Melanion Capital Bitcoin ETF to launch on Euronext Paris on Oct. 22

French financial regulator AMF officially approved Melanion Capital’s Bitcoin-linked ETF product in August.

Concurrent to the United States finally launching its first Bitcoin (BTC) futures-based exchange-traded fund (ETF) Tuesday, France inches closer to a major Bitcoin-related ETF launch.

Paris-based alternative investment firm Melanion Capital is preparing to launch its Bitcoin-linked ETF product already this Friday, the firm’s CEO Jad Comair announced to Cointelegraph on Monday.

Called “Melanion BTC Equities Universe UCITS ETF,” the Bitcoin ETF will start trading on France’s primary stock exchange, Euronext Paris, at 7 am UTC.

The product will be listed under the ticker symbol BTC FP, providing investors with Bitcoin exposure through a diversified basket of equities correlated to the daily price movements of Bitcoin.

"It is traded on the Paris stock exchange, therefore eligible to all investors, and we're in the process of listing it all over Europe," Comair said, adding that there is a strong demand for Bitcoin-related products in the region. "We have embarked on a plan to bring more institutional-grade crypto products to the market," he added.

According to Comair, the idea of BTC FP is similar to a Bitcoin-linked ETF by Volt Equity, which was approved by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in early October. Instead of tracking Bitcoin directly, both Melanion Capital and Volt Equity’s Bitcoin ETFs are tied to companies correlated with Bitcoin.

“They both share the same idea: structuring a Bitcoin ETF by investing in equities holding Bitcoin, instead of going through the difficult and burdensome route of directly holding Bitcoin,” the Melanion Capital CEO noted.

This ETF will track the Melanion Bitcoin Exposure Index, which consists of several industry firms, including Michael Saylor’s software firm MicroStrategy, crypto mining firm Argo Blockchain, Mike Novogratz’s digital asset merchant bank Galaxy Digital and others.

“Our ETF is the first thematic Bitcoin product to be approved in Europe. ETF is a big deal, as it’s the most widely used and the one eligible for various pension plans,” Comair said.

The executive also noted that its ETF would bridge the gap between the crypto and institutional worlds. “The investment pockets of institutional investors have a lot of constraints to protect their customers, and an ETF is one of the most eligible wrappers that matches these constraints,” Comair noted.

Related: Guernsey regulator approves Jacobi Asset Management’s Bitcoin ETF launch

In August, French financial regulator the Autorité des marchés financiers officially approved Melanion Capital’s Bitcoin-linked ETF.

The news comes as American ETF provider ProShares prepares to launch its Bitcoin futures-based ETF on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. According to Bloomberg analyst Eric Balchunas, Valkyrie’s Bitcoin futures-based ETF is likely to launch this week.

Polkadot-based privacy project Manta Network raises $5.5M

Manta Network will use newly raised funds to further scale DeFi use cases by boosting blockchain privacy.

Manta Network, a privacy layer project for the Polkadot ecosystem, has completed a new funding round to continue scaling decentralized finance (DeFi) use cases by boosting blockchain privacy.

Announced Tuesday, Manta Network’s latest $5.5-million funding round included participation from more than 30 venture funds, including crypto hedge fund CoinFund and alternative investment firm ParaFi Capital.

Other investors included Web 3. investment fund LongHash Ventures, CMS Holdings, Divergence, Spartan Group, Global Coin Ventures, SkyVision Capital, Zee Prime and SNZ.

The funding has also featured some of the industry’s prominent individual investors from major cryptocurrency companies such as Digital Currency Group, Consensys and Bitcoin.com. According to the announcement, angel investors included SushiSwap’s semi-anonymous core contributor 0xMaki, Dragonfly Capital’s Kevin Hu, ParaFi general partner Santiago Santos and others.

Founded in 2020, Manta Network is focused on building a privacy-focused and interoperable blockchain protocol targeted specifically for DeFi applications, aiming to make DeFi genuinely private. The protocol uses zk-SNARKs with Groth16 proofs, the same cryptographic technology implemented behind privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Zcash (ZEC).

According to CoinFund CEO and founder Austin Barack, Manta is building “one of the core primitives for privacy preservation within DeFi.”

Related: Polkadot Web3 wallet Talisman closes $2.35M seed funding round

“Building upon Substrate, which allows for purpose-built layer one networks, Manta can build ZKSnark privacy-preserving architecture directly into the base layer and solve several existing problems users face today such as front running and lack of privacy when making transfers or managing a portfolio,” he said.

Earlier this year, Manta Network completed a $1.1-million funding round led by Polychain Capital and joined by major industry firms such as Alameda Research and DeFiance Capital.

Russia aims to replace US dollar reserves with digital assets in long term

Last week, the Russian president said it was “a bit early” to use cryptocurrencies to settle oil trades.

As Russia continues pushing de-dollarization, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA Russia) is reportedly considering replacing the United States dollar with not only traditional fiat currencies but also digital currencies.

Aleksandr Pankin, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, reiterated the country’s plans to reduce the U.S. dollar share in Russia’s international reserves and its usage in settlement with foreign partners in a Tuesday interview with local news agency Interfax.

The official said that MFA Russia isn’t excluding the possibility of replacing the U.S. dollar with “some digital assets” alongside other currencies:

“It’s possible to replace the U.S. dollar with other currencies, both national and regional, as well as some digital assets in the long term.”

Pankin added that such replacement would require significant efforts from the government, including rebuilding established cooperation models between jurisdictions and businesses, as well as creating new mechanisms for new settlement systems.

The official noted Russia’s de-dollarization campaign comes in line with the country’s efforts to avoid challenges posed by sanctions from the U.S. government.

“Payments in U.S. dollars go through American banks and a clearing system, which allows Washington to block any transactions they deem suspicious,” Pankin said. He added that the Russian government has not faced such issues with the euro or other fiat currencies and doesn’t plan similar measures for any other national currencies so far.

Related: ​​Bank of Russia to assess Bitcoin holdings volumes as $36B leave banks

For several years, Russia has been considering steps to cut the U.S. dollar share in its $186-billion national welfare fund. Local authorities are planning to dramatically increase its holdings of Chinese yuan and invest in gold.

The latest remarks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs further reinforce Russia’s apparent interest in using crypto for international settlement. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it was “a bit early” to use cryptocurrencies for settling oil trades. The president also admitted cryptocurrency’s potential for transferring funds globally.

French central bank pilots blockchain-based CBDC for debt market

Led by Belgian financial services firm Euroclear, the latest French CBDC trial involved a system by tech giant IBM.

The central bank of France continues actively exploring a central bank digital currency (CBDC), completing a significant trial of a blockchain-based CBDC in the country’s debt market.

Over 500 institutions in France have participated in a 10-month experiment testing a CBDC issued by Banque de France for government bond deals, The Financial Times reported Oct. 19.

The CBDC trial was led by Belgium-based financial services firm Euroclear and used a system developed by American technology giant IBM. The CBDC test also involved the French public debt office alongside the central bank and a consortium of major financial companies operating in France, including firms like BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole CIB, HSBC and Société Générale.

As part of the trial, the participants traded government bonds and security tokens, settling them using a CBDC supplied by the central bank. The project tested use cases of a CBDC in a range of everyday activities, such as issuing new bonds, using them in repurchase agreements, as well as paying coupons and redeeming deals.

“We have together successfully been able to measure the inherent benefits of this technology, concluding that the central bank digital currencies can settle central bank money safely and securely,” Euroclear executive Isabelle Delorme said.

According to Soren Mortensen, global director of financial markets at IBM, the project “went well beyond previous blockchain initiatives” because it successfully trialed “most central securities depository and central bank processes” while cutting off existing interim steps like reconciliation between market intermediaries.

Related: G7 leaders issue central bank digital currency guidelines

After launching an experimental CBDC program in March 2020, the central bank of France has been consistently testing various CBDC use cases. In June, Banque de France tested a CBDC to simulate the settlement and delivery of listed securities in collaboration with Swiss cryptocurrency bank SEBA. Previously, the central bank piloted a CBDC to issue $2.4 million worth of simulated shares using a private blockchain platform.

Bitfury CEO confirms IPO considerations are part of expansion plans

In 2018, Bitfury raised $80 million from investors like Michael Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital at a $1 billion valuation.

Bitfury, one of the world’s largest companies in the blockchain industry, is mulling a potential initial public offering, or IPO, as part of the company’s global growth plans, the company’s CEO confirmed to Cointelegraph.

“As Bitfury and its portfolio of companies continue their global expansion in the digital assets space, Bitfury will be considering an IPO as part of its broader expansion and growth plans,” Bitfury co-founder and CEO Valery Vavilov said.

According to the executive, Bitfury has not yet determined when and on what exchange the company is willing to proceed with an IPO. The company’s last funding round took place in 2018, with Bitfury raising $80 million at a $1 billion valuation.

Bitfury’s investors include European venture capital fund Korelya Capital, South Korean internet giant Naver Group, Asian institutions Macquarie Capital and Dentsu Japan as well as Michael Novogratz’s crypto investment company Galaxy Digital.

British news agency The Telegraph originally reported on Bitfury’s potential IPO plans on Oct. 10, citing anonymous sources claiming that Bitfury tapped Big Four accounting firm Deloitte to review its readiness for going public. The publication noted that Bitfury operates its main headquarters in the Netherlands but it is legally based in the United Kingdom. Bitfury did not immediately comment on its legal headquarters to Cointelegraph.

Founded back in 2011, Bitfury is a major company in the industry, operating a wide number of services like crypto mining hardware design, software, semiconductor chips’ manufacturing as well as running mobile data centers. The company’s United States-based Bitcoin mining subsidiary, Cipher Mining, was valued at over $2 billion as of March 2021.

Related: Bitcoin miner Stronghold will list almost 6M shares in its $100M IPO

Apart from focusing on cryptocurrency mining, Bitfury has been actively working on cryptocurrency security, blockchain research and compliance, running platforms like Crystal Blockchain, LiquidStack and the most recent spin-off Axelera AI. The firm is also a software provider for some global applications through its Exonum private blockchain framework, which was trialed for Russia’s blockchain-based voting system in 2020

ProShares Bitcoin ETF to debut on NYSE on Oct. 19

The first Bitcoin futures-linked ETF is finally launching in the United States after years of effort.

The first Bitcoin (BTC) futures-linked exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the United States, ProShares’ Bitcoin Strategy ETF, will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Oct. 19 under the ticker BITO.

ProShares CEO Michael Sapir said the launch marks an important milestone for cryptocurrency ETFs in the United States following several years of effort to list one on an exchange:

“BITO will continue the legacy of ETFs that provide investors convenient, liquid access to an asset class. 1993 is remembered for the first equity ETF, 2002 for the first bond ETF, and 2004 for the first gold ETF. 2021 will be remembered for the first cryptocurrency-linked ETF.”

Sapir went on to say that the Bitcoin ETF’s debut on NYSE unlocks massive exposure for investors in traditional financial markets.

“BITO will open up exposure to Bitcoin to a large segment of investors who have a brokerage account and are comfortable buying stocks and ETFs, but do not desire to go through the hassle and learning curve of establishing another account with a cryptocurrency provider and creating a Bitcoin wallet or are concerned that these providers may be unregulated and subject to security risks,” he said.

The news comes shortly after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accepted the registration request for ProShares’ Bitcoin ETF on Oct. 15. On the same day, the SEC also accepted the registration request for shares of Valkyrie’s Bitcoin Strategy ETF for listing on Nasdaq.

Related: Grayscale hints at plans to convert Bitcoin trust into BTC-settled ETF

On Oct. 5, the SEC also approved Volt Crypto Industry Revolution and Tech ETF, a crypto ETF linked to companies with Bitcoin exposure, including firms like Microstrategy and Tesla.

“Though it isn't holding the actual coin, it doesn't look like a coin-based ETF will be coming out this year either. The next approvals will probably be futures based ETFs which also aim for bitcoin exposure, but they come with their own set of problems that isn’t in a coin-based ETF,” Volt Equity CEO Tad Park told Cointelegraph.

Amid positive Bitcoin ETF news in the United States, Bitcoin price surged around 30% over the past 14 days, crossing $60,000 for the first time since April on Oct. 15. At the time of writing, Bitcoin is trading at $61,692, up around 1.3% over the past 24 hours, according to data from CoinGecko.

Report: Indonesia leads global surge in interest in crypto

Indonesia saw a massive 1,772% increase in the number of people engaging with articles about crypto, a new survey claims.

Amid the ongoing growth in cryptocurrency adoption worldwide, countries like Indonesia and Chile have seen a significant influx of public interest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), according to new data.

According to a Friday report by Australian blockchain education startup Coinformant, Indonesia has been leading the world in crypto interest in 2021.

The fastest growing crypto hotspots. Source: Coinformant

In Coinformant’s report, Indonesia achieved the highest crypto interest score with 5.73 out of 10, beating other counties in a combination of four factors including the number of Google searches, the number of published crypto articles, engagement level increases and crypto ownership. Chile ranked second with a score of 5.26, with Argentina following at a score of 4.79.

Citing data from engagement platform BuzzSumo, Coinformant calculated that ​​Indonesia has seen a massive 1,772% increase in the number of people engaging with articles about cryptocurrency year-over-year (YOY). The number of published crypto articles in Indonesia surged 133%, while Finland saw the largest such increase at 725%.

Indonesia also was the second-highest-ranking country in terms of the increase in crypto-related Google searches over the past 12 months, surging over 572%. Chile reportedly outstripped Indonesia in this metric, with 707% more Google searches YOY.

Citing data from Chainalysis’ crypto ownership data, Coinformant’s methodology also includes information on global crypto ownership. The report notes that Ukraine held the highest proportion of crypto, with more than 12% of the population owning cryptocurrencies.

Related: Report: Driven by DeFi, North America’s crypto volume increased 1,000% year-over-year

Despite Indonesia winning the race in terms of the overall crypto interest surge, the United States has been consistently the largest country in terms of crypto engagement and other factors, a spokesperson for Coinformant noted. “This report is about countries with the highest increase of these measures this year and it's worth noting when looking purely at volume, the USA consistently comes number one,” the representative said.

Despite putting a blanket ban on crypto payments back in 2017, Indonesian authorities have kept cryptocurrency trading legal. In August, Pintu, a major Indonesian cryptocurrency wallet and trading platform, raised $35 million from some of the biggest investors in the crypto and blockchain industry.

‘Thank God for Bitcoin,’ Cynthia Lummis says on US debt limit raise

Bitcoin should be there to allow people to save in the event the government fails, Senator Cynthia Lummis said.

Amid the United States President Joe Biden signing legislation to raise the government’s debt limit to $28.9 trillion, Senator Cynthia Lummis said that Bitcoin (BTC) is a blessing of God.

Senator Lummis gave a speech to the Senate on Thursday, providing her perspective on how digital currencies like Bitcoin could potentially help countries like the U.S. address the looming crisis when the state runs out of cash.

Lummis said that one of the reasons she had become so interested in non-fiat digital currencies like Bitcoin is because they are not issued by the government and thus aren’t beholden to the debts that are “run up by governments” such as the United States.

As cryptocurrencies are not beholden to governments and political elections, they should grow and be there, allowing people to save in the event governments fail, Lummis argued:

“Time and again, presidents of both parties have run up the debt irresponsibly, with no plan to address it. So thank God for Bitcoin, and another non-fiat currency that transcends the irresponsibility of governments, including our own.”

U.S. President Biden officially signed legislation temporarily raising the state’s borrowing limit on Thursday, pushing the deadline for debt default only until December. The legislation would extend the debt ceiling by $480 billion from the current national debt of $28.4 trillion.

Related: US lawmaker is most concerned about Treasury’s response to crypto

Lummis has emerged as one of the most vocal advocates of Bitcoin in the U.S. Senate. The senator is known for accumulating significant amounts of Bitcoin, with one of her latest purchases worth between $50,000 and $100,000.

In February, Lummis launched the Financial Innovation Caucus to educate fellow lawmakers about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The pro-Bitcoin senator is also known for joining the laser-eye flash mob on Twitter earlier this year, projecting Bitcoin to reach $100,000 by the end of 2021.

Bank of Russia to assess Bitcoin holdings volumes as $36M leave banks

The Bank of Russia remains skeptical on crypto despite the Russian president viewing it as a potential unit of account.

The central bank of Russia is trying to evaluate the amount of Bitcoin (BTC) held by local investors amid a massive amount of money not returning to banks following the pandemic-fueled withdrawals.

According to Elizaveta Danilova, head of the central bank's financial stability department, the Bank of Russia is polling local cryptocurrency investors to estimate cryptocurrency investment volumes in Russia.

“We need to work both on data and raising public awareness about the risks of such investments, which are backed by nothing,” Danilova said in a Reuters interview published on the Bank of Russia’s official website on Oct. 14.

The official argued that the cryptocurrency market lacks transparency not only in Russia but also in other jurisdictions, pointing out higher risks of crypto derivatives products like Bitcoin futures or exchange-traded funds. “The challenge is that the market is cross-border. People are able to invest in crypto through foreign intermediaries. Some major foreign exchanges trade cryptocurrency derivatives that carry huge risks,” Danilova stated.

The Bank of Russia’s efforts to analyze local crypto investment volumes come amid Russians not willing to put their money into banks recently. According to Danilova, as much as 2.6 trillion rubles ($36 million) have not been returned to banks after massive withdrawals in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some existing data proves that cryptocurrency investment has become extremely popular in Russia. According to a survey by Russia’s Association of Forex Dealers, as much as 77% of Russian investors prefer Bitcoin to traditional investment instruments like gold and forex.

Related: Russia doesn’t plan to follow in China’s footsteps by banning crypto outright, says deputy finance minister

Amid the rising popularity of crypto, the Bank of Russia has urged the government to limit crypto investments by non-accredited investors, reportedly starting a legal initiative to slow down transactions to crypto exchanges to avoid “emotional” purchases of crypto.

Despite the Bank of Russia maintaining a skeptical stance on crypto, Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin work well for transferring funds worldwide and could become a “means of accumulation” one day.

Second largest US mortgage lender UWM dumps Bitcoin payment plans

United Wholesale Mortgage previously announced plans to test Bitcoin and Ether for mortgage payments in August.

United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM), one of the largest wholesale and purchase lenders in the United States, is ditching Bitcoin (BTC) payment plans after running a test.

UWM officially announced Thursday that the company has successfully conducted its first-ever cryptocurrency mortgage pilot, accepting five crypto payments in October and one in September.

The firm did not disclose more information about the test, neither specifying what cryptocurrencies were part of the pilot nor what companies have assisted the firm in completing it.

“We’re proud to be the first mortgage lender to successfully pilot this technology and further demonstrate that we’re innovating for the long term,” UWM CEO Mat Ishbia stated.

But despite running the test successfully, the mortgage company has decided to stay away from Bitcoin payments, citing associated issues like regulation:

“Due to the current combination of incremental costs and regulatory uncertainty in the Crypto space we’ve concluded we aren’t going to extend beyond a pilot at this time.”

UWM noted that the pilot process has helped the firm learn about crypto payment transactions and prepared the company to make it available “once cryptocurrency transactions become something that will propel the organization forward.” The firm noted that the lender will continue monitoring developments in the crypto and blockchain industry for potential use in the future.

Related: Bacon Protocol launches decentralized mortgage platform

The second-largest mortgage lender in the United States, UWM broke the news on its plans to experiment with crypto mortgage payments in August, looking to test mortgage payments in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether (ETH). The company disclosed its plans in conjunction with UWM’s Q2 financial results, with the firm posting roughly $140 million in net profits. At the time of writing, UWM has not announced its Q3 results.

Cointelegraph reached out to UWM with additional queries regarding the matter. This article will be updated pending new information.

Russia considers new energy tariffs as Chinese crypto miners relocate

Russia’s Irkutsk region saw its energy consumption rates surge by 160% following China’s crackdown on crypto mining.

The Russian Ministry of Energy is looking to introduce special electricity tariffs for cryptocurrency miners following migration of the industry into the country from nearby China.

Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov announced Wednesday that the authority is working on a new framework to differentiate tariffs between general usage and cryptocurrency mining, local news agency RBC reported Oct. 13.

Shulginov said that cryptocurrency miners in Russia should not consume electricity at residential tariffs, stating:

“We can’t let miners capitalize on the situation at the expense of low residential electricity tariffs [...] In order to maintain the reliability and quality of power supply, we believe it is necessary to prohibit miners from consuming electricity at residential tariffs.”

Some Russian regions have reportedly faced explosive growth in energy consumption, allegedly due to Chinese miners exiting the country amid a nationwide crackdown on crypto.

Russia’s Irkutsk region, located about 1,700 kilometres from China, has reportedly seen its energy consumption rates exceed last year's by almost 160%. Irkutsk Governor Igor Kobzev pointed to “avalanche-like growth” of energy consumption in the jurisdiction, blaming illegal crypto mining activity worsened by the exodus of miners from China.

One of the biggest regions of Siberia, the Irkutsk region is rich with energy resources, hosting several large hydroelectricity stations in cities like Irkutsk, Ust-Ilimsk and Bratsk. The region is home to some crypto mining data centers by BitRiver, the country’s largest crypto mining colocation services provider.

Related: Data center operators have ‘no problem’ with new Russian crypto crackdown

BitRiver founder and CEO Igor Runets told Cointelegraph that the company fully supports the latest initiative by the ministry of energy:

“It is fair and economically sound. Moreover, it will help miners enter the legal field, so the state can take the first step towards regulating the industry, which will ultimately lead to transparency of the entire industry.” 

Runets said that the company pays for its data center electricity at business customer rates, paying “2.5 or 3 times more than individuals.”

Russia has become one of the top locations for Bitcoin (BTC) mining activity following the Chinese miner capitulation. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, Bitcoin miners in Russia account for 11% of the total global BTC mining hash rate distribution, bested only Kazakhstan and the United States.

Too early to talk about using crypto for oil trading, says Putin

The Russian president has not excluded the possibility that, at some point, crypto will become a “means of accumulation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that it's “still premature” to use cryptocurrencies for settling trades of energy resources like oil.

The Russian president discussed potential use cases of cryptocurrencies in a Thursday CNBC interview following a plenary session of the ​​Russian Energy Week forum.

According to a full interview text published on the Kremlin’s official website, Putin said that private cryptocurrencies “can act as a unit of account” but they are “very unstable.”

“Cryptocurrency oil contracts? It’s too early to talk about it. It works for transferring funds from one place to another, but in terms of trading, especially when it comes to energy resources, it is still premature in my opinion,” the president stated.

Putin went on to say that “everything evolves” and “has the right to exist,” adding that the Russian government is closely monitoring the cryptocurrency market. He also did not exclude the possibility that at some point cryptocurrencies will become a “means of accumulation.” “We see how his market fluctuates. It's a bit early today,” Putin added.

The president said that cryptocurrencies are “not backed by anything yet.” When asked whether he considers the crypto holdings by Tesla CEO Elon Musk to be “worthless,” Putin said no, explaining that he only questioned crypto as a unit of account in the context of energy trading.

Related: Russia doesn’t plan to follow in China’s footsteps by banning crypto outright, says deputy finance minister

During the interview, the Russian president also claimed that the United States dollar “undermines its position” as an international reserve asset. “We aren’t interested in cutting off dollar payments completely, and we are so far satisfied with payments for energy resources in dollars, primarily for oil,” he added.

The news comes as Russian authorities consider a new law to limit cryptocurrency investments by non-accredited investors. Previously, the Russian central bank was reportedly planning to slow down transactions to crypto exchanges in order to protect retail investors from “emotional” purchases of crypto.

Estonian regulator wants to revoke all crypto exchange licenses

About 400 crypto businesses in Estonia still hold licenses after the state revoked nearly 2,000 licenses last year.

Financial regulators in the Baltic country of Estonia want to revoke all crypto exchange licenses in an effort to start the entire regulatory regime anew.

Matis Mäeker, head of the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), has urged the state to “turn the regulation to zero and start licensing all over again,” local state-run news agency Eesti Ekspress reported on Wednesday.

Mäeker claimed that the public is unaware of the risks of the cryptocurrency industry. Formerly the head of the Anti-Money Laundering department at the Financial Supervision and Resolution Authority, the official pointed out a number of related concerns, including illegal crypto activity, such as money laundering and terrorism financing, as well as the industry’s vulnerability to hacks, stating:

“These risks are very, very high. We need to react cardinally and very quickly.”

About 400 companies in Estonia now hold a virtual asset service provider (VASP) license, which is more than the total VASP licenses granted in the entire European Union, Mäeker claimed. According to the official, such businesses only use their licenses to “turn over very large sums, while Estonia gets nothing out of it.”

In its current state, the Estonian crypto industry neither creates jobs for citizens nor contributes “anything significant” to the country’s tax authorities, he stated.

Mäeker proposed to introduce stricter capital requirements for the industry, including potentially mandating crypto companies to have at least 350,000 euros ($404,000) either in cash or securities. The existing equity requirement for industry startups reportedly stands at just 12,000 euros ($13,800).

Related: Europe becomes largest crypto economy with over $1T in transactions — Chainalysis

The official also suggested requiring crypto companies to set up more secure IT systems and prohibiting them to accept anything but hard cash for investment instead of options such as refinancing property in order to increase investor protection. 

As previously reported, the Estonian FIU started a major crackdown on crypto companies in June 2020, having revoked the licenses of roughly 70% of all VASPs in the country by December last year. According to Estonian Public Broadcasting, the regulator revoked a total of 1,808 VASP licenses in 2020.

Binance to suspend Chinese yuan from P2P platform in December

Binance is taking more measures to comply with China’s cryptocurrency crackdown with new restrictions in the mainland.

Binance crypto exchange officially announced on Wednesday that the company will delist the Chinese yuan (CNY) from its peer-to-peer trading platform on Dec. 31.

Alongside terminating yuan trading pairs, Binance will continue further restricting access to its platform for users from mainland China, introducing new measures for accounts found to be linked to the region. Binance will specifically limit such accounts to “withdrawal only” mode, limiting transactions to withdrawals, redeeming and closing positions.

Binance emphasized that the company “withdrew from the Chinese mainland market in 2017” and has not been engaged in exchange business in the region since. The exchange said that China-based users have not been able to access Binance since the exit.

Despite exiting the Chinese market back in 2017, Binance cryptocurrency exchange has not yet suspended trades involving the Chinese national currency from its platform.

“Binance does not have any active exchange operations in China. We can also confirm that mobile phone registrations are blocked and the Binance app is not available for download by China-based consumers,” a Binance spokesperson told Cointelegraph.

“We have also taken the added step to delist CNY trading pairs and restrict services on Binance P2P to any China-based users,” the representative added.

The news comes weeks after the Chinese government announced another major crypto ban in late September, with multiple state authorities uniting forces to combat crypto adoption in the country. A number of major crypto firms have been forced to relocate or redirect some of their services.

Related: Bitmain stops shipment of Antminer crypto mining rigs into China

Huobi, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, is one company whose revenue is likely to be affected by the new Chinese ban.

“Due to historical reasons, we do have a certain proportion of our user base in mainland China. Retiring mainland Chinese user accounts will have a certain impact on the company’s revenue in the short term,” a spokesperson for Huobi told Cointelegraph on Sept. 28.

“Huobi’s diversified businesses outside of China have reached nearly 70% in terms of trading volumes,” the representative added.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler actually is pro-Bitcoin, Vault Equity CEO argues

Vault recently received approval for an ETF that includes stocks in various crypto-related companies.

The founder of Vault Equity believes that United States regulators have a fair reason to be slow in approving a pure Bitcoin (BTC)-related exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Vault Equity CEO and founder Tad Park voiced support for the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding the regulator’s unwillingness to approve an ETF that would track Bitcoin directly.

In a Tuesday Fox Business interview, Park argued that SEC chair Gary Gensler “actually is pro-Bitcoin” but is also “a little bit misunderstood” regarding his perspective on crypto regulation in the U.S.

Park specifically referred to the SEC’s investor protection concerns, namely that crypto custody providers have yet to assure the commission that they can actually ensure proper asset protection: 

“I can say ‘I have a gold ETF or a Bitcoin ETF’ but I’m storing that gold in my basement. Is the SEC gonna allow that? Probably not. Unless companies can show they can custody it and actually address a lot of the issues Gansler specifically mentioned, it’s not gonna work.”

The CEO added that “at least half” of current crypto ETF applications with the SEC “are not even valid” because “they are not addressing what Gary Gensler is saying.”

Park emphasized that Vault Equity’s crypto ETF does not provide direct exposure to Bitcoin, but instead tracks major Bitcoin-correlated companies including MicroStrategy, Tesla, Twitter, Square as well as Bitcoin mining companies like Bitfarms.

“We try to get at what people are actually looking for, which is correlation to Bitcoin’s price movement. These companies are really focusing on Bitcoin and get the majority of their income and revenues from Bitcoin. It makes sense that they tend to move along with Bitcoin’s price,” Park noted.

Related: Bitcoin futures ETF will likely be delayed until 2022 says research firm CFRA

Approved on Oct. 1, Vault Equity’s Volt Crypto Industry Revolution and Tech ETF tracks “Bitcoin Industry Revolution Companies,” a list of firms holding a majority of their net assets in Bitcoin or derive a majority of their earnings from Bitcoin mining, lending or transactions.

The SEC has yet to approve a pure Bitcoin ETF. On Oct. 1, the SEC extended the deadline for four Bitcoin ETFs including Global X Bitcoin Trust, Valkyrie XBTO Bitcoin Futures Fund, WisdomTree Bitcoin Trust and Kryptoin Bitcoin ETF. In August, SEC chair Gensler suggested that the regulator might be open to approving Bitcoin futures ETFs.

Crypto lending firm Celsius Network raises $400M

“It’s not $400 million. It’s the credibility that comes with the people who wrote those cheques,” Celsius CEO said.

Cryptocurrency lending platform Celsius Network has raised $400 million in a new equity funding round amid United States regulators increasingly cracking down on crypto lending.

Announcing the news on Tuesday, Celsius noted that the latest funding was led by Canada’s second-largest pension fund, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), and WestCap, an equity firm established by former Airbnb executive Laurence Tosi.

The firm intends to use the proceeds from this investment to continue expanding its offering and products, focusing on institutional grade products. Celsius also expects to double its team from 486 employees to nearly 1,000 and expand globally through strategic acquisitions.

Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky expressed hope that the new fundraising would help the industry reassure regulators about the stability of his crypto lending business and expand it across mainstream financial markets. “It’s not $400 million. It’s the credibility that comes with the people who wrote those cheques,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday.

"With more than $25 billion in assets and over $850 million in yield paid to over 1.1 million users Celsius has distributed 10x more yield for the crypto community than any other lender," Mashinsky told Cointelegraph.

The new funding round values Celsius over $3 billion, marking a massive increase from a $10 million equity funding round last year, which brought Celsius’ post-money valuation to $150 million. Blockchain fund Alpha Sigma Capital previously evaluated Celsius’ valuation in March, calculating that the firm had an implied value of $3.13 billion, or three times bigger than its market capitalization at the time.

Founded in 2017 in London, Celsius Network is a significant crypto lending platform, allowing users to earn interest on holding digital assets like Bitcoin (BTC). The company has emerged as one of the biggest players in decentralized finance, reporting digital asset holdings of more than $20 billion in late August.

Initially operating in the United Kingdom, Celsius officially announced in June that the company will be moving its headquarters from the U.K. to the United States and “where applicable, to several other jurisdictions.”

Related: Following SEC notice, Coinbase abandons plan for crypto lending program

The crypto lending firm subsequently faced several warnings from several U.S. regulators, with the Texas State Securities Board and New Jersey Bureau of Securities arguing in September that Celcius had allegedly violated local securities laws. Other U.S. states including Kentucky and Alabama reportedly issued similar warnings as well, while Celsius said it was providing services in full compliance with U.S. laws.

Celsius’s issues with U.S. regulators come amid a broader crackdown on crypto lending in the country. In July, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities issued a cease and desist order to major crypto lender BlockFi, triggering a wave of similar orders in several other states. Coinbase, the largest crypto exchange in the United States, had to abandon its crypto lending product Lend after the Securities and Exchange Commission threatened the firm with legal action.

Venezuelan international airport to accept Bitcoin payments: Report

“We must advance in these new economic and technological systems to be accessible,” Maiquetia airport director said.

A major international airport in Venezuela is reportedly preparing to start accepting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) as payment for tickets and other services.

Simón Bolívar International Airport is working to enable cryptocurrency payments to comply with local industry standards, regional news agency El Siglo reported on Sunday. Also known as Maiquetia, the airport is located in downtown Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

According to Maiquetia airport director Freddy Borges, the airport plans to accept many cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Dash and Venezuela’s oil-pegged digital currency, the Petro. He said that the airport’s administration would introduce new payment options in coordination with Venezuela’s National Superintendence of Crypto Assets and Related Activities.

The introduction of crypto payments at the Maiquetia airport would mark the company’s commitment to advance toward international standards and drive digital currency adoption, Borges noted. According to the executive, the crypto payment option would benefit foreign tourists, including those from Russia.

“We must advance in these new economic and technological systems to be accessible,” Borges reportedly stated.

The news comes amid Venezuela experimenting with a central bank digital currency (CBDC), with the country’s central bank launching the digital Venezuelan bolivar on Oct. 1. Unlike a CBDC, which is pegged to Venezuela’s national currency, the Petro is an oil-backed cryptocurrency launched by the government in February 2018.

Related: BitMEX CEO predicts Bitcoin will be legal tender in five countries by 2022

Several airports and airlines around the world have been exploring ways to introduce crypto payments and blockchain-based functionalities in recent years, providing better options for cash payments and improving customer verification services, including COVID-19 test results. In March, Latvian airline airBaltic started accepting Ether (ETH) and Dogecoin (DOGE) as payments for tickets after rolling out crypto payments back in 2014.

Swiss think tank initiates vote to add Bitcoin in federal constitution

Successful or not, the vote will bring crypto education to people who are not yet Bitcoin-savvy, 2B4CH founder said.

2B4CH, a Swiss non-profit think tank assisting the state in exploring cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and blockchain technology, is launching an initiative to potentially make Bitcoin one the country’s reserve assets.

On Oct. 8, the association announced plans to start a federal popular initiative aiming to collect 100,000 signatures for introduction of Bitcoin to the article 99 clause 3 of the Swiss federal constitution.

The initiative specifically proposes to add Bitcoin to the list of assets held by the Swiss central bank, which would make the constitution clause read the following: “The Swiss National Bank shall create sufficient currency reserves from its revenues; part of these reserves shall be held in gold and Bitcoin.”

But whether the vote is successful or not is not really relevant, as the initiative is focused on gathering signatures to make this proposal be presented to the Swiss citizens to vote, 2B4CH’s founder and chair Yves Bennaim told Cointelegraph.

“If the signatures are gathered successfully, the vote will legally have to happen, and so will the conversations and debates, eventually informing and educating better everyone in Switzerland, and hopefully worldwide, as we set the example,” Bennaim said. “We hope the vote will be successful, but even if it isn’t, it will already be a success if the topic is brought to the public debate,” he noted.

If the vote is successful, the Swiss National Bank, or SNB, will need to learn how to add Bitcoin into its reserves, holding it the “best and safest way,” which would make Switzerland one of the world’s leading nations in the industry and benefit its economy on many levels, Bennaim stated, adding:

“Such an addition to the constitution would affect people in Switzerland in a similar way the Silicon Valley and the London Stock Exchange have benefited the people of their respective countries.”

According to Bennaim, 2B4CH is still at the preliminary stage of the project, now testing the potential interest in the initiative. The next steps include presenting the project to the confederation and collecting signatures officially. “When this phase is successfully finished, it will take months or even years before the vote is actually taking place,” Bennaim said.

Related: More countries to follow El Salvador’s Bitcoin move, Cardano creator says

Founded in Geneva in 2017, 2B4CH is an independent non-profit association studying social and financial transformations brought by Bitcoin and blockchain technology as well as the impact of decentralized cryptocurrencies. The think tank counts fewer than 20 members so far and doesn’t accept donations to protect its independence and privacy of members.

Switzerland has emerged as one of the most crypto-friendly countries around the world, with the canton of Zug piloting Bitcoin payments for public services back in 2016. Last month, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority approved the country’s first crypto fund after authorizing the SIX Swiss Exchange to launch a digital asset marketplace.

BitMEX CEO predicts Bitcoin will be legal tender in five countries by 2022

Developing economies are more affected by issues related to remittances and inflation, BitMEX's CEO said.

Countries in the developing world will soon follow in the steps of El Salvador and make Bitcoin (BTC) legal tender, BitMEX CEO Alexander Höptner recently predicted.

In an Oct. 6 blog post, Höptner expressed support for El Salvador adopting Bitcoin as legal tender in September, predicting that developing countries will be “leading the way” in Bitcoin adoption:

“My prediction is that by the end of next year, we’ll have at least five countries that accept Bitcoin as legal tender. All of them will be developing countries.”

According to Höptner, developing countries will adopt Bitcoin faster due to three major factors including the growing need for cheaper and faster international remittances, massive inflation and political issues.

As opposed to consumers in more developed countries, people in developing economies are more affected by issues related to cross-border payments and inflation, Höptner said.

The CEO noted that remittances made up 23% of El Salvador’s gross domestic product in 2020, while the World Bank assessed that low and middle-income countries receive about 75% of total global remittances. He added that people around the world are increasingly looking at Bitcoin as a solution to weather massive inflation, citing rapid crypto adoption in Turkey amid a 19.2% inflation rate.

Höptner went on to say that El Salvador’s Bitcoin move will make it easier for other countries to consider similar moves. “But if it’s a reality that politics will play a big role in the adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender, it’s also true that any failings by these leaders in the implementation phase may hurt wider adoption of cryptocurrencies in general,” he added.

Related: 70% of Salvadorans opposed to Bitcoin Law as Sept. 7 implementation draws near

A former CEO of German stock exchange Borse Stuttgart, Höptner took over as CEO of BitMEX in December 2020, replacing Arthur Hayes. 

Hoptner is not alone in thinking that more countries will follow El Salvador’s lead in adopting Bitcoin. Last month, Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson predicted that a lot more countries adopt cryptocurrencies. World-known computer programmer Edward Snowden also believes that “latecomers may regret hesitating.”

Some major figures in the cryptocurrency space have been hesitant to praise El Salvador's crypto adoption, sparked by President Nayib Bukele. On Oct. 8, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin criticized Bukele’s approach to adopting Bitcoin, arguing that forcing businesses to accept a specific cryptocurrency is “contrary to the ideals of freedom that are supposed to be so important to the crypto space.”

Chinese blockchain project BSN expands to Turkey and Uzbekistan

Chinese blockchain project BSN comes to Turkey and Uzbekistan after launching the BSN Hong Kong and Macau portal.

The Chinese government-backed blockchain project, the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN), continues expanding its global presence by setting up two new portals in Turkey and Uzbekistan.

Red Date Technology, the architect behind the BSN project, has signed an agreement with Turkish consultancy firm, Turkish Chinese Business Matching Center (TUCEM), to launch two international BSN portals in Turkey and Uzbekistan in late December 2021.

Established in 2006, TUSEM became a major economic cooperation hub between Turkey and China. The company will be the exclusive operator of the two new BSN portals offering blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) in Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The new portals will allow blockchain developers in Turkey and Uzbekistan to build BaaS applications using the global BSN portal hotsing major blockchains like the Ethereum network, Algorand, Polkadot, Tezos, ConsenSys Quorum, Corda and others. The initiative aims to solve major challenges associated with developing blockchain applications, enable blockchain interoperability and cut development costs.

“Turkey has long played a role as a bridge between Asia and Europe and so it is fitting that the first BSN portal outside of Asia will be launched there,” Red Date Technology CEO Yifan He said.

Mehmet Akfırat, president of TUCEM and head of BSN Turkey, said that the BSN’s Turkish portal will contribute to social development and financial inclusion. According to the exec, both Turkey and Uzbekistan are highly engaged in blockchain development.

He told Cointelegraph that BSN doesn’t choose the locations for its international portals. “As long as we have good local partners in some regions, we don't really mind where they are,” the exec said, adding that BSN is also talking to potential partners from the United States, Europe and Australia.

The CEO also noted that BSN does not operate its international portals. “They are all built and operated by our local partners. They own the portals, which leverage BSN infrastructure to build the most powerful BaaS site with little cost,” He said.

BSN recently launched a Hong Kong and Macau portal on Sept. 1, contributing to the development of more than 30 new blockchain projects. BSN also plans to set up an international BSN portal in South Korea in November.

Related: Visa working on blockchain interoperability hub for crypto payments

In January 2021, the BSN announced plans to build a universal digital payment network for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) — this following even earlier intentions to support stablecoins for various services on the BSN ecosystem.

However, according to He, the BSN is no longer involved in “any CBDC-related projects” and has also abandoned its stablecoin plans.

“BSN no longer will integrate stablecoins. We move that plan to another entirely new project, which has no association with BSN. For BSN, we are focusing on expanding footprints in different countries,” He told Cointelegraph.

Indian TikTok challenger raises $19M to launch social token on Solana

“What Axie infinity did for gaming, we want to do for social media,” Chingari co-founder and CEO Sumit Ghosh says.

Indian short-video sharing platform Chingari is preparing to launch its own blockchain network and social token.

Chingari has completed a $19 million funding to launch its mainnet and conduct a token sale for its Solana-based GARI token in November, the firm announced on Oct. 8.

Chingari co-founder and CEO Sumit Ghosh said that the token sale is scheduled for Nov. 2, while the mainnet launch and application integration are expected to go live by the end of that month.

Co-led by major blockchain investors like Republic Crypto and Mike Novogratz’s investment firm Galaxy Digital, the new raise included over 30 venture funds and individual investors including Sam Bankman-Fried’s Alameda Research, Solana Capital and Kraken crypto exchange.

Ghosh stated that the $19 million funding was completed via a GARI token raise in one seed round and one private round. These raises followed two equity rounds where Chingari raised $1.3 million in 2020 and $13 million in April 2021.

According to Ghosh, Chingari’s blockchain platform will allow users to obtain tokens for creating or watching content. “What Axie infinity did for gaming, we want to do for social media,” he said.

“The idea that a lot of people can make a small amount of money and uplift themselves by participating in a social platform is very powerful and Chingari wants to make this vision possible,” the executive added.

Ghosh declined to comment on whether Chingari has obtained any regulatory approvals for its token.

Related: TikTok embraces NFTs with creator-led collection

Since India banned TikTok earlier this year, a number of firms —including Chingari — have tried to fill the void for short video-sharing apps in the subcontinent. Following the ban, Chingari claims that its user base grew from 100,000 to 50 million people in six months.

Social media firms are increasingly moving into the crypto industry, with Chinese social media giant TikTok announcing its first foray into the nonfungible token industry in late September. Previously, Twitter enabled its users to tip each other using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC).

Gaming VC Bitkraft launches $75M investment fund for blockchain gaming

Bitkraft’s new $75 million token fund has already closed investments in six different projects.

E-sports investment platform Bitkraft VC has established a $75 million token fund for investing in blockchain gaming and digital entertainment.

The fund uses a “stage-agnostic” strategy, meaning that it will put money in companies and startups at any business development stage. Apart from equity investment, the token fund will also invest in cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

In order to provide regulated investment opportunities, Bitkraft received an investment advisor registration from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in June 2021.

The new token fund is led by Piers Kicks, a founding partner in the investment arm of crypto research firm Delphi Digital. Kicks joined Bitkraft earlier this year to lead the company’s investment efforts in crypto and NFTs.

Bitkraft stated that the fund has already closed six investments including projects like Yield Guild Games (YGG), Immutable, Alethea AI and Horizon Games. Both YGG and Alethea are direct token investments, Kicks told Cointelegraph. “We were only able to announce the funding after final closing, but have been actively deploying from it,” he added.

While the fund has mainly invested in startups building on the Ethereum blockchain, Kicks stated, “We adopt a chain-agnostic approach and assess each project on a case-by-case basis. We are beginning to see some exciting activity on Solana, and will be closely monitoring early gaming projects in that ecosystem.” 

Related: Axie Infinity developer secures $152M in Series B funding from investors

According to Bitkraft Ventures founding general partner Jens Hilgers, the fund is looking to invest in about 25 more companies by the end of 2022. The venture capital firm has more than $540 million in assets under management as of Oct. 1, 2021, with a portfolio spanning more than 60 companies across North America, Europe and Asia.

The gaming industry has proved ripe for crypto adoption, with many new use cases for decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs. Blockchain game Axie Infinity has emerged as one of the most popular Ethereum-based NFT games this year, with its native token AXS reaching a new all-time high above $155 on Monday. In September, blockchain gamification platform DeFi Land raised $4.1 million to launch a new DeFi game on Solana.

Russia aims to limit crypto purchases by non-accredited investors

The Bank of Russia also wants to slow down transactions to crypto exchanges to prevent “emotional” crypto purchases.

Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Financial Markets, argued that Russia needs to adopt new laws to protect retail investors from the potential losses of investing in crypto, local news agency Interfax reported on Wednesday. 

To this end, lawmakers in the country’s parliament are reportedly considering new legislation to limit cryptocurrency investments by non-accredited investors, he stated.

The official delivered his remarks during a Bank of Russia-backed event devoted to financial consumer protection.

“Digital currencies are subject to our enhanced focus, and we will look to provide maximum protection for our citizens who invest in digital assets because it is a new instrument, and it is quite difficult for an unskilled investor,” Aksakov said.

Cryptocurrency investment is associated with a lot of risk as well as promising returns, with global investors pouring billions of dollars into crypto, Aksakov said. “We certainly need to provide specific legislation to protect a non-professional investor from ill-considered investments in digital currencies,” he stated.

Related: Bank of Russia wants to block ‘emotional’ and suspicious crypto activity

The latest news comes in line with the Bank of Russia’s new plans to slow down transactions to crypto exchanges in order to protect retail investors from “emotional” purchases of crypto. Sergey Shvetsov, the first deputy governor at the Bank of Russia, argued that this measure would protect Russian investors from losses in a scenario where the cryptocurrency market “crashes to zero.”

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) have emerged as a popular investment tool in Russia. According to an August survey by Russia’s Association of Forex Dealers, 77% of Russian investors said that cryptocurrencies are the “most forward-looking” investment.

$25B toy brand to launch L.O.L. Surprise NFT collectibles

Released in 2017, L.O.L. Surprise doll was MGA’s best-selling U.S. toy property for three consecutive years.

Consumer entertainment products giant MGA Entertainment is moving into the nonfungible token (NFT) industry by turning its best-selling toys into digital collectibles on blockchain.

The American toy giant is preparing to roll out an NFT functionality for its world-famous brand L.O.L. Surprise, allowing fans to mint NFTs, display their character collection, and buy, sell and trade digital collectibles online.

To enable the new feature, MGA has partnered with Ioconic, a London-based partnership business for brand owners, offering exposure to the NFT and digital asset industry. The startup will enable an online gaming hub for the L.O.L. Surprise trading card game, letting fans and collectors replicate physical purchases using QR codes.

Ioconic CEO Jamie Lewis told Cointelegraph that the startup has built “the entire L.O.L. Surprise digital ecosystem from scratch.”

“Every brand we work with receives a tailored digital asset strategy as no two brand requirements are the same. We have agreed on terms with a major protocol that will underpin the L.O.L. Surprise platform but will announce this once the site is launched in two weeks,” Lewis noted.

Founded in 1979, MGA Entertainment is one of the world’s private toy suppliers, famous for manufacturing the Bratz fashion doll and merchandise. Released in September 2017, MGA’s L.O.L. Surprise doll was the best-selling U.S. toy property for three consecutive years starting 2018, contributing to the overall toy sales in the United States, which amassed $25 billion in 2020 in retail sales.

Related: Tweet mocking how little value NFTs have... is turned into $5K NFT

Backed by initial investment from Hong Kong-based blockchain investment firm Kenetic, Ioconic was founded in early 2021. Kenetic managing partner Jehan Chu is one of Ioconic’s co-founders.

Ioconic has reached several licensing deals with entertainment giants such as Disneyland and Warner Bros. Entertainment. “We have worked with these brands in both previous environments focused on physical products and are now engaged with some of them focused on digital assets. As we are a relatively new company, we have not announced all of our partnerships yet,” Lewis added.

Emirati crypto exchange BitOasis raises $30M to expand in MENA

“Our aim is to build the largest and most trusted cryptocurrency platform in the region,” BitOasis CEO Ola Doudin said.

Dubai-based cryptocurrency trading platform BitOasis is expanding in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with another major funding round.

BitOasis closed a $30-million Series B funding round led by Chicago-based venture capital firm Jump Capital and Dubai-based VC company Wamda Capital, according to a Tuesday announcement.

Wamda previously invested in BitOasis back in 2016, leading a seed funding round of an undisclosed sum. The latest round included new investors, such as Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto trading firm Alameda Research, and Global Founders Capital, as well as existing investors, including Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group and Belgium-based investment firm NXMH.

The new funding will help the crypto exchange to further grow its presence in the MENA region as well as ensure regulatory compliance, BitOasis co-founder and CEO Ola Doudin said.

“We see a lot of potential for crypto adoption within the MENA region. We also believe that the right regulation coupled with investor awareness and education initiatives is going to drive mass adoption of crypto assets in the region,” Doudin told Cointelegraph, adding:

“The funding coming in will equip us with the resources we need to build the largest and most trusted cryptocurrency platform in the region. Expansion beyond the MENA region is also on the cards and will happen in due course.”

Related: UAE regulators approve crypto trading in Dubai free zone

BitOasis also aims to forge strategic partnerships with the public sector in order to raise awareness about crypto security, Doudin said. The exchange recently partnered with the Dubai Police Force to educate the public about fraudulent schemes related to crypto investments and trading.

Launched in 2015, BitOasis is one of the oldest crypto exchanges in the MENA region. BitOasis saw some accelerated growth this year, with trading volumes exceeding $3 billion in the first half of 2021 as well as a 200% increase in the number of users. In May, BitOasis received regulatory approvals from the Abu Dhabi Global Market as the firm was preparing to launch a licensed crypto exchange in the Middle East.

Indian crypto exchange CoinSwitch Kuber raises $260M

Valued at $1.9 billion, CoinSwitch Kuber has become the largest crypto company in India, CEO Ashish Singhal said.

Major Indian cryptocurrency exchange CoinSwitch Kuber is joining the unicorn club by raising $260 million in a Series C funding round.

According to an official announcement on Oct. 6, the new funding has propelled CoinSwitch Kuber to the “very top” of Indian unicorns as the firm became “India’s most valued crypto company” at $1.91 billion.

The funding round was led by Coinbase’s venture capital arm Coinbase Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. Previous investors like Sequoia, Paradigm, Ribbit and Tiger Global have also participated in the round.

Using the new funds, CoinSwitch Kuber plans to onboard 50 million Indians on the platform and introduce new services like lending and staking. The exchange also expects to launch an institutional-grade product as well as support more diverse investment options. Other planned initiatives include an innovation fund a crypto education hub for crypto.

“Every evolution takes a leap of faith, we are taking a giant one today with CoinSwitch Kuber turning into a unicorn and becoming the largest crypto company in the country,” CoinSwitch Kuber co-founder and CEO Ashish Singhal said.

Related: US crypto exchange CrossTower expands to India

CoinSwitch Kuber is one of the largest crypto exchanges in India alongside platforms like WazirX and CoinDCX. Since its launch in 2020, CoinSwitch Kuber has managed to amass 10 millions users as of September 2021. The exchange previously raised $25 million from investors including Tiger Global in a Series B round in April, following a $15 million Series A round in January.

AMC Theatres debuts crypto payments for e-gift card purchases

The major American theater chain wants to let customers buy movie tickets with crypto by 2022.

American cinema giant AMC Theatres is steadily approaching its goal of accepting cryptocurrency payments by year-end, now debuting crypto purchases for electronic gift cards.

AMC customers can now buy digital gift cards with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) directly through the AMC website, mobile app and theatres, CEO Adam Aron announced on Oct. 5.

The new payment option was enabled through major crypto payment processor BitPay, allowing consumers to purchase e-cards of up to $200, Aron noted.

The CEO paid special attention to Dogecoin (DOGE) among the digital assets accepted for AMC e-card purchases. Aron hinted in September that AMC will include DOGE in the list of cryptocurrencies accepted for tickets by the end of 2021.

Aron had conducted a poll of 140,000 people on Twitter, asking the community whether AMC should accept DOGE payments for tickets. “It’s clear that you think AMC should accept Dogecoin. Now we need to figure out how to do that. Stay tuned,” Aron said at the time.

Related: Verifone to enable crypto payments at major retailers through BitPay

As previously reported, Aron announced the company’s plans to accept Bitcoin payments for movie tickets in August, expecting to roll out the new payment option by 2022. The movie chain also plans to support four other cryptocurrencies: the aforementionedDOGE, Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

Earlier this year, Major Cineplex Group, the largest movie theater operator in Thailand, launched a payment pilot allowing customers to buy tickets with cryptos.

CoinMarketCap to integrate crypto price data into Presearch

Presearch is a default search engine on all new and factory-reset Android devices sold in the U.K. and Europe.

Crypto data provider CoinMarketCap continues expanding its reach by integrating its crypto price data into Presearch, a major decentralized search engine.

CoinMarketCap has partnered with Presearch to provide its data feeds to the search engine, allowing users to see CoinMarketCap price data directly on Presearch, according to a Tuesday announcement shared with Cointelegraph.

With the partnership, Presearch’s 2.4 million registered users will instantly see a CoinMarketCap-provided overview for any crypto-related term on the engine, including prices, daily volumes, a market capitalization, circulating supply and total supply.

“The function will roll out immediately tomorrow and will be available wherever users use the search engine,” a spokesperson for Presearch said, adding that the new functionality will be available from the web to mobile.

Additionally, Presearch will get exposure to CoinMarketCap’s millions of visitors via a marketing campaign featuring ongoing promotions. According to data from traffic analytics platform SimilarWeb, CoinMarketCap had 187 million total visits in August 2021. The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, acquired CoinMarketCap in April 2020.

Related: Decentralized search engine becomes default option on European Android devices

Launched in 2017, Presearch is a decentralized search engine compensating users for searching on their platform with a cryptocurrency called Presearch (PRE) tokens. “We think the timing for Presearch couldn’t be any better due to the growing backlash against the tech titans like Google, Facebook and Amazon,” Presearch said at the launch. At the time of writing, one PRE token is trading at $0.42, with a market cap of $144 million.

Last month, global tech giant Google listed Presearch as a default browser option for all new and factory-reset Android devices sold in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Canadian Bitcoin mining firm Link Global faces $5.6M penalty

Link Global has received an extension to Oct. 14, 2021, as the deadline for filing its response to the action.

Link Global Technologies, a Bitcoin (BTC) mining company listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, is facing major potential penalties for operating unauthorized power plants in the province of Alberta.

The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the province’s power utility regulator, issued Sept. 24 another enforcement submission against Link Global, with enforcement staff recommending several penalties for violations of Alberta’s legislative requirements.

According to a document shared with Cointelegraph, the AUC’s enforcement staff recommended that Link Global should pay an economic disgorgement of about 2 million Canadian dollars (CAD) ($1.6 million) for financial gains from the unlawful electricity generation.

The regulator is seeking over 5 million CAD ($4 million) from Link Global’s Bitcoin mining operations, based on the AUC’s calculations of Link Global’s alleged gross economic benefit for two plants. Additionally, the AUC is seeking an additional 81,000 CAD ($64,000) in two administrative penalties.

According to the document, the AUC estimated Link Global’s economic benefit based on the “more conservative generation rate of 1.2 Bitcoins per day” and “the more conservative of 95,000 TH of computing power versus 10 MW.” The authority noted that Link Global’s revenue source is mainly based on hosting or selling electricity to third-party digital asset miners, “with a smaller proportion of revenue coming from self-mining activities.”

“The enforcement staff report and recommendations are only part of the information that will be assessed and considered by the AUC tribunal panel of Commission members,” a spokesperson for the AUC told Cointelegraph. Link Global has received an extension to Oct. 14, 2021, as the deadline for filing its response. “All of this information will be considered at an oral hearing before a final ruling is issued. The date of this hearing has not yet been scheduled,” the representative said.

Following the AUC’s submission, Link Global CEO Stephen Jenkins subsequently issued a statement on Sept. 30, stating that the company has acknowledged wrongdoing and has been working hard to rectify mistakes:

“Our business works to respect the laws, the people and the environment, and we believe that our submission to the AUC will make this apparent. [...] I apologize to our shareholders who do not deserve this. We will work tirelessly to ensure the outcome is positive.”

Related: Bitcoin mining difficulty surges 31% since July

Link Global did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

If applied, the disgorgement would mark only the second disgorgement penalty the AUC had ever levied after approving a 56 million CAD settlement for electricity power generator TransAlta Corporation back in 2015.

As previously reported, the AUC initially asked Link Global to shut down operations in late August after local residents complained about noise from a nearby power plant.

Korean crypto exchange Upbit to halt withdrawals for unverified users

Major South Korean crypto trading platform Upbit will start gradually limiting services for unverified users this week.

South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Upbit will soon halt services for unverified users.

On Oct. 2 the company officially announced a set of changes to its customer verification system in compliance with South Korea’s mandatory Anti-Money Laundering (AML) requirements.

According to the announcement, Upbit will start gradually limiting services for unverified users this week, restricting unverified customers from transacting more than 1 million Korean won ($850) at a time, effective Oct. 6.

“Once customer verification is completed, the 1 million won limit will be lifted; members who submit an order with less than 1 million won can proceed with customer verification at any time,” the firm said.

In a week after initial AML restrictions, Upbit plans to place more limits for unverified users. Effective Oct. 13, Upbit will stop trading services as well as deposits and withdrawals for existing customers who have not completed customer verification. “Once customer verification is completed, trading and deposit or withdrawal transactions will be resumed,” Upbit noted.

The announcement also states that new users who sign up after Oct. 6 will only be able to deposit and withdraw after completing verification. The exchange also advised processing verification through K Bank, Upbit’s official fiat on-ramp provider. “Withdrawal procedures to other banks will be notified later through a separate notice,” the announcement reads.

Related: South Korean crypto tax delay thwarted

Upbit is one of South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges alongside Bithumb, Coinone and Korbit, making up more than 80% of the local cryptocurrency market.

The firm’s new customer verification policies come in line with South Korea’s AML regulations requiring both local and foreign exchanges to provide real-name accounts through a local bank. The Financial Services Commission required crypto exchanges in South Korea to submit requests for an official operating license by Sept. 24. Some major exchanges including Binance subsequently halted KRW trading pairs and removed Korean language support from their platforms.