Parity Forced to Shut Down ICO Passport Service (PICOPS) Due to GDPR

Parity, the wallet and blockchain provider, is shutting down its PICOPS platform effective May 24, 2018, due to complications stemming from the new EU GDPR guidelines. The company announced the decision in a blog post on its website on May 18. PICOPS: The Latest Casualty of the New EU GDPR The General Data Protection Law (GDPR) of the EU is causing problems for blockchain and cryptocurrency. Part of the fundamental principle of the blockchain is

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More Crypto Exchanges Set up Shop in India Despite RBI Ban

Despite the RBI ban, there are reports of more cryptocurrency exchange platforms springing up in India. The country’s apex bank issued a directive in April prohibiting banks from facilitating crypto transactions. New Local Exchange Platforms Beginning in July, India’s banks must comply with the RBI crypto ban. However, just two days after the proclamation, CoinDCX announced that it was beginning operations in the country. The platform will even provide trade tracking services for Indians in rupees.

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FUD No More: South Korea Set to Adopt G20’s Unified Cryptocurrency Regulations

As the G20 works to create a set of “unified regulations” in regards to cryptocurrencies, the government of South Korea — the third largest cryptocurrency market in the world — reportedly plans on playing ball with whichever policies the international forum of governments and central bank governors put into place. ‘We Will Step up Efforts to Improve Things’ According to China Money Network, local media has also reported that Korean regulators have agreed to apply the Financial

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Post-Hack, Coincheck Reveals Plans to Expand to U.S. Market

Monex Inc, parent company of Japanese crypto exchange Coincheck, has revealed plans to expand the crypto exchange to U.S. markets.

Monex Inc, the company that recently acquired hacked Japanese crypto exchange Coincheck, has revealed plans to expand the exchange to the U.S. in an interview with Bloomberg today, May 18.

Monex CEO Oki Matsumoto said he expects Coincheck will receive an official license from Japanese authorities next month, but – without specifying a timeframe – he revealed the company now has its sights beyond Asia:

“Japan may seem like it’s one step ahead in crypto, but in terms of deciding what’s a security or a token and attracting institutional investors, the U.S. and Europe are moving ahead.”

Japan has long been at the vanguard of crypto adoption – the country was the first to recognize Bitcoin as a form of legal tender back in 2016 – but Matsumoto considers that the U.S. and Europe have now taken the edge in terms of crypto-specific regulatory momentum. He compared Japan’s hefty 55 percent levy tax on crypto with France’s recent initiative to tax crypto at a favorable capital gains rate of 19 percent, telling Bloomberg that:

“At [Japan’s] level, it’s hard to even think of crypto as something you’d put in your portfolio. That means it’ll just remain a plaything for speculators.”

More crucially still, the CEO argued that U.S. federal regulators now wield the biggest influence on deciding the future status of crypto in the world economy, referring to the ongoing debate as to whether digital assets should be regulated as securities or commodities. An eventual decision would provide much-needed clarity for the emerging industry, and ultimately foster growth and institutional investor confidence, he told Bloomberg.

Monex’s decision to target overseas markets is the latest in a series of upheavals in Coincheck’s checkered history since its unprecedented $532 mln hack in Jan. 2018. Coincheck was subsequently acquired by Monex in April, with the latter’s shares surging 98 percent since the acquisition, according to Bloomberg.

Recent figures released by Monex showed that notwithstanding the mammoth post-hack writedown that Coincheck issued as a refund to affected customers, the exchange still closed the fiscal year in the green, netting ¥6.3 bln (about $56.7 mln) revenue on sales of ¥62.6 bln.

Earlier this month, Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA), laid out yet further stipulations for the already stringent regulatory measures that have been imposed on the country’s crypto exchanges. An FSA source nonetheless judged that the crypto regulatory process in Japan has been unfolding “without the necessary know-how – we been feeling our way through the dark.”

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US Securities and Exchange Commission Launches ‘HoweyCoins’ ICO

In a surprising turn of events, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has launched its own initial coin offering dubbed HoweyCoins. ‘A Hot Investment Opportunity’ Anyone looking for a hot new initial coin offering (ICO) should look no further than the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s brand new token sale for HoweyCoins. States the regulatory authority in an official press release: If you’ve ever been tempted to buy into a hot investment opportunity linked with

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Bitfinex Requires Customer Tax Info which it ‘May Exchange’ with Gov’t, Tax Authorities

Bitfinex has required tax information from its users, which it “may then exchange” with the government and tax authorities of the customer’s country of residence.

Cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex has recently distributed a letter to certain users,  saying that they are required to disclose their tax information, which the exchange may share with the government, according to a statement from the exchange on Twitter May 17.

The exchange, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), noted that under BVI law it is obliged to report specific information to the BVI government. According to the letter, Bitfinex “may then exchange” the information with tax authorities in concordance with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Common Reporting Standard (CRS).

With the deadline to submit the information set for May 24, customers, according to the notice, must complete self-certification forms depending on whether they’re individuals or entities, and whether they’re residents or citizens of the US:

“If you are a US person (i.e. a US resident, a US citizen, or an entity organized in the United States), or an entity with at least one 25%+ owner who is a US person, please complete the appropriate FATCA form. Otherwise complete the appropriate CRS form.”

The message was confirmed by the Bitfinex Twitter account after the exchange’s new policy was brought to light by cryptocurrency commentator Whalepool:

“We have not sent this message to all users. We have deliberately targeted users that we believe have an obligation to self-disclose. If a user has _not_ received a message from us, she need _not_ self-certify anything to us at this time.”

Bitfinex was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Hong Kong. At a market capitalization of $686 mln, it is the fourth-largest cryptocurrency exchange globally, trading 77 different digital assets.

Last month, Bitfinex fell under the “Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative”, an “inquiry into the policies and practices” of crypto trading platforms launched by then-New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. As part of the program, the exchange was sent a letter, asking them to provide information on operations, internal controls, and other key issues in order to protect cryptocurrency investors and users.

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Cases Of Illegal Bitcoin And Cryptocurrency Mining: Chicken Farms And New York

Cryptocurrency miners in the US and South Korea disguised as protected businesses to mine bitcoin with unfairly cheap electricity rates.

In the US, China, and South Korea, many individual cryptocurrency miners and large-scale mining centers were cracked down for conducting illicit operations. For example, in April 2018, cryptocurrency miners in South Korea were arrested for illicitly utilizing cheap electricity to produce cryptos.

Chicken farm in South Korea

In South Korea, places such as chicken farms and factories in development restricted areas are provided with electricity at cheaper rates by the government to help struggling industries and support innovative technology-focused initiatives. The government is stricter with the usage of electricity in these areas and consistently monitors the inflow of energy into buildings, factories, farms, and houses near these specially approved districts.

On April 19, police in the Gyeong-ki province of South Korea, the second largest region behind Seoul, arrested operators of a mining center in Nam Yang city. An in-depth police investigation disclosed that five cryptocurrency miners, whose identities remain confidential as they are still in police custody, purposely rented out factories and chicken farms in the protected part of the city to receive electricity for substantially lower rates.

By disguising buildings as semi-conductor factories and several properties as chicken farms, the five individuals were able to mine cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum with virtually no cost apart from the ASIC miners they acquired and installed.

Image source: Northern Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency via Hani

In the Paju restricted development area, the five individuals rented out a 859 square meter building and applied to the government as a semi-conductor factory. For 8 months, the group utilized the space to mine cryptocurrencies with more than 1580 ASIC miners. In the later months of their illegal venture, the group recruited more than 40 individuals and rented out their ASIC miners to produce even more cryptocurrencies.

The group generated more than $300,000 by accepting ASIC miners from individuals within months but the actual sum of cryptocurrencies the group was able to produce throughout the 8-month period remains unclear.

Preliminary investigations undertaken by the Gyeong-ki and Paju police has shown that the group produced at least 760 Ethereum, which is worth more than $500,000, and a large sum of Bitcoin. The local police is still investigating into the final sum of money the group generated throughout the past year. The police has also discovered that the group only paid 50 percent of the normal electricity rate and received significant discounts for renting out the farms and factories.

Currently South Korea has no laws or policies approved that can punish cryptocurrency miners in development restricted areas. Minor charges could be applied to the five individuals, for using the space intended to carry out other initiatives, but no major penalties can be imposed as of now. To prevent similar situations from occurring in the future, the local police has requested the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs to draft and approve laws that prohibit cryptocurrency miners from taking advantage of districts and areas with cheaper electricity rates.

First mining ban in New York

In the US on March 18, local authorities in the state of New York requested a cryptocurrency mining facility to halt their mining initiative after residents of Plattsburg, a small lakeside town in upstate New York, filed an official complaint to the police for the excessive usage of low-cost electricity by local miners.

The city of Plattsburg did not impose a permanent ban on Bitcoin mining however. Instead, local authorities and residents released a moratorium which states that the city will not consider applications for commercial cryptocurrency mining for at least a year and a half. Bloomberg reported that the city can charge more than $1,000 per day if miners decide to use low-cost electricity of the city to mine. The authorities of Plattsburg said:

“It is the purpose of this Local Law to facilitate the adoption of land use and zoning and/or municipal lighting department regulations to protect and enhance the City’s natural, historic, cultural and electrical resources.”

Another cryptocurrency mining facility was confronted by local authorities and a telecommunication powerhouse T-Mobile on Feb. 15 after it was revealed that ASIC miners from a mining facility based in Brooklyn interfered with the 700 MHz band of T-Mobile. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said:

“On November 30, 2017, in response to the complaint agents from the Enforcement Bureau’s New York Office confirmed by direction finding techniques that radio emissions in the 700 MHz band were emanating from your residence in Brooklyn, New York. When the interfering device was turned off the interference ceased. You identified the device as an Antminer s5 Bitcoin Miner. The device was generating spurious emissions on frequencies assigned to T-Mobile’s broadband network and causing harmful interference.”

At the time, the FCC gave the mining facility a 20-day notice to halt their operations and move elsewhere as the radio emissions released by the ASIC miners within the facility were negatively impacting local telecommunication networks.

Not illegal

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining is legal in most countries, even in China which banned the trading of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum in Sep. 2017.

Cryptocurrency mining is legal in most regions because it is beneficial for electricity grid operators to provide excess energy that they can no longer supply to households and businesses. As such, although local governments have tried to ban cryptocurrency mining in the past as demonstrated in CNLedger’s report below, cryptocurrency mining remains unbanned in most countries.

It is also not illegal to mine Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency using electricity that is low cost. However, it is illegal to disguise cryptocurrency mining initiatives as a protected business in a development restricted area to take advantage of cheap electricity that is only provided to approved organizations and institutions. This is why South Korean authorities are currently drafting regulations to prevent mining facilities from taking advantage of cities with cheaper electricity.

THE COST TO MINE 1 BITCOIN

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First New-York Based Crypto Trading Company Receives BitLicense

A subsidiary of the Digital Currency Group has become the first New York-based crypto trading company to receive the BitLicense.

Genesis Global Trading, a subsidiary of the Digital Currency Group, has been granted a BitLicense from the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), according to a press release published on PR Newswire today, May 17.

After the BitLicense became required for all New York crypto trading firms in August of 2015, a wave of crypto companies left the state, either unable or unwilling to comply with the stringent new regulatory requirements.

Genesis, which is the first New York-based trading firm to now operate with a BitLicense and the fifth firm overall to receive one, will be able to trade in Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ethereum Classic (ETC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ripple (XRP), Litecoin (LTC), and Zcash (ZEC). The press release notes that Genesis has traded in billions of dollars worth of crypto since 2013.

Before receiving the BitLicense, Genesis had operated under a special DFS provision that still let them trade in crypto in New York state. CEO of Genesis Global Trading, Michael Moro said in the press release that “although we have operated under a safe harbor provision in recent years, today’s decision is an important step forward and reaffirms the robust compliance measures we have enacted as an established trading partner.”    

The Square Cash app, which has included a Bitcoin option since this January,  is currently working on getting a BitLicense in order to operate in New York. The app added Wyoming to its list of states allowing the crypto option in mid-March, with New York, Georgia, and Hawaii still excluded.

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Bitcoin Legitimized in EU Following New KYC Regulations

Bitcoin is set to find new legitimacy in the European Union as member states agreed to force cryptocurrency exchanges within its jurisdiction to collect identification data on their users in an effort to prevent money laundering.  Legitimizing Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency in the EU Both cryptocurrency exchanges and online wallets operating in the European Union’s jurisdiction are now required to carry out the exact same know-your-customer (KYC) checks as traditional banks. The regulatory move comes as the

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Bermuda Signs MOU with Blockchain Project Shyft for $10 Mln in Economic Development

Bermuda signs memorandum of understanding with Shyft blockchain network that provides compliance and identity checks.

The Government of Bermuda has recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Shyft network which provides blockchain-based ID solutions for Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) compliant data transfers, Shyft reported in a blog post May 15.

According to the MOU, Shyft network will spend up to $10 mln on blockchain technology education and economic development. Premier and Minister of Finance of Bermuda David Burt signed the MOU, commenting that the partnership with Shyft will promote high standards of technology and regulations. Burt said that Bermuda “is able to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and attract global interest.” He stated:

“The Government of Bermuda has decided to lead the way and build interoperability into the government legislation, in essence, approach regulatory frameworks with exportability in mind… We’re leading the world in digital assets regulation, there’s no other country that provides comparable certainty and [a] progressive regulatory environment.”

The terms of the MOU state that the Toronto-based blockchain network will collaborate with the government in developing and improving “a robust legal and regulatory framework.” Shyft will also train Bermudians in blockchain technology and development through the country’s Department of Workforce Development.

While MOUs are useful instruments for showing intent and building bilateral relationships between governments and businesses, they are not legally binding. One advantage of MOUs for some governments in that, since they do not carry legally enforceable conditions, they may be issued and adopted without legislative approval.

In April, the Premier of Bermuda signed a MOU with Binance, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency exchange by market capitalization, to receive funding for educational programs related to fintech and blockchain startups. According to the MOU, Binance will provide up to $10 mln for university level training for Bermudians in the blockchain field, as well as invest up to $5 mln to support new blockchain-based firms in the country.

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