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.
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.
In part one of this series, I talked about how money derives its value as a medium of exchange, and how cryptocurrency could appreciate in value if adopted by a much broader user base. Currencies like Bitcoin are often used to escape local capital controls, process faster remittance payments, provide improved anonymity and security, and reduce transfer fees. However, Bitcoin—the largest cryptocurrency—remains a long way from mainstream adoption. A significant portion of any digital currency’s price value and demand is purely speculative and based on its potential future superiority over fiat money (government issued currency). Part two of this series will explore the main drivers of short-term digital money market volatility, and explore their emergent qualities in the more distant future.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released a discussion paper on Monday that addresses blockchain technology’s potential benefits and risks. The release of the paper was timed to coincide with FCA Executive Director of Strategy and Competition Christopher Woolard’s speech today at London’s Innovate Finance Global Summit. The speech was notable for Woolard’s encouragement of the blockchain industry’s ongoing innovation, but also served as a reminder that regulators have a role to play as well.
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.
According to reporting from Kommersant, the R3 blockchain consortium has informed Russian banking giant Sberbank that any application to join the group would be denied, as the bank remains subject to international sanctions. The bank had not yet formally presented its application for membership, and has now reportedly decided against applying for entry in the group at this time.
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.
Blockchain firm Chain Inc has joined with The Thales Group to develop a new blockchain-based security solution that large companies can utilize to more effectively protect stored security credential information. The project is designed to address one of the key obstacles preventing large-scale adoption of blockchain technology in the marketplace, and could help to ease concerns about the security of sensitive credential details and similar data.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey this week signed into law a measure that officially recognizes blockchain signatures and contracts. The bill had been passed by the Senate on March 23, and was signed by the Governor six days later. The bill, HB 2417, had been passed by the Arizona House of Representatives in February, 59-0, and enjoyed near unanimous support in the Senate as well.
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.
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.
The global gaming market currently exceeds a market capitalization of 100 billion dollars, and is expected to steadily grow over the next 20 years. As of right now there is a tendency in the word of blockchain tech to overlook sectors like gaming, focusing instead on the financial industry. Gamecredits Inc aims to change cryptocurrency investors’ perspectives with the company’s latest announcement of its free to use API.
Our regular readers will recall my colleague Timothy Goggin’s January 17, 2017 interview with film producer Tony Caradonna, in which the two discussed the upcoming 2018 movie, the Pitts Circus. That film production has already made news as the first movie to use Ethereum for 100% of its financing. Now, the second stage of the project is set to kick off, as the project’s backers prepare to launch the Ethereum Movie Venture token on March 20, 2017.
It’s always gratifying to see positive mainstream media coverage of anything related to digital currency or its underlying technology. With Bitcoin’s price increase in recent weeks, the coverage has ranged from descriptions of Bitcoin as the “new gold” to gloomier assertions that it’s destined to bring disaster for investors foolish enough to choose it for their portfolios. A recent special report on CNBC’s site leans toward the optimistic, noting a prediction by one analyst who suggests that Bitcoin’s price could reach $3,000 by the end of 2017.
Transparency versus anonymity has been a hotly contested debate in the cryptocurrency industry. The debate however, has mostly been framed by one side as a way to hide their activity from government and law enforcement. The other side has made the rebuttal that anonymity provides cover for illegal activities and terror financing; which they are certain we are all guilty of. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and both sides raise some valid points.