Earlier this year, Malta’s Prime Minister, Dr. Joseph Muscat, offered some innovative ideas during his keynote speech at the CEPS Ideas Lab – including a suggestion that Europe should work to become “the Bitcoin continent.” In recent remarks at an Economic and Financial Affairs Committee conference, he vowed that his country would take the lead by becoming one of the first to truly embrace the technology. Malta’s Cabinet has now taken steps toward that goal by approving the initial draft of what is being referred to as a national strategy for blockchain promotion.
According to reports on Coincheck’s blog, the city of Hirosaki has partnered with Coincheck, Inc. to begin accepting Bitcoin donations that will help in the city’s effort to preserve an important historic park. The donations will be used to maintain roughly 2,600 cherry trees, as well as a castle that was constructed several hundred years ago. The castle park complex and its famed cherry blossoms attract more than 2 million visitors each spring.
Legislators in Florida are considering a bill that would add digital currencies like Bitcoin to the money-laundering statute. The legislation is a response to last year’s dismissal of money-laundering charges in a case that involved a man in Miami beach. The defendant allegedly sold $1,500 in Bitcoin to undercover detectives who had reportedly told him that they intended to purchase stolen credit card numbers. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler had thrown out the money-laundering charges after determining that Bitcoin could not be considered “money” as that term was defined in state law.
The week has gotten off to a frustrating start for some digital currency customers, as two major cryptocurrency exchanges have suspended US dollar deposits. Bitfinex announced on Monday that it would be unable to process wire transfers. Now, OKCoin has made a similar announcement, informing its customers that US dollar deposits will not be accepted. The suspension of deposits has been attributed to problems with the intermediary banks responsible for processing the wire transfers.
The government in India announced last week that it had created a special committee to examine involving digital currency technology and propose regulatory policies to address consumer protection, money-laundering, and other concerns. Now, an alliance of digital currency firms – the Digital Asset and Blockchain Foundation of India (DABFI) has announced that it wants to be able to make the industry’s case by meeting directly with the committee.
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens is reportedly consulting with experts in an attempt to determine how the government can liquidate Bitcoins it has seized during criminal cases in recent months. Those Bitcoins are currently in the custody of the Central Office for Seizure and Confiscation (COSC) – the government office responsible for managing confiscated assets.
In the wake of the Japanese government’s recent recognition of digital currencies, a representative of the Russian government has reportedly indicated that his nation could follow suit next year. According to a Bloomberg report, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev affirmed his government’s desire to formally recognize digital currencies like Bitcoin as early as 2018. Russian authorities are currently working with the country’s central bank to create a common approach to cryptocurrencies.
According to the Buffalo News, a federal judge in New York has recommended that money-laundering charges be dropped in a local case, based on his determination that Bitcoin doesn’t qualify as money. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott has ruled that Bitcoin more closely resembles a commodity. While he noted that Bitcoin might one day become so acceptable that it could be considered as money, Scott suggested that it currently has more in common with collectibles – like trading cards and other novelty items.
Kirit Somaiya, the Indian MP who created a bit of a stir last month by suggesting that Bitcoin is a pyramid ponzi scheme, is once again attacking the world’s best-known cryptocurrency. This time, he’s urging the government of India to come out and formally declare that Bitcoin is illegal. Somaiya leveled his latest criticism during the Parliament’s zero hour session on Wednesday.
A report from Nikkei today suggests that Japanese retailers are quickly moving to embrace Bitcoin payments in the wake of a new law that recognizes the digital currency as a legal payment option for the nation’s citizens. Today’s report revealed that two of Japan’s largest retailer groups are ready to begin accepting Bitcoin, and have partnered with Bitcoin exchanges to facilitate the process.
Bitfinex has announced that it has completed its plan to reimburse customers who had suffered losses in the August 2016 hack of the digital currency exchange. The ambitious reimbursement plan involved the issuance of cryptographic tokens (BFX) that served as a form of equity obligation – a digital IOU of sorts. Yesterday, the company declared that it would be reimbursing all affected customers, purchasing those issued tokens with US dollars.
A new Japanese law that defines digital currencies as a legal payment method goes into effect on April 1, 2017. That law applies the country’s know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering regulations to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, requires exchanges to meet capital and cybersecurity requirements, and will subject those exchanges to annual audits.
The United States Senate voted late Friday night to pass H.R. 0401, titled America’s Plan to Restore Individual Liberty and Financial Openness for Our Localities and States. That bill, which President Donald J. Trump has vowed to sign when it reaches his desk later this evening, will effectively end the use of the Dollar as official U.S. currency, and replace it with Bitcoin and a “basket” of other digital currencies. In a surprising show of bipartisan solidarity, the bill passed both the House and Senate without a single dissenting vote.
In a recent statement published on its company blog, Indian startup Zebpay argues that recent news reports have misrepresented Bitcoin’s legal status in India. Various news outlets have reported that the Indian Finance Ministry declared the digital currency illegal. Zebpay apparently disagrees with that assessment, and asserts that there has been no change in Bitcoin’s legal status within the country.
Investors eager to see an exchange-traded product focused on Bitcoin or other digital currencies will continue to be disappointed, as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today denied a proposal that would have allowed the SolidX Bitcoin Trust to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The decision represents the second such denial in the last several weeks, as the Winklevoss ETF proposal received a similar rejection earlier this month.
The BATS Global Markets exchange has indicated that it will formally object to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent denial of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. The exchange has announced its intention to appeal the decision by requesting that the commission reconsider the proposal. BATS had intended to become the first exchange to list the new ETF if the SEC had approved the Winklevoss proposal.
Recent reports have provided new insight into the Internal Revenue Service’s concerns about Bitcoin tax evasion, and appear to indicate that only a small portion of Bitcoin users ever bother to report their profits and losses in their annual filings with the agency. The revelations came as the IRS formally filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the Coinbase exchange to obey the agency’s John Doe Summons requiring the release of exchange customer information.
A group of bitcoin exchanges recently released a statement to clarify their position with respect to the ongoing Bitcoin scaling controversy. As most in the community know, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the best way to scale Bitcoin and increase its transaction capability. These exchanges have now announced that if the current debate between the Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Unlimited groups results in a hard fork and two competing currencies, the Bitcoin Unlimited coin would be listed under the ticker symbol BTU, while Bitcoin Core maintains the current BTC symbol.
Chinese regulators appear to be stepping up efforts to bring order to their nation’s digital currency landscape in the wake of the SEC’s denial of the Winklevoss twins’ ETF proposal. While People’s Bank of China director Zhou Xuedong recently acknowledged the importance of tech innovation, he also declared that regulation is essential to prevent illicit activities and financial bubbles. According to Xuedong:
Regulation is a touchy subject in the bitcoin industry. Many cryptocurrency idealists who truly believe they are invincible to government reach, also believe that the lack of bitcoin-specific regulation gives them a free pass. They may be in for a nasty surprise when they find out just how long ‘the long arm of the law’ really is. Governments around the world already have an arsenal of catch-all laws that can be used to fight tax evasion and other illegal activities that attempt to hide behind the anonymity of some cryptocurrencies and related services.