On Jan. 17, Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange Huobi, one of the largest players on the market, relaunched as a fully licensed platform in Japan after merging with the BitTrade exchange.

Branching out to Japan, where compliance is valued and many regulatory measures are imposed for crypto players by domestic regulators, is a complex process. Here’s how Huobi entered the market, and which firms might soon follow suit.

Specifics of the Japanese market and the FSA’s role in it

Japan is one of the world’s largest markets for cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin (BTC) and altcoins can be used as a legally accepted means of payment there, although they are not considered “legal tender.” Being closely overseen by the national financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), the Japanese crypto market is also one of the most compliant and regulation-oriented.

Since the amendment of Japan’s Payment Services Act in April 2017, all crypto exchanges in the country are required to register with the FSA. Counting Huobi’s recent merger with BitTrade, the pool of exchanges cleared to serve the Japanese market currently consists of 17 platforms: Money Partners, Liquid (previously known as Quoine), Bitflyer, BitBank, SBI Virtual Currencies, GMO Coin, Btcbox, Bitpoint, Fisco Virtual Currency, Zaif, Tokyo Bitcoin Exchange, Bit Arg Exchange Tokyo, FTT Corporation, Xtheta Corporation, Huobi and Coincheck.

The FSA is known to have a tight grip on local exchanges, firmly reacting to security breaches after a number of high-profile local crypto exchange incidents, namely last year’s bizzare $532 million Coincheck hack and the infamous collapse of Tokyo-based Mt. Gox. The FSA also conducts on-site inspections of exchanges that have their registration pending and occasionally asks exchanges to submit their risk management system reports in the wake of security breaches.

Biggest Exchanges Hacks



For instance, in March 2018, following the Coincheck hack, the watchdog sent“punishment notices” to as many as seven crypto exchanges and temporarily froze the activities of two more after a round of inspections. Business improvement orders were sent for a lack of “the proper and required internal control systems,” with Coincheck being specifically cited as missing a framework for preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Shortly after the regulator’s move, two local exchanges — Mr. Exchange and Tokyo GateWay — decided to close up shop.

As a result of the FSA’s thorough supervision, some players have decided to quit the Japanese market. Binance, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges that had opened an office in the country, turned to Malta — the famously crypto-friendly country — after the regulator had issued a warning in March 2018. Similarly, around the same time, crypto exchange Kraken also decided to end its services in Japan, although citing the rising costs of doing business there as the primary reason for relocation. Japanese social messaging app Line has also decided to exclude the domestic market prior to the launch of its cryptocurrency exchange, citing local regulatory difficulties.

In May of last year, the FSA rolled out further regulatory stipulations for domestic crypto exchanges, intensifying its efforts to prevent another major hack. Exchanges were required to monitor customer accounts multiple times per day for suspicious fluctuations and must comply with stricter Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures, which specifically demand Know Your  Customer (KYC) checks, such as ID verification. There have also been reports regarding the FSA potentially prohibiting the trading of anonymity-oriented altcoins — such as Dash (DASH) and Monero (XMR) — in the future.

In July, the agency underwent a major redo aimed at improving its presence in fintech-related fields, including cryptocurrencies. Thus, the Strategy Development and Management Bureau replaced the Inspection Bureau to develop a financial strategy policy and handle issues addressing the digital currencies market, fintech and money laundering.

The Policy and Markets Bureau, in turn, succeeded the Planning and Coordination Bureau, and was tasked with developing a legal framework that addresses the rapid growth of the fintech sector.

In August 2018, Toshihide Endo, the commissioner of the FSA, said that his agency wants the cryptocurrency industry to “grow under appropriate regulation.” The official added:

“We have no intention to curb [the crypto industry] excessively. We would like to see it grow under appropriate regulation.”

In response to regulatory pressures, a self-regulatory body named the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) has emerged, comprised of the local exchanges. In October 2018, Japan’s financial regulator formally grantedself-regulatory status to the JVCEA to oversee the crypto sector. Therefore, the JVCEA might have a better say when it comes to the industry standards in the future. Specifically, the self-regulatory outfit is now expected to develop AML policies for crypto exchanges.

Huobi’s way of getting the FSA clearance — and similar attempts from the past

Founded in China in 2013, Huobi Group has been headquartered in Singaporesince Beijing’s crackdown on domestic crypto-fiat exchanges in September 2017. As part of its ongoing overseas expansion efforts, the platform has recently rebranded its United States-based strategic partner trading platform HBUS to the better recognized the Huobi name. Now, the platform — currently the world’s sixth largest by daily traded volume — has expanded to the Japanese market. Huobi’s arrival follows the news about Coincheck receiving full permission from the FSA to continue operating in the country after the above mentioned security breach.

Huobi’s press release emphasizes its security precaution, outlining that Huobi Japan “features specialized distributed architecture, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack countermeasures system, and A+ ranked SSL certification (the highest available).”

According to the official announcement, Huobi Japan supports the trading of Bitcoin, Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP) and Monacoin (MONA).

Importantly, Huobi didn’t receive the FSA license from scratch, going through a different route instead. Although Japan’s Payment Services Act allows foreign operators to register in the country as “virtual currency exchange service providers,” Huobi has relaunched as a fully licensed platform in Japan after acquiring a majority stake in BitTrade last September. At the time, BitTrade was one of only 16 crypto exchanges in the country to have secured a license from the FSA.

However, Huobi’s market expansion through acquisition of a pre-approved FSA platform is not an entirely new move: In June 2018, BitTrade became Japan’s first FSA-licensed platform to be entirely purchased by an international investor, the Singaporean multi-millionaire and entrepreneur Eric Cheng. The investor also acquired BitTrade’s affiliate company at the time, FX Trade Financial Co., Ltd — one of Japan’s leading forex trading platforms. Following the Huobi deal, FX Trade Financial kept 25 percent of BitTrade’s shares.

BitTrade Acquisition Breakdown

More exchanges to receive the FSA’s blessing: Coinbase, Yahoo and others

Other players are only preparing to enter the market, still waiting to get clearance from the FSA. As Cointelegraph Japan reported on Jan. 12, seven applications will be either approved or rejected by the FSA within six months. The article also revealed the FSA’s complex and lengthy routine of reviewing crypto exchanges that have applied for a license.

Thus, the FSA conducts a procedure that takes almost six months from the time of application — which includes the submission of answers to over 400 questions — to final decision.

After receiving the answers, the FSA communicates with the company to verify its business plan, governance, cybersecurity and management system, along with its AML and counter-terrorist financing measures. In that phase of the review — which reportedly takes about four months — the agency’s officers personally double-check the company’s practices in person. After that, the company officially submits their application to the FSA. The agency then finally reviews the documents and decides whether or not to grant the license.

The financial regulator stated that there are 21 companies taking part in the first part of the review as of January, while seven are already in the decision phase. Therefore, up to seven companies could be granted a new license by the summer. In total, the FSA has reportedly received around 190 cryptocurrency exchange license applications.

Perhaps the most major of the pending candidates is San Francisco-based Coinbase, which revealed its plans to enter the Japanese crypto market in June 2018. Being a compliance-oriented company, Coinbase has made positive remarks about Japan’s crypto regulatory climate in the past, saying that the FSA’s intense focus on security is “good for us.” Given that the U.S. exchange originally planned to establish its operation in Japan “within the year,” the FSA is likely to approve or decline its application at some point in the next few months.

Moreover, the Japanese arm of the internet giant Yahoo will reportedly open their own crypto exchange “in April 2019 or later,” through buying 40 percent of BitARG Exchange Tokyo. Other potential players to open a crypto exchange in Japan include Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, the largest domestic bank. In January 2018, South Korean newspaper KBS reported the financial group’s plans — however, there has been no update since.

Also, Money Forward, the company behind a popular financial management application that has over 7 million users in Japan, recently shared details regarding the upcoming launch of its cryptocurrency exchange. Thus, Money Forward is reportedly planning to open their yet-to-be-named platform between January and March 2019, although it depends on how the registration with the FSA will go.

Licensed Exchanges in Japan

This post credited to Cointelegraph. Image source: Cointelegraph

Major Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange Huobi has gained a so-called Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) license in Gibraltar, a press release shared with Cointelegraph confirmed Dec. 5.

Huobi, which is leveraging the U.K. territory’s encouraging regulatory perspective on the cryptocurrency industry, will use its new status to launch an international platform geared to both retail and institutional traders, the release states, stating:

“The new license gives Huobi the authority to store and transmit digital assets on behalf of clients worldwide.”

In so doing, it will compete with fellow exchanges including BinanceBittrex and Coinbase in serving traders in as many jurisdictions as possible as regulatory frameworks continue to evolve.

Last week saw Huobi launch a derivatives market in the U.S.

“It’s no secret that we think that well-designed regulatory regimes are a key part of the future for the cryptocurrency industry,” head of global international business Lester Haoda Li commented in the press release:

“Among other benefits, our [Distributed Ledger Technology] license will allow us to open doors to more institutional investors who were previously unable or unwilling to get involved in an unregulated sphere.”

Huobi hopes to debut its service in the first half of 2019.

“To kick things off, we are launching with [over the counter] services but we have no intentions of stopping there,” Li added.

Huobi is currently the world’s third largest exchange by daily trade volume, seeing about $466 million in trades over the past 24 hours.

Gibraltar is fast catching up with permissive European counterpart Malta in luring cryptocurrency businesses to its shores.

The blockchain platform from Gibraltar’s stock exchange also gained regulatory approval this month, while state-sponsored initiatives are also hoping to address the demand for blockchain-related skills.

This post credited to cointelegraph Image source: Cointelegraph

The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, has announced that it will host the company’s first conference, according to a press release shared with Cointelegraph Dec. 6.

Binance Blockchain Week is scheduled to be held in Singapore this January and is to include two major events –– the conference itself, along with a two-day “first-ever Binance SAFU (Secured Assets For Users) Hackathon,” according to the press release. As its name indicates, the hackathon reportedly focuses on developing blockchain-based tools for securing crypto assets.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, better known as CZ in the industry, underlines that the firm has chosen Singapore as they consider it “the finance and technology hub of Asia.” CZ also added that the conference will feature the “most notable players and thought leaders in blockchain.”

Earlier this week, Binance announced plans to “help [the] advancement of the industry” by launching its own blockchain, “Binance Chain,” in the “coming months.”  The same day, the industry giant revealed a second preview of its forthcoming decentralized exchange (DEX), as a part of the newly announced Binance Chain initiative.

In October the crypto exchange also revealed the establishment of the Blockchain Charity Foundation (BCF) during the World Investment Forum, hosted by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Just last month, BlockShow also held a blockchain conference in Singapore, which saw 2,800 attendees and hosted more than 50 speakers and panelists.

This post credited to cointelegraph Image source: Cointelegraph

Enterprise Singapore, a government agency set up to develop the startup ecosystem, is supporting a new blockchain accelerator program called Tribe Accelerator.

Announced Tuesday by TRIVE Ventures, an early stage Southeast Asia-focused venture capital firm based in Singapore, the accelerator is being launched in partnership South Korea’s ICON Foundation, as a technical partner, and PwC Singapore’s Venture Hub.

Seeking to drive widespread adoption of blockchain technology across Asia, Tribe Accelerator aims to help startups achieve “real-world applicability and impact” beyond technical considerations like smart contracts and interoperability.

It further aims to provide a platform for traditional enterprises and government agencies to work alongside the upcoming blockchain projects.

“As the accelerator targets later stage startups past their Series A funding rounds, Tribe will offer significantly more value as it provides startups with access to its network of governmental and business mentors, technical support, technical talent and ultimately gain global exposure, which will help incubated startups translate their blockchain concepts into real products,” TRIVE partner Ng Yi Ming told CoinDesk.

The program is scheduled to officially launch in early 2019, the firm said, adding that, for the first batch of companies, it will not take equity or charge a participation fee.

“By working with Tribe Accelerator, we hope to create more innovative and disruptive blockchain startups to capture growth opportunities locally and overseas,” said Jonathan Lim, Enterprise Singapore’s director of startup and global innovation alliance, in an announcement.

This post credited to coindesk Image via Shutterstock 

A new cryptocurrency hedge fund called Circuit Capital is launching in January. Based in San Francisco and Singapore, the fund has four founders, including a former Deutsche Bank AG trader and a private equity analyst.

While it’s curious timing to create an investment opportunity based on a cryptocurrency market that’s recently lost 70% of its value, Circuit’s founders disagree.

According to a Bloomberg report, Eugene Ng, ex-Deutsche Bank derivatives trader and Circuit co-founder, says,

“Despite what is happening with prices, we’re seeing adoption growing and a lot of people are looking to scale crypto businesses. We are starting to see talent moving into this space and institutional infrastructure developing.”

To gauge these developments, Circuit is developing an index that measures blockchain technology-backed digital assets. The metrics will follow 10 data points, including

  • Transaction volume
  • Number of active crypto wallets
  • Hash rates
  • Web searches for articles on crypto
  • Hiring of technology and financial professionals in the industry
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Ng will oversee the fund’s Asian business with former Tikehau Capital analyst Aaron Tay. Bo Nam and Richard Jahnke, two former technology stock analysts turned venture capitalists, will manage Circuit’s US operations.

According to Nam, Circuit seeks to raise $30 million by its first-quarter launch with investment capital gradually increasing to over $100 million. While $100 million may seem like a small amount for most macro hedge funds, he says it’s a significant amount for the crypto market.

Andreessen Horowitz launched their $300-million crypto fund a16z earlier this year. Paradigm, a crypto fund recently launched by Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang and Charles Noyes of crypto fund Pantera Capital, just raised $400 million.

Pantera, founded by former Goldman Sachs trader Dan Morehead, is also reportedly on track to raise $100 million of its $175-million target for its third fund, despite the bear market. The fund recently disclosed raising $71.45 million in a new round of funding.

This post credited to Daily HODL Image source: Daily HODL 

Cybersecurity company Recorded Future has released a lengthy expose claiming that North Korea uses cryptocurrency to skirt U.S.-imposed economic sanctions alongside a shady network of collaborators and enablers in Singapore.

The company claims that in addition to mining coins like bitcoin and monero, North Korean leaders have also been involved in promoting cryptocurrency scams that have bilked investors around the world of millions of dollars.

North Korea’s Technology-Backed Evasion of Sanctions

North Korea’s use of cutting edge technology to get around the effects of economic sanctions imposed on Kim Jong Un’s regime is well documented. In September, CCN reported that Washington-based financial experts Lourdes Miranda and Ross Delston accused North Korea of using crypto mining and coin scams as means of generating revenue. Earlier this month, CCN also reported that a notorious North Korean hacker group called “Lazarus” is responsible for the theft of more than $571 million in cryptocurrency.

The Recorded Future report claims that North Korean leaders mine bitcoin and monero at a relatively small scale, with the bulk of their efforts in the cryptocurrency space from the first quarter of 2018 to date now focused on exploiting growing worldwide crypto awareness for the purpose of launching investment scams. Two coins in particular are identified as North Korean scam projects, namely HOLD coin and Marine Chain.

HOLD Coin, also previously known as Interstellar, HUZU and Stellar (not to be confused with XLM) used a fraudulent staking scheme to collect investor money, having been variously listed and delisted across a number of exchanges before disappearing with all funds.

Marine Chain on the other hand, was part of a more sophisticated scam that runs right to the heart of the North Korean government’s ability to consistently diminish the effectiveness of UN-imposed economic sanctions that would ordinarily cripple the regime. Billed as a tokenisation framework for maritime vessels, an investigation by Recorded Future into Marine Chain revealed a complex network linked to Singapore with potentially far-reaching implications for cybersecurity in Southeast Asia.

The Singaporean Connection

According to information gleaned from LinkedIn, an advisor called HyoMong Choi and the CEO of Marine Chain, Captain Jonathan Foong Kah Keong are the key figres in Marince Chain’s fradulent activities. Capt. Foong reportedly has connections to Singaporean companies that facilitate North Korean activities designed to circumvent U.N. sanctions. Activities these companies have been involved in include manipulating flag registries for three countries to give prohibited North Korean vessels the ability to sail under flags of convenience.

This means that more than just being a run-of-the-mill cryptocurrency scammer, Capt. Foong is actually part of the key strategy employed by the North Korean regime to skirt sanctions that should ordinarily make it the most isolated regime on earth, and keep itself in power. The appearance of Capt. Foong in the context of North Korean crypto scams is significant of a wider pivot in the regime’s criminal activities as it looks to harness the possibilities presented by a new wave of technology including blockchain technology.

This post credited to ccn Image from Shutterstock.

Ravi Menon, the chief of Singapore’s defacto central bank and regulator, has backed domestic cryptocurrency startups and exchanges to gain banking services in the technology-forward city-state.

Monetary Institute of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon has called for the banking industry to get over the “hurdle” of offering services to domestic cryptocurrency startups in a marked attempt to foster the fintech industry.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Menon said that while Singapore will not be “an extremely lax regulatory environment” for crypto industry firms locally and beyond, there could be respite coming for startups who have banks reluctant to offer simple banking services like opening banking accounts.

The central bank official stated:

What we are trying to do is to bring the banks and cryptocurrency fintech startups together to see if there is some understanding they can reach.

The embracive, if cautious, approach is a significant contrast to the likes of India, wherein the central bank forced all regulated financial institutions – including banks – to cease offering services to cryptocurrency firms. The Indian central bank’s move has largely dented the industry, leading to the closure of one of India’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges recently.

For a senior central bank official, Menon has ruled out regulation for decentralized open cryptocurrencies like bitcoin in the past, insisting that bitcoin “itself does not pose the risk that warrants regulation”.

“Our approach is to look at the activity around the cryptocurrency and then make an assessment of what regulation would be suitable,” he said last year, calling for oversight into activities that could abuse cryptocurrencies.

As cryptocurrency markets touched an all-time high earlier in January, driven by a bull-run through much of 2017, Menon sought to bring attention to the “good applications” of cryptocurrencies citing cheap, real-time, international remittance as an example.

“I do hope when the fever has gone away, when the crash has happened, it will not undermine the much deeper, and more meaningful technology associated with digital currencies and blockchain,” Menon saidearlier this year.

The permissive ecosystem has seen Upbit, South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, establish a new cryptocurrency exchange in Singapore last month. Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, also announced plans to launch a fiat cryptocurrency exchange in Singapore.

This post credited to ccn Featured image from YouTube/MAS.

Binance is set to unveil a fiat currency exchange that will be based in Singapore. This was revealed by CEO Changpeng Zhao over the weekend while speaking at the Cumberland Summit, a blockchain event in Singapore. Zhao further revealed that the new exchange is currently under an invitation-only beta testing phase.

After making the announcement during his speech on September 15, Zhao also posted it on his twitter account where he also revealed that it will begin beta testing on September 18, 2018.

CZ Binance

@cz_binance

I just slipped that we will begin Singapore fiat exchange live money closed beta testing on Sept 18th, in 3 days. Invitation only first. Exciting!

Justin Chow@Justinchow08

Day 2: @JamesRadecki32 starting off breakout #2 with @tylerwinklevoss and @cz_binance on crypto exchanges. @GeminiDotCom @tylerwinklevoss @ApoloOhno @arrington @TusharJain_ @MatthewRoszak @missbitcoin_mai #cumberlandsummit #crypto #bitcoin

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Fiat Exchanges and Singapore

Thus far, very few details have been provided about the operational framework of the new fiat exchange, but there is speculation that it will likely offer Singapore dollar trading pairs. Fiat to fiat exchanges are still a relative novelty in the crypto world, and they remain largely untested in the “wild”. From a Binance point of view, opening a fiat exchange improves its users’ experience by enabling them to seamlessly convert across several fiat currencies and then make transactions directly from the exchange account using the new currency. Even more significantly, fiat to fiat exchanges generally offer users interbank exchange rates as against retail exchange rates, which means that users get more for their money.

Binance’s choice of Singapore for this experiment is not without precedent, as over the past few years Singapore has become one of the global crypto industry’s major hubs alongside South Korea, Hong Kong, Malta and the USA. The island state has moved toward the epicentre of global crypto innovation in part because of its relatively relaxed regulatory environment and its booming economy, often described as one of the “Asian Tigers”.

Singaporean authorities do not regulate crypto exchanges because crypto is not recognised as legal tender in the country, but exchanges are nonetheless required to abide by AML and CFT regulations.

Binance Continues Expanding

Often described as the world’s largest crypto exchange by volume, Binance has enjoyed a red letter year despite prevailing crypto market conditions. Following a blanket ban on crypto trading in China, the company has embarked on an aggressive global expansion drive, opening up in Malta, Jersey, South Korea, Uganda and Liechtenstein.

The company recently outlined its strategy for expanding across Africa, which some see as the crypto world’s last frontier with potential for unparalleled adoption due to its relatively underdeveloped financial systems. With a daily trading volume that regularly approaches $1 billion, the exchange boasts of market-leading liquidity for a large number of trading pairs.


This post credited to ccn Featured image from Shutterstock.