-profile crypto investor Andreessen Horowitz has raised $2.75 billion for two new funds, according to a company announcement published on May 1.

The lion’s share of the new capital will go toward a specialized $2 billion late-stage venture fund (LSV Fund I), headed by Andreessen Horowitz general partner David George.

The $750 million has meanwhile been raised for a sixth general fund — focused on early-stage enterprise, consumer and fintech offerings — which will sit alongside the company’s existing specialized cryptocurrency and bio funds.

As managing partner Scott Kupor notes in yesterday’s announcement, cryptocurrency was still in its nascency when the venture capital firm launched in 2013. The creation of its crypto-dedicated $350 million crypto fund, a16z — which backs a range of ventures from blockchain projects to initial coin offerings (ICOs) — prompted the firm to hire its first female general investing partner in 2018, as reported at the time.

Since then, Andreessen’s Horowitz’s $350 million crypto fund, a16z, has invested in blockchain startup MakerDAO (MKR) — which stands behind ether-based stablecoin Dai (DAI) — stablecoin project Basis and institutional crypto custodian Anchorageas well as blockchain cloud computing startups DFINITY and Oasis Labs.

This February, the University of Michigan’s $12 billion endowment revealedplans to bolster its investment in Andreessen Horowitz’s “cryptonetwork technology fund” (CNK Fund I).

Andreessen’s Horowitz’s website also lists bitcoin (BTC), ether(ETH), decentralized DNS startup Handshake, dYdX exchange and stablecoin trueusd operator Trusttoken among its crypto-related investments.

Last month, Andreessen’s Horowitz announced it was restructuring by registering all of its employees as qualified financial advisors and renouncing its former status as a venture capital firm. The restructuring will ostensibly enable the company to take riskier bets on certain business areas, including cryptocurrencies.

source : Marie Huillet

Blockchain Investor Grandshores Tech Turns to Industrial Cannabis After Crypto Market Rout

Hong Kong-listed contractor turned blockchain investor Grandshores Technology — backed by the Hangzhou municipal government — plans to enter the medicinal and industrial cannabis market in a bid to counter the adverse impact of crypto winter. The development was revealed in a report from local English-language newspaper the South China Morning Post on May 2.

The firm’s co-chairman Yao Yongjie has reportedly stated that industrial cannabis cultivation will become the company’s new business focus, drawing on resources previously reserved for global blockchain investment.

Yao — a founding partner of the local government-backed Hangzhou Grandshores Fund — spoke with SCMP shortly after a stock exchange filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange indicated that Grandshores Technology’s recently-invested Hangzhou unit had signed a cooperation agreement with a hemp research institute in the province of Heilongjiang.

The cooperation agreement determines that the parties will jointly develop a minimum of five varieties of hemp germplasm — at least two of which will be developed as medicinal cannabis products. Yao is cited by SCMP as saying that:

“Both blockchain and industrial cannabis are the future, and both are embraced by the younger generation [...] we are always on the search for new business growth opportunities.”

As SCMP notes, the cooperation agreement comes even as Grandshores Technology is still in the midst of finalizing its 40% equity stake investment in the aforementioned Hangzhou unit — called Hangzhou Yupu Trading, which holds the rights to use 1,600 kilograms of particular cannabis seeds cultivated at the Heilongjiang hemp research institute.

As previously reported, Yao is also one of the founding partners of the Hangzhou government backed Grandshores Blockchain Fund, which unveiled stablecoin development plans last fall.

According to SCMP, he is also an earlier investor in Chinese crypto mining giant Canaan Technologies, which attempted to raise a Hong Kong flotation of as high as $1 billion, but failed, when the filing formally lapsed in November 2018.

source : Marie Huillet

London Stock Exchange CEO Is Certain That Blockchain Can Be Used in Issuing, Settlement

The CEO of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), one of the world’s oldest stock exchanges, believes that blockchain could have a use in issuing securities and settlement. CNBC reported on the CEO Nikhil Rathi’s comments on May 2.

Speaking in an interview, Rathi noted that distributed ledger tech (DLT) could potentially play a role in the United Kingdom’s stock market.

Specifically, Rathi expressed confidence about blockchain applications used in the issuance process, adding that he can also see the technology also being used for settlement.

The stock exchange’s CEO emphasized that the adoption of blockchain in capital markets needed to be carried out with caution due to some extreme manifestations of innovation in the crypto industry. Still, Rathi stated that he encourages technological competition and innovation in the capital market business.

The LSE has previously been involved in the crypto and blockchain industry. In February 2019, the exchange’s parent company, the London Stock Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), led a $20 million funding round in fintech startup Nivaura, which is reportedly developing the world’s first crypto-denominated, blockchain-settled bond.

Most recently, LSE-owned equity trading platform Turquoise provided a testing environment for British blockchain startup to secure $3.9 million by selling tokenized shares.

In late April, the world’s largest stock exchange, Nasdaq, launched a new XRP index dubbed XRP Liquid Index (XRRLX) on its global data service.

source : Helen Partz

80 Firms Including MasterCard, Coinbase Spent $42 Mln Lobbying Crypto, Fintech Issues in Q1

Around 40 entities lobbied for bitcoin (BTC) and blockchain-related causes in the United States in Q1 2019, political news site Roll Call reported on April 30.

Citing data from the Federal Electoral Commission, the publication stated that around half of the 80 lobbying entities included cryptocurrency-related items, with total quarterly lobbying expenditure reaching over $42 million.

Among the biggest spenders who included crypto were accounting giants Ernst & Young and Accenture, while the biggest of all was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which accounted for $16.4 million for fintech lobbying in general. Payment systems firm MasterCard also paid a total of $720,000 for lobbying activities on issues including those related to virtual currencies.

Crypto industry businesses such as Coin Center and cryptocurrency wallet and exchange Coinbase also featured, the latter spending $50,000 on areas including the Bank Secrecy Act.

Broadly speaking, entities seek to influence new or existing laws that create problematic conditions for the new technology, with some focusing on specific legislative projects.

Industry advocacy group the Blockchain Association, for example, is targeting an Ohio bill which plans to exempt cryptocurrencies from securities regulations under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“That’s probably been our biggest focus and it will continue to be our biggest focus for the next couple of months,” Roll Call quotes director of external affairs, Kristin Smith, as saying.

Previous statistics mentioned a total of 33 entities lobbying Washington on blockchain in Q4 of last year.

As reported, regulation of the crypto space remains a contentious issue in the U.S., with approaches varying widely between states.

Andrew Yang, the 2020 presidential candidate, has promised to unify the patchwork landscape as part of his election manifesto.

Crypto Exchange Bitfinex Shareholder Claims Imminent IEO Will Offer $1 Billion in Tokens

Crypto exchange Bitfinex shareholder Zhao Dong has revealed details of the company’s reported plans to issue a native exchange token, which he claims will launch via a $1 billion initial exchange offering (IEO) in the coming days.

According to a report from crypto news outlet CoinDesk on May 1, the Chinese bitcoin (BTC) billionaire posted to a public chat on local messenger WeChat on Wednesday, outlining that the sale will offer a total supply of 1 billion tokens, priced at $1 apiece, with a minimum buy-in of $1 million.

Zhao — who runs a major Chinese BTC over-the-counter trading desk and is the founder of Singapore-based DFund — reportedly further claimed that $500 million tokens had already been vouched for. He is cited as having said that “only qualified foreign investors will be allowed to invest,” and that all those interested must make a soft commitment to the IEO by May 5.

Once investors will have had a chance to review the token’s white paper, they will then be able to either cancel their soft commitment, or cement it as a hard commitment by providing a 10% deposit, Zhao reportedly added. The shareholder further outlined that:

“The system works on a first-in, first-served basis. If all tokens are fully allocated, we will not have to run the IEO to the retail channel, it will be like a private placement.”

The new token has reportedly been characterized by Zhao as a hybrid of the model used for crypto exchange Binance’s native token binance coin (BNB) — which is used by Binance users to pay for exchange trading fees — and Bitfinex’s erstwhile BFX token.

As previously reported, BFX tokens were issued by the exchange in 2016 to compensate Bitfinex users affected by a major hack, which had resulted in the theft of around 120,000 BTC.

Upon Zhao’s first revelation of the Bitfinex’s alleged IEO and proprietary exchange token plans on April 29, the news sparked a wave of community concern in light of the lengthy history of controversies that have beset both Bitfinex and affiliated USD stablecoin company Tether.

As recently reported, the New York Attorney General’s office has this month alleged that Bitfinex lost $850 million in user deposits, and had subsequently secretly covered up the shortfall using funds from Tether — the latter of which has itself come under renewed criticism for allegedly being only backed 74% by USD reserves.

In an official statement, Tether rebuffed the allegations, stating that the “New York Attorney General’s court filings were written in bad faith and were riddled with false assertions, including in regard to the purported $850 million loss.

source : Marie Huillet
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