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 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.
Global blockchain firm Bitfury Group has joined with the Ukrainian government to provide the country with a blockchain platform for eGovernance. CEO Valery Vavilov revealed the partnership during an interview on Wednesday, and additional details about the undertaking were provided in a press release on the company web site on Thursday
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.
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.
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.
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.
The government of Japan has reportedly provided Russia with a proposal that would see the two countries cooperate on joint economic development of the disputed Kuril Islands. The Japanese proposals include economic projects to help develop fisheries and tourism on the islands, as well as a plan that would allow residents of the islands to use a regional digital currency rather than the Japanese yen or Russian ruble.
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.
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.
In 2016, Alaska legislators tried and failed to pass a bill that would have required digital currency companies to register under the state’s money services licensing regime. At least one member of the legislature appears undaunted by that bill’s failure to pass, and has introduced a new bill to regulate cryptocurrency firms. That proposed law, House Bill 180, was introduced this week by representative Kito Fansier.