Finnish Customs Puzzled on what to do with 15M Euro Seized in Bitcoin

While some countries are selling bitcoins confiscated through law enforcement actions, Finland is in no hurry to decide what to do with its seized BTC.

While some governments are selling bitcoins (BTC) confiscated through law enforcement actions, Finland is yet to decide what to do with its seized BTC.

Finnish Customs, operating under the Ministry of Finance, has reportedly been deliberating about what to do with 1,666 bitcoins seized from drug criminals years ago.

As reported by Finland's national public broadcasting firm on Feb. 25, the Finnish Customs service doesn’t want to auction the confiscated Bitcoin because the cryptocurrency could be returned to the hands of criminals.

Seized bitcoins surge almost 2,000% since confiscation

According to the report, at the time of the seizure the amount of confiscated Bitcoin was worth less than 700,000 euros, or roughly $760,000. As of press time, 1,666 BTC is worth nearly 15 million euros — or more than $15.5 million, according to data from Coin360. The authority was reportedly initially planning to auction the funds back in 2018, but eventually ended up with hodling the crypto, citing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) concerns.

Pekka Pylkkänen, head of finance at the Finnish Customs service, said that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are primarily used for illicit practices:

"From our point of view, the problems are specifically related to the risk of money laundering. The buyers of cybercurrency rarely use them for normal endeavours.”

Apart from holding over $15 million in Bitcoin, Finnish Customs also holds a number of seized altcoins worth of millions of euros, the report notes.

Cointelegraph contacted Finnish Customs for additional comments on the issue but did not receive an immediate response. This story will be updated should they respond.

U.S. Marshals allegedly missed out on over $1.7 billion by selling seized Bitcoin too early

Whatever the reason behind Finnish Customs’ decision to hodl the confiscated crypto, the authority is apparently not alone in thinking that Bitcoin and other cryptos might be more dangerous than cash in terms of money laundering. In July 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced an extremely sceptical opinion of Bitcoin, arguing that cash is not laundered in the same way as Bitcoin.

Meanwhile, other countries over the world do not appear so concerned about taking profits from hodling Bitcoin. On Feb. 18, the United States Marshals Service sold another batch of Bitcoin confiscated during its enforcement operations. According to data compiled by well-known crypto industry figure Jameson Lopp, the U.S. Marshals has missed out on over $1.7 billion by selling seized Bitcoin too early. 

The agency has confiscated and sold 185,230 bitcoins, according to Lopp’s data.

BTSE to Launch Liquid Network-Powered Token Sale in March

Multi-currency and futures exchange BTSE to launch the first-ever native exchange token sale based on the Liquid Network in March 2020.

As the adoption of Bitcoin (BTC) sidechains continues to grow, a major Bitcoin sidechain, the Liquid Network, will soon host a token sale.

BTSE, a multi-currency digital asset and derivatives exchange, plans to launch its Liquid Network-powered token sale on March 5, 2020, the exchange tweeted on Feb. 25.

According to an announcement shared with Cointelegraph, BTSE has recently completed a private sale round featuring high-profile investors like major digital asset manager FBG Capital. Other investors included early stage investment firm Lemniscap, CMS Holdings, Taureon Capital, GBCI Ventures and BCB Blockchain, as BTSE CEO Jonathan Leong noted.

First-ever native exchange token sale based the Liquid Network sidechain

As reported, the upcoming token sale by BTSE will purportedly be the first-ever native exchange token sale based on a Bitcoin sidechain known as the Liquid Network. The Liquid Network is a federated sidechain for Bitcoin blockchain launched by blockchain infrastructure firm Blockstream in 2018. In contrast to public blockchains like the Bitcoin, a federated blockchain, also known as a consortium blockchain, is a permissioned blockchain that shares consensus process among a number of pre-selected sets of nodes.

According to the announcement, the token will be listed on the BTSE exchange within two hours of the completion of the public token sale. According to BTSE, a total of up to one million tokens will be distributed during the token sale, at the initial sale price of $2. While the maximum amount of tokens for a purchase is capped at 25,000 BTSE tokens, the minimum number is just a single token.

BTSE CEO notes that BTSE token supports “confidential transactions”

The BTSE token rolled out for trading on the BTSE Exchange’s multi-currency spot market which supports seven major cryptocurrencies and ten fiat currencies. The token is designed to boost the set of BTSE’s financial products in order to promote the adoption of digital assets, the firm said.

BTSE CEO Leong also outlined that BTSE token would serve as an upgrade to the privacy of assets while streamlining transaction speed. Leong said:

“We’ve chosen to launch BTSE’s exchange token on the Liquid Network because it facilitates fast transaction times allowing for rapid inter-exchange settlement and lower congestion. It also supports Confidential Transactions, an upgrade to the privacy of assets transacted on the sidechain.”

BTSE first revealed its plans for a Liquid Network-based token sale in late 2019. At the time, the firm was projecting to raise $50 million, selling tokens at $1 each. The exchange plans to spend the raised funds to further develop its platform and liquidity depth as well as to expand services into crypto lending and over-the-counter and mining markets.

In line with a major surge of Bitcoin futures trading volumes, BTSE’s futures markets increased more than six-fold this year, up from $40 million to $250 million in daily volume so far, the exchange noted.

Ukraine’s Central Bank: E-Hryvnia Threatens Landscape of Banking System

As a crypto firm in Ukraine plans to issue the first Ukrainian hryvnia-pegged stablecoin, the country’s central bank is progressing with its e-hryvnia project.

Despite considerable testing and research, the prospect of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) still raises significant concerns for bankers in Ukraine. 

At a Feb. 21 conference in Kyiv, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) presented the results of testing its CBDC project, the e-hryvnia, noting that the bank is continuing to look into issuing its own CBDC.

However, the central bank apparently is still concerned about such a currency’s effect on financial stability as well as the possible threat to the traditional banking system. An official announcement by the NBU reads:

“The banking system may cease to be a major financial intermediary if the majority of the population switches to using the central bank's digital currency instead of cash and bank accounts. On the one hand, the level of inflation in the country will not be significantly affected, as digital currencies will be issued by central banks, which will control this process.”

Perceived benefits

At the same time, the NBU noted that a CBDC has the potential to strengthen public confidence in the central bank and its financial services. The central bank listed major advantages like reliability, convenience as well as the opportunity to tackle the “shadow economy.” The announcement notes:

“Unlike bank accounts, central bank money is completely risk-free and 100% guaranteed by the state. In other words, it is not only convenient but also reliable. In addition, digital currency can help reduce the amount of paper money in circulation. For many countries, this is an urgent task, since the shadow economy is often ‘fed’ with paper money.”

While there are a number of potential benefits to the e-hryvnia, the NBU does not appear to be prioritizing it at the moment. The bank’s governor Jacob Smol concluded that the authority will return to the e-hryvnia question as soon as the bank is convinced that such projects do not pose any threats to financial stability. The official tweeted:

“We’ve completed the pilot project, but we continue to look into the chance of issuing the e-hryvnia. We’ll return to this matter when we are convinced that not only is it technologically feasible, but also that it will not interfere with price and financial stability.”

Ukraine’s central bank issued just $200 within the pilot

After the NBU started exploring the possibility of issuing its own digital currency back in 2016, the bank completed a pilot for the e-hryvnia project in late 2019. According to the official NBU announcement, the central bank issued a “very limited number of e-hryvnias” within the pilot — just over 5,000 e-hryvnias, worth around $200 at press time.

Olga Vasileva, deputy head of NBU’s payment networks and innovative growth department, outlined that e-hryvnia will be nothing but a digital alternative to cash. The executive said that a CBDC like the e-hryvnia is primarily interesting for an ordinary user due to the low cost and speed of financial transactions.

Cointelegraph recently reported that Ukrainian cryptocurrency exchange Kuna released a stablecoin pegged to the Ukrainian hryvnia. Kuna founder Michael Chobanian argued that the e-hryvnia project had not got much further than research.

On Feb. 22, Bank of England chief cashier Sarah John argued that it is “really important” for central banks to consider CBDCs as a response to major tech companies’ efforts to develop stablecoins.

Bitmain’s Antminer E3 Will Allegedly Stop Ethereum Mining in 1 Month: Report

Once the “world's most powerful” hardware for mining Ether, Antminer E3 will allegedly stop mining the coin in about 45 days, 2Miners says.

While the Ethereum network is preparing to start shifting to proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus, some mining devices might soon stop supporting ETH mining at all.

Bitmain’s Antminer E3, once the “world's most powerful” hardware for mining Ether (ETH), will allegedly stop Ethereum mining in April 2020, according to a Feb. 24 report by altcoin mining pool 2Miners.

Users started reporting a sixfold hashrate drop on Antminer E3 mining rigs on ETC pool last week

2Miners revealed the news after its team requested Bitmain to comment on the recent issues with Antminer E3 performance involving Ethereum Classic (ETC) — an open-sourced blockchain platform that derived from Ethereum hard fork in 2016 after the DAO collapse.

On Feb. 21, 2Miners started receiving first reports on significant deterioration on Antminer E3 mining rigs performance on ETC pool. According to 2Miners, some users reported a sixfold hashrate drop on Antminer E3 — from the factory-declared hashrate of 180 MH/s to as low as 30 MH/s.

Bitmain reportedly confirmed that the issue was caused by DAG growth

Following an internal investigation, 2Miners managed to find out that all global ETC pools were reported the same drop in hashrate. At the same time, Antminer E3 was still performing fine on Ethereum pools, 2Miners said. The team immediately suggested that the issue was likely to be connected with directed acyclic graph (DAG) — a file that is generated every new group of 30,000 blocks known as a mining epoch.

When mining Ethereum, each GPU requires a big file called DAG at the start of the mining process, 2Miners elaborated. As DAG files grow each 30,000 blocks, or mining epoch, the memory capacity has apparently reached its limit.

Following a request to Bitmain helpdesk, 2Miners was reportedly able to confirm that the growth of DAG files limited the usage of Antminer E3 for mining ETC. According to Bitmain, Antminer E3, which is an ASIC miner, still contains a 4GB video card for mining, while the DAG file is approaching the threshold.

Bitmain reportedly said:

“[...] Antminer E3 is a 4GB video card. E3 is related to ETH algorithm, and DDR capacity is up to the upper limit, so E3 will not be able to continue mining. The meaning is E3 only can mine until January 2020, then will not mine again.”

Current DAG size for ETH, ETC and Expanse. Source: Investoon.com

Current DAG size for ETH, ETC and Expanse. Source: Investoon.com

According to 2Miners’ calculations, Antminer E3 should terminate Ethereum mining roughly on April 8, 2020. According to the mining pool, the current Ethereum Classic mining epoch is 328 while it is still 318 for Ethereum. According to the DAG size calculator data, the DAG size for Ethereum accounts for 3.48 GB, while the one for Ethereum Classic amounts to 3.56 GB at press time.

Released by Chinese mining giant Bitmain in April 2018, Antminer E3 was touted as the “world's most powerful and efficient EtHash ASIC miner.” As reported previously, Ethash is the Proof-of-Work (PoW) hashing algorithm used by Ethereum and a variety of other altcoins such as ETC. The release of Antminer E3 came amid the Ethereum community suggesting the possibility of a hard fork in the ETH protocol to invalidate ETH ASICs.

As the Ethereum blockchain is expected to shift from its current PoW consensus algorithm to PoS soon, the block validation function is poised to be given from miners to special network validators. In an interview with Cointelegraph on Feb. 19, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin said that the first phase of Ethereum 2.0 will be released later in 2020.

CULedger’s DLT-Based Credit Union Platform Is Commercially Live

CULedger, a fintech firm coordinated by the Credit Union National Association, has commercially launched its blockchain identity platform.

As the United States continues to actively embrace blockchain, more new blockchain-powered products supported by national organizations continue to mature.

CULedger, a major fintech firm coordinated by an American national trade association, has commercially launched its blockchain identity platform.

Formerly known as MyCUID, CULedger’s blockchain-based identity verification solution MemberPass is now commercially available after a successful pilot in late 2019, CULedger announced on Feb. 21.

Credit union members can use safe blockchain-based ecosystem to protect their privacy

As a major credit union service organization (CUSO), CULedger aims to provide a trusted peer-to-peer services network of verifiable exchange for financial cooperatives. A credit union is a non-profit organization that exists to serve their members. Similarly to banks, credit unions accept deposits, make loans and provide a wide array of other financial services.

In order to improve cybersecurity for members within its ecosystem, mitigate fraud risks for credit unions as well as reduce operational costs, CULedger has been actively exploring and applying blockchain tech. As such, CULedger’s MemberPass tool is designed to authenticate transactions between credit unions through implementation of distributed ledger technology. Claimed to be the first Know Your Customer-backed digital credential, the product allows network members to control their identity, getting a standardized way to verify themselves to their credit unions.

Three more credit unions join CULedger’s MemberPass

In conjunction with the commercial launch of MemberPass, the pilot program has also added three more credit unions. According to the latest announcement, the platform was recently joined by Achieva Credit Union, HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union and Eagle Express Federal Credit Union. The program currently counts 11 credit union organizations so far in various stages of deployment, the CUSO said.

John Ainsworth, president and CEO of CULedger, outlined that MemberPass was designed to truly address “core privacy issues” in the industry. According to the exec, the “sense of security” has disappeared from financial services, which boosts the demands of solutions like MemberPass. Ainsworth said:

“Our previous pilots have showcased the need in the industry and how members can benefit from heightened security. Allowing members to have control of their information provides a sense of security that has slowly disappeared from financial services and is becoming increasingly important in this new digital age.”

CULedger’s founding was coordinated by the Credit Union National Association

In mid-December 2019, CULedger successfully completed a MemberPass pilot project involving other three credit unions such as Unify Financial Credit Union, Desert Financial Credit Union and TruWest Credit Union. The company has made a number of partnerships with major global firms in order to streamline its blockchain expertise. In March 2019, CULedger partnered with tech giant IBM to further develop its credit union blockchain solutions after previously joining enterprise software firm R3’s global blockchain ecosystem in late 2018.

According to official reports, CULedger’s founding was coordinated by major national trade association, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), alongside the Mountain West Credit Union Association and Best Innovation Group. The organization has been supporting the development blockchain technology as well as participated in major Senate hearings regarding digital currencies. As such, CUNA was engaged with a Senate Banking Committee hearing in July 2019, titled “Examining Regulatory Frameworks for Digital Currency and Blockchain.”

Tron CEO: Bitcoin to Break $100K in 2025 and Pull Up Other Coins

Justin Sun, the founder and CEO of Tron, the 15th biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, is investing in a number of cryptos other than Bitcoin.

Justin Sun, the founder and CEO of Tron (TRX), the 15th biggest cryptocurrency by market cap, is investing in a number of cryptos other than Bitcoin (BTC).

In a Feb. 23 interview with CNN, Tron CEO said that he is a long-term believer in cryptocurrencies and owns a stake in many altcoins, including the two largest coins after Bitcoin — Ether (ETH) and XRP.

Tron CEO predicts that Bitcoin will cross $100,000 mark in 2025

When asked whether Sun has its crypto portfolio diversified, the Tron CEO answered:

“I own a lot of XRP and Ethereum, too. I’m like a long-term believer of the crypto so I want all crypto assets to succeed. So that’s why I own a lot of other different cryptos as well.

As a major believer in crypto, Sun is bullish on the price of cryptocurrencies and confident that cryptos like Bitcoin are the future of money. In the interview, Tron CEO predicted that Bitcoin will cross $100,000 mark in 2025, emphasizing that other cryptocurrencies will follow the trend.

Justin Sun’s $100,000 Bitcoin prediction in his own words:

“I definitely believe Bitcoin will pass $100K in 2025. I believe we can achieve this price before 2025. At the same time, I think a lot of other crypto projects like Tron, Ethereum and XRP will also see bull market.”

Tron CEO only uses fiat money in daily life

In line with his bullish stance on crypto, Tron’s Justin Sun claimed in the interview that he invests all of his money to crypto. However, Sun still converts his crypto in fiat currencies like the United States dollar. In the interview, Tron CEO said that he only withdraws crypto to fiat when he needs to spend money in his daily life.

Justin Sun says Warren Buffett is “very open” to blockchain and crypto

The news comes about a month after Sun had his charity lunch with Berkshire Hathaway chairman and known Bitcoin critic Warren Buffett. On Jan. 23, Tron CEO met with Buffett to finally have a long-awaited luncheon after postponing the event for medical reasons previously in 2019.

In the latest interview, Tron CEO revealed that he didn’t exactly try to convince the famous billionaire investor that crypto will massively surge in the coming years. Instead, Justin Sun was trying to explain some crypto potentials to Buffett as he wanted him to understand basic fundamentals of blockchain and crypto such as instant crypto transactions.

Buffet eventually slams crypto again

Tron CEO also outlined that Buffett was “very open” to new technologies like crypto and blockchain, noting that the the known investor accepted Bitcoin and TRX from him. However, Buffett has claimed that he doesn’t own any cryptocurrency and doesn’t plan to invest in any crypto in a Feb. 24 interview with CNBC. In the interview, the billionaire investor reiterated his negative stance on crypto, arguing that cryptos have “zero” value and don’t produce anything.

In another CNBC interview in 2018, Buffet predicted that crypto will come to a “bad ending,” declaring that Bitcoin is "probably rat poison squared.”

Cointelegraph reached out to the Tron team for additional comments on the matter and will update if we hear back.

New Italian Fintech Startup Bitsa Adds XMR Support to Its Prepaid Card

Italy’s new crypto-powered debit card supplier Bitsa lets users spend privacy-focused altcoin Monero on its prepaid cards.

Italy’s new crypto-powered debit card supplier Bitsa has just expanded its prepaid card with major privacy-focused altcoin Monero (XMR).

By enabling Monero support on its Bitsa Card, the company unclocks “all types” of XMR-based card transactions in physical stores and online, including card-to-card transfers and Monero conversion to euro (EUR), Bitsa announced on Feb. 21.

Launched in Q3 2019, Bitsa Card supports a total of 12 cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) alongside EUR bank transfers and payments so far, Bitsa CEO Luis Vaello said in an email to Cointelegraph.

Bitsa Card is one of the world’s first crypto card providers to unlock Monero

As suggested by some online users, Bitsa Card might be the first prepaid crypto card to have enabled privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Monero. The addition of the altcoin comes in line with the company's mission to enable more funding methods, according to the CEO. Vaello said:

“We do not know 100% if we are the first card to support Monero, but we are definitely ones of the first and at least the only one fully functional.  Our idea is to make Bitsa recharged with as many funding methods as possible.”

In the announcement, Bitsa emphasized that Monero’s transactions are not traceable due to its anonymous nature:

“While the vast majority of cryptocurrency transactions are verifiable and traceable by anyone, the addresses (sender and receiver) and the amounts sent are hidden in Monero. Therefore, since there is no trace due to its high privacy, it is impossible to distinguish these tokens.”

Bitsa CEO says that Bitsa is not subject to any specific regulation

Headquartered in Monaco, Bitsa provides both a card and full electronic account, allowing its users to transfer funds and pay for services in countries in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). Since the launch, Bitsa Card issued about 30,000 prepaid cards, expecting to have more than 150,000 users in 2020, the executive noted.

Asked by Cointelegraph about how Bitsa is regulated, the firm’s CEO Vaello answered that “there is no specific regulation or license for prepaid electronic accounts such as Bitsa.”

Vaello, who is also CEO of a similar Spanish financial service, Bitnovo, noted that Bitsa is operating in compliance with major European laws like the European Union’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), which came into effect in January 2019.

However, Vaello pointed out that some countries like Spain haven’t adopted the new law so far, noting that it will take a long time to bring it fully into force. The executive said:

“All countries should have transposed the directive by Jan. 10, 2020. Unfortunately this has not happened in countries like Spain where there are big industry players like Bitnovo selling cryptocurrency gift cards in thousands of stores. Regulation is not fast in every country. Nevertheless companies like Bitsa, Bitnovo and many other exchanges are fully prepared and compliant.”

In November, Bitsa rolled out Bitsa Young, a prepaid Visa card that allows Spanish teenagers between 14 and 17 years old to conduct major operations like online purchases, ATM cash withdrawals without being associated with a bank account.

On Feb. 19, major United States-based crypto firm Coinbase officially became a Visa member, which enabled the firm to issue debit cards without relying on third parties.

First Ukrainian Bitcoin Exchange Launches Hryvnia-Pegged Stablecoin UAX

Ukrainian cryptocurrency exchange Kuna has launched a hryvnia-pegged stablecoin, UAX for open beta testing.

In an apparent first, Ukrainian cryptocurrency exchange Kuna has released a stablecoin pegged to local fiat currency, the Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH).

Dubbed UAX token, the new stablecoin is pegged to the hryvnia on a 1:1 ratio and is based on the Ethereum blockchain, according to an official announcement by Kuna exchange on Feb. 20.

According to Kuna, UAX is now being tested by select Kuna users in an open beta that will last until March 20, 2020. The aim of the first phase of UAX implementation is to integrate with market players, technical testing on decentralized finance platforms as well as research into the “latest economic theory,” the firm said.

UAX s will be publicly presented by Kuna founder Michael Chobanian at local industry conference BlockchainUa 2020 in March.

First Ukrainian stablecoin launches amid the alleged regulatory uncertainty

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Chobanian confirmed the company’s position that Kuna is the first entity to launch a hryvnia-based stablecoin. However, Kuna's founder mentioned that Ukraine's central bank piloted its national digital currency, the e-hryvnia, in February 2019. According to Chobanian, the e-hryvnia project hadn't got much further than research though. “There also was a pilot by the national Bank of Ukraine but only as a research,” the founder said to Cointelegraph.

Asked about regulation terms of the new stablecoin, Chobanian outlined that there’s no relevant regulation in Ukraine so far, adding that Kuna will be using its own infrastructure for regulatory oversight for now. He said:

“So far there is no regulation. But we are the drivers of the process in the country. So at some time in the future there will be laws that will clarify the process. At the moment we use Kuna's infrastructure. Once the law will be in place we will separate Kuna from the stablecoin operator xreserve.fund.”

As reported by Cointelegraph, the Ukranian government approved the final version of a money laundering law that will handle virtual assets and virtual asset service providers in late 2019.

Chobanian backed the first 1,000,000 UAX emission

As the new stablecoin is based on the Ethereum blockchain, UAX will support major Ethereum token standards such as ERC20 and ERC865. The first UAX emission comprises one million tokens, Kuna noted. At press time, the amount of one million Ukrainian hryvnias is worth about $40,000.

In order to ensure the 1:1 peg to the Ukrainian fiat currency, Kuna exchange is planning to implement an audit method known as Proof-of-Reserve. Practiced by major global crypto exchanges like United States-based Kraken, a Proof-of-Reserve scheme intends to provide an independent, cryptographically-verified audit to ensure that companies hold full reserves of customer funds.

UAX was first mentioned by Kuna exchange on its Telegram channel back in March 2019. On March 1, 2019, the exchange first announced the launch of UAX website, noting that the project was coming through a private test.

Launched in March 2014, Kuna exchange became the first Bitcoin exchange platform in Ukraine. The exchange’s founder, Michael Chobanian, is also head of Ukraine’s major industry association, Bitcoin Foundation Ukraine. After joining the association in April 2014, Chobanian became president of Bitcoin Foundation Ukraine in May 2018.

Canadian E-Commerce Giant Shopify Joins Libra Association

E-commerce giant Shopify has joined the Libra Association, a network of founding members supporting Facebook's stablecoin project, Libra.

E-commerce giant Shopify has joined the Libra Association, a network of founding members supporting Facebook's stablecoin project Libra.

Shopify, a major Canada-based digital commerce platform hosting more than one million merchants, will be collaborating on the establishment of a global payment network within the Libra Association, the firm officially announced on Feb. 21.

The Libra Foundation has confirmed the news in a Facebook post, outlining that Shopify would be an “incredible partner in making widespread economic participation a reality.”

Shopify believes that traditional financial system wasn’t built for Internet commerce

In the announcement, Shopify claimed that its action to join the network comes in line with the company’s desire to tackle the unsolved problem of cross-border payments. According to the company, “much of the world’s financial infrastructure was not built to handle the scale and needs of internet commerce.”

Shopify further emphasized that as a major global e-commerce platform, the company should challenge existing standards in the global payment system in order to bring “transparent fees and easy access to capital,” while ensuring the security and privacy of merchants.

Shopify said:

“Our mission is to make commerce better for everyone and to do that, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to make commerce better in parts of the world where money and banking could be far better. That’s why we decided to become a member of the Libra Association. This is one step, but not the only step we’ll be taking to be a part of the solution to this global problem.”

Shopify’s entrance to the Libra Association comes after a series of departures from the group by major global firms, which many associated with increased concerns of global regulators. 

Cointelegraph asked both the Libra Association and Shopify about the potential implications of the new addition to Libra’s founding group but did not receive an immediate response. This article will be updated if new comments come in.

Many months of Libra

Officially released in June 2019, Libra has not only become subject of intensified regulatory concern over the globe but also turned out to be a major trigger for the world to start reconsidering the United States dollar as anchor currency. Some global banks admitted that Facebook’s Libra pushed central banks to seriously look into digital currency initiatives like central bank digital currencies.

However, a number of big companies like Visa, EBay, Stripe and Mastercard decided to leave the Libra Foundation amid the regulatory uncertainty behind the project, which originally received support from dozens of major companies. As Facebook originally prospected, the Libra Foundation should have around 100 members by the time of Libra’s launch in the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, existing uncertainty over Libra has been increasing even more with the European Union recently claiming that it still cannot figure out what to do about Libra. Previously, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself declared that he didn’t know whether Libra would eventually work.

Binance Is Not Authorized to Operate in Malta, Financial Regulator Says

Binance is not allowed to operate crypto in Malta because it does not hold a license from the Malta Financial Services Authority, the regulator says.

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) claims that it has never approved major cryptocurrency exchange Binance to operate in the country.

On Feb. 21, the MFSA issued a public statement, stating that Binance “is not authorized by the MFSA to operate in the crypto currency sphere.” The agency outlined that recent media reports referred to Binance incorrectly as a “Malta-based cryptocurrency firm,” while the exchange “may not fall within the realm of regulatory oversight.”

While major local publications like Malta Today have been referring to Binance as a Malta-regulated crypto business, the MFSA has apparently made a similar statement before, claiming:

“Following a report in a section of the media referring to Binance as a ‘Malta-based cryptocurrency’ company, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) reiterates that Binance is not authorized by the MFSA to operate in the crypto currency sphere and is therefore not subject to regulatory oversight by the MFSA.”

The MFSA further emphasized that operating a crypto-related business in the country requires an MFSA licence under the Virtual Financial Assets Act of 2018.

Cointelegraph reached out Binance for comment but did not receive an immediate response. This story will be updated should they respond.

As reported by Cointelegraph, Binance announced it was opening an office in Malta in 2018 after pressure from Japanese regulators forced it to relocate. At the time, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) said that he was invited to Malta by the government in order to look at an upcoming bill that would be favorable to crypto businesses.

In September 2018, a fintech arm of the Malta Stock Exchange signed a memorandum of understanding with Binance to jointly launch a new security token digital exchange.

Where in the world is Binance?

The question of where Binance is formally located is not new. Late last year, reports of a police raid on supposed Binance offices in China sent crypto markets into a spiral. Binance subsequently denied the reports, stating:

“The Binance team is a global movement consisting of people working in a decentralized manner wherever they are in the world. Binance has no fixed offices in Shanghai or China, so it makes no sense that police raided on any offices and shut them down.”

Indeed, Changpeng Zhao, the firm’s CEO, has previously criticized the very idea of centralized offices and headquarters, tweeting, “Office and HQ are old concepts like SMS and MMS. Time is moving on…”

The news follows an unexpected technical issue on Binance platform reported on Feb. 19. As announced by the exchange, Binance suspended most of its trading activities due to unscheduled maintenance.

Riot’s Stock Dips 5% as It Focuses on Bitcoin Mining Ahead of Halving

Riot Blockchain has opted to sell its new crypto exchange RiotX to focus on Bitcoin mining before halvening.

Riot Blockchain, a Nasdaq-listed crypto firm in the United States, plans to sell its exchange to focus on Bitcoin (BTC) mining ahead of the halving.

According to an official announcement on Feb. 20, Riot has “opted to sunset further development of Riot's U.S.-based digital currency exchange” in order to focus on cryptocurrency mining as part of its updated strategic priorities for 2020.

Following the announcement to shift its focus on Bitcoin mining, the company’s shares dropped more than 5%, trading at $1.40 at press time, according to CNBC data.

Industry experts disagree on the potential price impact of May 2020 Bitcoin halving — an event which will decrease block rewards on the Bitcoin blockchain. Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of major crypto exchange Binance, recently predicted that, since miners will have to spend twice as much to mine a single coin, the price of Bitcoin could increase significantly. 

Riot cites the U.S. regulatory landscape as a factor for closing 

Known as RiotX exchange, Riot’s crypto exchange business was purportedly launched in the second quarter 2019, following the company’s filing with the United States Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC). 

Riot said that its decision to close the newly launched exchange was caused by a number of factors, including the “evolving regulatory environment.” Riot wrote:

“Riot considered a number of factors when evaluating the RiotX decision including, but not limited to, the evolving regulatory environment, cybersecurity risks, and the current competitive landscape facing U.S. based cryptocurrency exchanges. Riot is considering opportunities to divest the limited assets associated with the RiotX in the best interest of the Company and its stockholders.”

Riot Blockchain has been concentrated on crypto mining operations and investing in blockchain technologies since 2017. Providing mining facilities for major cryptos like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Litecoin (LTC), Riot has now reinforced its confidence in Bitcoin by focusing on BTC mining and pursuing opportunities more directly related to BTC mining, the announcement states.

As reported by Cointelegraph, Riot Blockchain is a former biotech firm that opted to change its name to include the word “blockchain” in 2017, subsequently seeing its shares skyrocket from $8 to over $40. The spike in share price subsequently brought Riot under the SEC’s spotlight in 2018.

United Nations Is Among New Entrants in Forbes’ 2nd Blockchain 50 List

Forbes’ newly released Blockchain 50 list members moved from focus on theory to generating “very real revenues and cost savings.”

Newly released Blockchain 50 list by major finance publication Forbes features some new entrants like major international association, the United Nations.

Shortly after including six blockchain-focused firms into its Fintech 50 list last week, Forbes has released another compilation of 50 global enterprises actively embracing blockchain technology.

Newcomers include the United Nations, China Construction Bank, Square and others

Published on Feb. 19, the new Forbes’ Blockchain 50 list is the second release of its annual Blockchain 50, which was first introduced in April 2019. Similarly to last year’s edition, the new compilation includes industry giants like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan, Google, as well as cryptocurrency-focused firms like Bitfury, Coinbase and Ripple.

At the same time, about half of the firms on the list are newcomers, including the UN, the world’s second-largest bank China Construction Bank, Russia’s National Settlement Depository, and Square, a mobile payment company founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

As reported by Cointelegraph, UN secretary-general António Guterres declared last year that the organization must embrace blockchain technology. The official said:

“For the United Nations to deliver better on our mandate in the digital age, we need to embrace technologies like blockchain that can help accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.”

Forbes believes that Blockchain 50 members moved from focusing on theory to generating real revenues

According to Forbes, this year’s members have significantly moved beyond the theoretical potential of blockchain technology to generating “very real revenues and cost savings.” As such, Amazon’s blockchain product, Amazon Web Services, was implemented by major global food and beverage company Nestlé to launch a new coffee brand known as Chain of Origin, Forbes noted.

Michael del Castillo, Forbes staff writer who covered the first Forbes’ Blockchain 50 list in April 2019, outlined that blockchain has enabled big global firms to process complex tasks in a much easier way. He said:

"Blockchain started as a way to move bitcoin from point A to point B but it is now being used by a host of big companies to monitor and move any number of assets around the world as easily as sending an email.”

In conjunction with announcing the new Blockchain 50 list, Forbes also announced that it will be hosting its first Blockchain 50 to honor the newest 2020 list members in March 2020.

On Feb. 12, Forbes released its Fintech 50 list, featuring the “most innovative fintech companies” in 2020. As reported by Cointelegraph, the list included six blockchain companies such as Axoni, Chainalysis, Coinbase, Everledger, MakerDao and Ripple alongside payment-focused firms like Plaid, Opendoor and Lemonade. In mid-January 2020, Plaid was acquired by payment giant Visa for $5.3 million.

Paxos’ DLT Settlement Platform Is Live With Credit Suisse and Instinet

Paxos, a New York-regulated financial firm and the issuer of Paxos Standard stablecoin, has launched its blockchain-based settlement platform with Credit Suisse and Instinet.

Paxos, a New York-regulated financial firm and the issuer of a USD-pegged stablecoin, has launched its blockchain-based settlement platform.

After announcing Paxos Settlement Service in late 2019, Paxos Trust Company has launched the product to settle select United States-listed equity trades between the two broker-dealers, Swiss financial services firm Credit Suisse and Nomura Group-owned Instinet, according to a Feb. 20 announcement.

Paxos to apply with the SEC for clearing agency registration later in 2020

As reported, Paxos Settlement Service is being launched under no-action relief from the U.S. major financial regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The no-action relief means that the agency will take no action against Paxos when the firm starts to roll out its settlement platform.

However, Paxos still plans to submit its application for clearing agency registration with the SEC in 2020 in order to offer its settlement service to all broker-dealers, the announcement notes.

Société Générale to join Paxos Settlement Service soon

Paxos Settlement Service is a private, permissioned blockchain tool that is designed to allow participants to mutually settle securities trades directly with each other. In its first live application with Credit Suisse and Instinet, the service enables the simultaneous exchange of cash and securities to settle trades. The third member, French conglomerate Société Générale, is also set to soon start settling U.S.-listed equities trades with Paxos Settlement Service.

Executives at the joint initiative expressed confidence that the newly launched platform will provide more efficiency and long-term cost benefits in the process of global securities settlement and global trade. Emmanuel Aidoo, head of digital asset markets at Credit Suisse, emphasized that Paxos platform is compliant with relevant regulations:

"The initiative has the potential to deliver great efficiency and cost savings to the post-trade cycle. Paxos Settlement Service introduces blockchain technology that's compliant with regulations and allows us to take important strides towards evolving market structure and unlocking capital that is tied up in legacy settlement processes."

Paxos has been supported by multiple major regulators in the U.S. so far. Following approval by the New York Department of Financial Services, the company launched a USD-backed stablecoin dubbed Paxos Standard (PAX) back in 2018. One year later, Paxos launched a gold-backed token based on the Ethereum blockchain, called PAX Gold (PAXG). As reported, the New York State Department of Financial Services approved the altcoin’s issuance, describing it as the “first gold-backed virtual currency in New York state.”

Australian Stock Exchange Has New Blockchain Equity Competitor

The operator of the National Stock Exchange of Australia is working on a joint blockchain-based project to enable same-day settlements.

NSX Limited, the operator of the National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSXA), is working on a joint blockchain-based project to enable same-day settlements.

According to a Feb. 20 announcement, NSX has partnered with iSignthis (ISX), a publicly listed firm specializing in payment authentication services, to establish a new venture that would provide “multicurrency, real-time and same day clearing of share trades across multiple exchanges.”

CHESS system will meet new competitor, DESS

Dubbed ClearPay, the new venture will develop a delivery versus payment (DvP) platform that is designed to replace the existing system of clearing and settlement process offered by current traditional domestic and foreign stock exchanges.

Using distributed ledger technology, ClearPay is expected to cut settlement processing time from three days to same-day or early the next day. Additionally, the development will also incorporate an open blockchain-based sub-registry system.

According to the official announcement, ClearPay’s blockchain-based Digital Exchange Subregister System (DESS) will essentially be competing with Australia’s first-ever blockchain sub-registry platform, known as the Clearing House Electronic Subregister System, or CHESS. Initiated back in 2017 by the Australian Security Exchange, CHESS has apparently become a subject of concern due to its monopoly in the market.

ISignthis to provide its KYC expertise for ClearPay

While NSX will initially invest $3.2 million for a 41% stake in ClearPay, iSignthis will hold an initial 59% interest. As part of the collaboration, iSignthis will contribute intellectual property, while its subsidiary Probanx Solutions will design the DvP platform for a fee, including the integration into Paydentity and ISXPay platforms.

John Karantzis, managing director and CEO at ISX, who will also act as CEO of ClearPay, elaborated that iSignthis will contribute its payment and Know Your Customer (KYC) services as its main area of expertise. Karantzis also emphasized that the new venture will bring competition to the Australian market:

“It’s very exciting for us that the ClearPay JV will bring genuine competition to the Australian cash equities eco-system. iSignthis brings an inherent high technology capability to the NSXA, including its extensive payments and KYC services, ISXPay and Paydentity.”

ClearPay’s regulation terms

Additionally, the DvP platform will be initially operating under DvP model 1, a securities settlement mechanism provided by Bank of International Settlements. ClearPay will not seek a Clearing and Settlement Facility Licence because the products NSXA offers for ClearPay will be subject to counterparty identification and verification via Paydentity, with a public order and settlement book creating the so-called “Lit Exchange.”

As reported by Cointelegraph in October 2019, the Australian subsidiary of market operator Chi-X asked the country’s competition regulator to look into the implications of the Australian Securities Exchange’s CHESS system for trading activities.

The news comes after the Australian government launched its national blockchain strategy on Feb. 7, following about a year of preparations.

Israeli Banks Should Not Deny Services to Crypto Firms: Attorney General

Israeli banks should not deny services to firms involved with cryptocurrencies, according to Israel's attorney general Avichai Mandelblit.

Israeli banks should not deny services to firms involved with cryptocurrencies, according to Israel's attorney general Avichai Mandelblit.

Instead of halting financial services for all crypto firms, banks should closely examine each case for indicators of money laundering risks or other illicit financial practices, Mandelblit told the Tel Aviv District Court.

Mandelblit’s stance purportedly opposed to a position by Israeli central bank

Mandelblit’s stance — reported by Israeli news agency Globes on Feb. 19. —  is in opposition to the view of the country’s central bank, the Bank of Israel.

During 2019 a number of Israeli banks froze the accounts of customers receiving transfers derived from crypto. As reported by Cointelegraph, the action meant some Israeli Bitcoin (BTC) investors were unable to pay their taxes because banks would not accept their deposits.

In August 2019, an investor sued Israeli Bank Hapoalim for nearly $23 million, accusing it of refusing to accept deposits of profits earned through Bitcoin.

It’s a similar story in other parts of the world. The Internet and Mobile Association of India is currently fighting against the country’s central bank’s prohibitions against the provision of financial services to crypto firms.

A number of state agencies allegedly supports Mandelblit

Mandelblit's position was filed in a case involving Mercantile Discount Bank’s refusal to authorize a transfer from local crypto exchange BIT2C. According to Globes, the AG’s stance was based on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial team headed by Erez Kaminitz, deputy attorney general at the Civil Law Department.

The team includes representatives from a number of state agencies and departments such as the Ministry of Justice, the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, the Israel Capital Markets, Insurance, and Savings Authority, and others.

Despite the stance of Israeli banks, the government of Israel has been looking closely at blockchain technology. Last month the Israeli Securities Authority issued an information request to identify regulations that are preventing the development of blockchain-based ventures in the country.

Bitcoin-Only Exchange Coinfloor Now Focuses on Consumer BTC Services

After turning into a Bitcoin-only exchange, the United Kingdom’s oldest crypto exchange Coinfloor is now expanding its consumer BTC services.

While the crypto community is talking about “altcoin season,” one of the world’s oldest crypto exchanges is calling BS on everything that is not BTC.

After turning into a Bitcoin (BTC)-only exchange, the United Kingdom’s oldest cryptocurrency exchange Coinfloor is now expanding its consumer BTC services.

Focused on Bitcoin, the world’s first ever cryptocurrency, Coinfloor is launching a range of new consumer-oriented investing and trading services in order to make Bitcoin easy for everyone, the firm said in an announcement shared with Cointelegraph on Feb. 19.

Coinfloor wants to reduce stress of buying Bitcoin

As part of its “no BS” approach to crypto, Coinfloor is starting to launch its new set of services today with the “No BS Education” guide. The new educational section on Coinfloor website is intended to provide free access to provide simple and trusted knowledge about cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin such as on how to buy crypto and choose a crypto exchange.

Coinfloor’s No BS Education guide outlines that Bitcoin is the “most powerful form of money ever made” as well as the “best cryptocurrency for retail investors and traders” despite still not being perfect in terms of usability for everyday transactions. On the other hand, the guide notes that investing in altcoins — other cryptocurrencies than Bitcoin — “has historically been more risky than Bitcoin.”

Obi Nwosu, CEO and founder of Coinfloor, emphasized that many crypto exchanges provide confusing or even dishonest services in order to benefit from beginners in the industry. According to the executive, the new crypto guide will help new Bitcoin adopters to learn the most proper information about the industry. Nwosu said:

“Too many of our peers provide questionable, complicated and dishonest services to try and exploit novice consumers. [...] It’s just as important to honestly educate people about crypto in clear language and reduce the complexity that’s prevented widespread adoption and stopped Bitcoin from fulfilling its incredible potential.”

Reducing min deposit amount from $1,300 to about $300

Coinfloor’s other new services include auto buying Bitcoin service and multi-signature bitcoin custody. According to the announcement, Coinfloor’s Auto Buy option will be launched in March 2020.

Nwosu noted in an email to Cointelegraph that both No BS Education and Auto Buy were developed by Coinfloor’s internal team. Outlining Coinfloor’s ambitious status of the longest-running crypto exchange, Nwosu continued:

“With nearly 6 years worth of Bitcoin Audits, no one comes close to our level of experience in transparently proving our solvency to our exchange clients. Also, our Bitcoin only decision, experience running an exchange since 2013, and our track record rolling out products like physically delivered futures over the years, gives us the experience needed to provide our Auto Buy service.”

As part of Coinfloor’s call to provide more accessible Bitcoin services, Coinfloor has also reduced minimum deposit for its professional trader customers from 1,000 British pounds ($1,300) to 250 pounds ($325).

The London-based is “preemptively compliant” with crypto regulation

As Coinfloor is a major crypto exchange based in the U.K., the platform is apparently subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that strengthened its anti-money-laundering (AML) control in January 2020. According to Nwosu, FCA’s increased AML procedures don’t raise any concerns for the exchange as Coinfloor positions itself as “preemptively compliant.”

Nwosu, who previously participated in a select committee on crypto regulation in the U.K., said:

“As Coinfloor has always sought to be preemptively compliant, the introduction of crypto specific regulation is a benefit to us as it provides clarity to our clients, suppliers, and ourselves. We do believe that it may be difficult for some of the smaller established companies in the space to meet the regulatory requirements and have shared these concerns with the FCA in the past.”

Coinfloor announced its intention to delist all cryptocurrencies but Bitcoin in December 2019, promising the public that the exchange will become a Bitcoin-only exchange in January 2020. As of press time, Coinfloor’s average daily trading volume accounts for $1.4 million or about 138 Bitcoin, according to data from Coin360. According to Coingecko, Coinfloor now indeed supports only Bitcoin, with just two trading pairs, BTC/GBP and BTC/EUR.

Dubai Gov’t to Launch KYC Blockchain Consortium in Q1 2020

The Department of Economic Development of Dubai has established a KYC blockchain consortium with six major banks.

One of the financial hubs of the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is continuing to expand blockchain-driven developments.

The Department of Economic Development (DED) of Dubai has established a Know Your Customer (KYC) blockchain consortium with six major banks.

Dubbed “KYC Blockchain Consortium,” the new blockchain-powered regulatory platform is designed to accelerate processes like exchange of digital customer data and documents while ensuring security. The project also intends to bring a unified platform of KYC efforts among existing and future ecosystem members like qualified financial institutions and licensing authorities.

UAE’s first KYC blockchain platform to launch in Q1 2020

According to a Feb. 19 report by Dubai-based publication Gulf News, the six banks involved in the effort include Dubai government-owned bank Emirates NBD, HSBC, Emirates Islamic, RAKBank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Commercial Bank of Dubai.

Scheduled for launch in Q1 2020, the KYC Blockchain Consortium will purportedly become the first project of its kind in the region, the report notes.

Ali Ibrahim, Deputy Director General of the DED, outlined that the effort aims to bring more investment to the region:

“Our strategic alliance with banks to launch the first KYC blockchain platform in the UAE is an important step towards continuing to attract investors to this market.”

Additionally, the consortium-powered ecosystem hopes to boost business as well as regulatory compliance in the UAE. According to the report, the UAE Central Bank and Smart Dubai authority will be monitoring operations of the KYC Blockchain Consortium.

The UAE’s newly reported blockchain comes in line with the general growth of blockchain spending in the region. As recently reported by Cointelegraph, governments across the Middle East and Africa region are projected to see at least a 400% surge in their investment to blockchain-based solutions in four years.

In October 2019, the UAE accepted cryptocurrency regulation after releasing the draft law for public comment. As reported, the UAE has taken a very positive stance to the crypto and blockchain industry as the country is already hosting a number of blockchain-based initiatives such as digitized trade project the “Digital Silk Road” and the document exchange platform known as the "Bank Trust Network.”

CFTC Letter Provides Little Clarity in Telegram’s Battle With SEC

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has weighed in on the SEC vs Telegram case, but has not provided much clarity regarding Gram’s purported status as a commodity.

Another United States regulatory agency has weighed in on Telegram’s ongoing legal battle with the Securities Exchange Commission.

Following a request by the New York Southern District Court, a division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has filed a letter with the court on Feb. 18, expressing its views on the complicated case involving Telegram’s digital currency Gram.

CFTC says digital currency is a commodity

According to the letter, the CFTC’s stance on the case is “relatively straightforward” and stipulates that a “digital currency is a commodity.” Submitted by the CFTC’s Office of General Counsel, the letter represents the views of the division, and not not necessarily of the CFTC itself or of any individual Commissioner.

In the document, the CFTC states that Telegram itself argues that Grams should be a considered a commodity instead of a security:

“We understand that the defendant, Telegram Group, Inc., argues that its planned digital currency, the ‘Gram,’ will be a commodity and not a security, and therefore not subject to registration under the Securities Act of 1933 (“’33 Act”).”

However, the CFTC also states that, while it considers digital assets to be a commodity, the Commodity Exchange Act provides that many securities are commodities to which security laws apply, concluding:

“Thus, any given digital asset may or may not be subject to the securities laws, but that does not depend on whether the asset is a commodity. It depends on whether the asset is a ‘security’ within the meaning of the ’33 Act itself.”

As such, the agency has preferred to avoid making an explicit conclusion regarding Telegram’s Gram tokens, noting that CFTC has “no view” on the question.

The CFTC’s comments came just a day before an important hearing in the SEC vs Telegram case. On Feb. 19, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel of Manhattan will hear competing motions for summary judgment in the case, as reported by Reuters.

As reported, the question of whether a token sale constitutes an investment contract — and therefore a securities offering — has been the core of the ongoing battle between the SEC and Telegram, which started when the agency filed the action against Telegram in October 2019. While Telegram has been arguing that Grams do not constitute an investment product, the SEC has kept insisting that Telegram’s digital currency is a security and is subject to securities laws.

The court case could get even more confused should a recent token safe harbor proposal by the SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce come into fruition. According to the Feb. 6 proposal, decentralized projects would be granted with a three-year grace period to build a network without fearing SEC legal action.

European Space Agency Funds Blockchain Project Recording Satellite Data

The European Space Agency, a major organization dedicated to space exploration, is funding a new blockchain project to boost the world’s mining industry.

While Bitcoin (BTC) might not be ready for the moon yet, its underlying technology of blockchain is being increasingly adopted in space.

The European Space Agency (ESA), a major intergovernmental organization dedicated to space exploration, is funding a new blockchain project aiming to boost the world’s mining industry.

A known contributor to blockchain technology applications, the ESA has now co-funded a joint project with Scottish startup Hypervine to improve data transparency for the mining industry by combining satellite data and blockchain. The news was reported by oil and gas-oriented publication Oil & Gas Middle East.

Preventing potentially fatal accidents in mining work

The project has the ambitious mission of preventing miscalculations and potentially catastrophic or fatal accidents in the mining industry by providing a unified and immutable database of mining data. The project is based on Hypervine’s technology, which enables mining teams and their subsidiaries to clearly record data on an unchangeable ledger, eliminating the risk of the smallest data alterations being magnified down a chain.

Specifically, the initiative aims to record satellite-sourced information on a distributed ledger to provide mining firms with a trusted and coordinated source of data, replacing paper-based sources that need to be cross-checked by multiple teams in different locations. As mining companies may spend months in order to obtain the right data from often-fragmented sources, the blockchain-powered satellite database project is also designed to cut costs of the mining industry.

Positive environmental projection

Finally, apart from boosting accuracy and reducing human error and potential risks, the ESA-supported project will also positively impact environmental conditions by reducing carbon emissions powered by operational efficiencies.

Beatrice Barresi, technical officer at ESA Space Solutions, outlined that the use of satellite-based data for mining is seeing rising investment, while expanding such initiatives with technologies like blockchain is expected to provide better commercial outcomes. Barresi continued:

“It is a core goal of ours to make industries such as quarrying safer, cleaner and more accountable. Working with companies such as Hypervine allows us to achieve these goals whilst improving the standards across multiple industries. It has been great working with Hypervine on this project and we look forward to the next phases to come.”

Cointelegraph contacted both Hypervine and the ESA for additional comments on the initiative and will update if we hear back.

The ESA has been actively exploring the blockchain industry alongside space research. In September 2019, the agency granted blockchain startup SpaceChain about $66,000 to commercially develop a multi-signature satellite wallet. Previously, the ESA issued a white paper on a potential future roadmap for blockchain implementation for Earth observation.

Bank of Korea Seeks to Deploy Blockchain in Bond Market: Report

The Bank of Korea has started a project on building a blockchain-based bond system to enable distribution of bond records.

Global central banks are increasingly looking at blockchain technology as a tool to make interbanking processes more efficient and transparent.

Following the World Bank’s exemplary experience of blockchain bond transactions, South Korea’s central bank is working on its own blockchain-based bonds, Cointelegraph Korea reports Feb. 18.

Bank of Korea started the project in late 2019

According to a report by local publication Yonhap Infomax, the Bank of Korea has been seeking a blockchain services provider in order to build a blockchain bond system that would allow distribution of the bond records among all participants.

The Bank of Korea reportedly launched a Proof of Concept (PoC) project in late 2019 in order to move bond transaction records that are currently maintained by the Korea Securities Depository to a blockchain-powered base of records accessible by multiple nodes.

South Korea’s central bank to evaluate blockchain’s capabilities in speeding up transactions

The blockchain bond project would involve separate nodes operated by South Korea's regulatory authority, the Korea Fair Trade Commission, the Bank of Korea and other financial institutions, the report notes.

A local official reportedly confirmed that the South Korea’s financial authorities have been testing the potential of blockchain in terms of issuing state bonds to record transactions:

“We are using government bonds to record securities and cash transactions in a distributed ledger and test whether a real-time simultaneous payment trading system is possible.”

According to Yonhap Infomax, the Bank of Korea's blockchain research regarding the bond market is being conducted with reference to the purported first-ever blockchain bond transaction handled by the World Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia back in 2018.

As reported by Cointelegraph, the World Bank raised a total of $74 million for its two-year blockchain bond as of August 2019. According to the bank, the bond is the first to be created, allocated, transferred and managed throughout its life cycle using distributed ledger technology.

Regarding the Bank of Korea, South Korea's central bank announced in late 2019 that it will be setting up a dedicated group to research central bank digital currency in 2020.

Celsius Joins Major Cryptocurrency Firms Using Simplex’s Fiat Onramp

Simplex, a major fiat-to-crypto onramp provider servicing exchanges like Binance, will now unlock direct crypto purchases for Celsius app users.

Cryptocurrency businesses worldwide are continuing to integrate fiat onramps into their operations in an effort to make it easier for customers to jump into crypto.

United Kingdom-based cryptocurrency lending startup Celsius Network has launched in-app crypto purchases via a new partnership with Simplex, according to a Feb. 18 announcement. 

Simplex, a popular fiat-to-crypto payments provider servicing major crypto exchanges like Binance, will now unlock direct crypto purchases for Celsius app users.

Celsius clients will now be able to buy cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) via credit or debit cards. Similar to other Simplex-powered fiat onramps, the new feature supports major credit card issuers including Visa and Mastercard.

The U.S. dollar is the only fiat currency accepted at launch

Apart from providing Celsius users with in-app crypto purchases, the new partnership will significantly cut the cost of unloading Bitcoin on the platform. According to Celsius, the addition of Simplex cuts transaction fees by at least 50%, providing crypto purchases through credit cards at a 3.5% fee.

At launch, Celsius will only accept the United States dollar for the new payment option, a company spokesperson said in an email to Cointelegraph. Additionally, the amount of monthly crypto purchases will be limited at $20,000.

Founded in 2014, Simplex has emerged as a major crypto-enabled payment processor. On Feb. 14, Simplex unlocked 15 new fiat currency payment options for Visa and Mastercard purchases on major cryptocurrency exchange Binance. Previously, Simplex provided its services to major fiat-crypto trading platform OKCoin as well as Singapore-based crypto exchange KuCoin.

Total crypt loan origination on the Celsius Network reached $4.25 billion in late 2019.

Bithumb to Get Wall Street-Level Fintech Expertise via New Partnership

Bithumb has partnered with Singaporean crypto trading platform BitMax to jointly develop new services and products.

As not a day goes by without another cryptocurrency partnership, one of the biggest crypto exchanges in South Korea has begun new cooperation.

Major South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb has partnered with Singaporean crypto trading platform BitMax to jointly develop new services and products.

BitMax’s staff includes former experts from Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Gemini

According to a Feb. 17 blog post by Bithumb Official, the two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to bring their forces together to build new services and strengthen their competitiveness in the global market. As part of the MoU, Bithumb and BitMax will be sharing their expertise with one another to actively cooperate in the development of blockchain and crypto-related technologies and infrastructure.

In the announcement, Bithumb emphasized that BitMax’s founding team includes quant trading experts from Wall Street as well as major crypto trading veterans. Founded by George Cao, former chief investment officer of Delpha Capital Management in 2018, BitMax comprises experts from top global financial firms such as Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg and Winklevoss-run crypto exchange Gemini.

BitMax is a major crypto liquidity player

With the new partnership with BitMax, Bithumb hopes to access fintech know-how from Wall Street, the South Korean exchange said. Additionally, the MoU is designed to equip Bithumb with more capabilities in building infrastructure and expanding bases in related industries, the company noted.

Additionally, BitMax is purportedly one of the top 10 global players in terms of cryptocurrency liquidity, Bithumb noted. Liquidity refers to the level of ease at which an asset can be bought or sold.

Cointelegraph has contacted both Bithumb and BitMax for additional comments on the partnership and will update this article if we hear back.

Having suffered at least three crypto hacks as of March 2019, Bithumb is one of the largest global crypto exchanges by daily trading volume, ranked the 8th-biggest exchange on Coin360. In mid-January 2020, Bithumb announced its intention to litigate a $69 million tax bill from South Korea’s National Tax Service.

In September 2019, Cointelegraph reported on the alleged difficulties with payments in a deal to acquire Bithumb exchange. While the deal’s viability remained unclear, unnamed Chinese and American investors were reportedly considering acquiring Bithumb at the time.

Binance Cloud to Allow Users to Launch a Crypto Exchange Within 5 Days

Major global crypto exchange Binance announced the launch of Binance Cloud, an infrastructure solution for crypto exchanges.

Binance’s newly released Binance Cloud platform might be somewhat different from what the crypto industry expects the new feature to be.

After Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) first hinted at the introduction of Binance Cloud on Feb. 8, the new service has been officially released on Feb. 17, targeting users willing to set up crypto exchanges, according to a blog post by Binance.

All-in-one infrastructure for launching a crypto exchange

According to the announcement, Binance Cloud will serve as an all-in-one infrastructure platform for customers and partners to launch digital asset exchanges based on Binance’s industry-leading technology, security, liquidity as well as custodial services. The solution also supports dashboard for managing funds, multilingual functionality, as well as a range of trading pairs and coin listings.

The Binance’s new exchange-specific cloud solution will provide users with a method of setting up a crypto platform in their local markets. Binance Cloud’s features include crypto spot market and futures trading as well as local bank API integrations and peer-to-peer exchange services from fiat to crypto, the announcement notes. In the future, Binance Cloud plans to add more features like staking, over-the-counter trading services as well as token issuance with initial exchange offering platform.

CZ says that Binance Cloud will allow users to launch an exchange within three to five days

Speaking about Binance Cloud in an interview with Cointelegraph, CZ outlined that the new service will particularly target people in regions that are not yet covered by Binance. CZ said that Binance Cloud will allow those people to run their own exchanges in local markets that are far from Binance “both fiscally and also culturally or just knowledge-wise” to date.

The Binance CEO also told Cointelegraph that Binance Cloud would allow any partner to launch an exchange within three to five days in case if “other preparations are in order.” According to the original announcement, the first major digital asset exchange fully powered by Binance Cloud will launch in early March 2020.

Binance Cloud comes in line with Binance’s mission to unlock crypto for everyone

CZ also pointed out that Binance Cloud is the first initiative of its kind, claiming:

“Binance Cloud is a product suite previously missing from the market [...] We are eager to share the quality experience of Binance through different brands, communities, and markets globally.”

Speaking to Cointelegraph, CZ was unsure of who had initially conceived the idea of Binance Cloud, beyond the fact that it was not him. The Binance CEO added that the origin of the idea is not as important as execution. CZ stressed that Binance Cloud aims to enable everyone to access crypto and contribute to global adoption. CZ said:

“We want to enable more of our partners to access crypto, so that other people can do this together with us in enabling people to access crypto. So the concept behind Binance Cloud is that we want to provide a platform where other people can help us enable access to crypto. So that's really the idea behind it.”

The news comes amid a recent report claiming that Binance has applied for a license to operate in Singapore. Originally based in Malta, Binance will now purportedly expand its regulatory compliance by acquiring a license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

On Feb. 16, Cointelegraph published an interview with CZ, in conjunction with the CEO winning the top position in the Cointelegraph’s first-ever Top 100 list.

IOTA Updates Trinity Desktop Wallet to Partly Address Recent Hack

Following a hack of IOTA official wallet on Feb. 12, the IOTA Foundation has released what it is calling a safe desktop version of the Trinity wallet.

Following an apparent hack of IOTA (MIOTA) official wallet on Feb. 12, the IOTA Foundation has released a safe desktop version of the Trinity wallet.

According to a Feb. 17 update post, IOTA should update their Trinity apps to securely check their balances and transactions via Trinity 1.4.1, a new version that is designed to remove the recently detected vulnerability from the wallets.

IOTA’s network coordinator is still paused for an upcoming token migration

Released on Feb. 16, the new version of the wallet doesn’t apparently represent the full solution of the recent breach because the IOTA’s dedicated network Coordinator, is still on hold. According to an update posted on Feb. 16, the Coordinator remains down as the foundation is finalizing their “remediation” plan, making users unable to send value transactions.

According to the latest update, the IOTA Foundation will restart the Coordinator only after users migrate their tokens to safe seeds. The foundation noted that IOTA will release the seed migration tool in “upcoming days,” noting that the action will be another important measure to protect user funds. They wrote:

“By migrating your tokens to new, safe seeds prior to the re-start of the coordinator, you will render the attacker incapable of making unauthorized transfers of your tokens if s/he has not already done so.”

Hack started in late January

In the latest post, IOTA also noted that IOTA’s security team has managed to discover that the hack started on or around Jan. 25, 2020, allegedly targeting only Trinity users on desktop. However, the firm is still recommending that both desktop and mobile users should migrate their tokens to a new seed as soon as the migration tool is released.

The losses in the hack remain undetermined

According to information on the thread, the IOTA Foundation has not yet calculated the sum of the losses caused by the hack. As the firm is still finalizing its remediation plan, it appears to remain unclear how much funds have been lost due to the attack. In a Feb. 14 update, IOTA explicitly noted that some funds have been stolen:

“The stolen funds have been purposely and repeatedly merged and split to obfuscate the investigation [...] Our current assumption is that the perpetrator targeted high value accounts first, before moving on to smaller accounts and then being interrupted early by the halt of the coordinator.”

Additionally, some online users also expressed confidence that the lost funds will be reimbursed. According to some reports, the Trinity desktop wallet may have lost between $300,000 and $1.6 million.

Cointelegraph has asked the IOTA Foundation to provide their evaluations on the amount of lost funds in the hack but did not receive an immediate response. This story will be updated should they respond.

While the IOTA Foundation emphasized that the recent exploit only relates to the Trinity Wallet, and the IOTA core protocol wasn’t breached, some users suggested that the security breach could be attributed to the IOTA Foundation. The Trinity Wallet was officially released by the IOTA Foundation in July 2019, touted as a major improvement to ease-of-use and security for users conducting transactions in IOTA.

The IOTA Foundation, a firm maintaining MIOTA, the 22th biggest crypto asset by market capitalization, has already been known for facing network issues. In late 2019, IOTA users were unable to confirm transactions for 24 hours due to a mainnet incident. Despite the hack news, MIOTA is up nearly 7% over the past 24 hours as of press time, according to Coin360.

Bahamas Digital Dollar to Roll out Across All Islands in H2 2020, Governor Says

The Central Bank of the Bahamas plans to adopt the Bahamian digital dollar pilot in the second half of 2020.

While major industry actors argue that central bank digital currencies (CBDC) are years or decades ahead, the Bahamas plan to adopt a CBDC no later than 2020.

John Rolle, the governor of the Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBOB), has reportedly confirmed that the Bahamian digital dollar initiative will be introduced across all islands in the second half of 2020.

Bahamas has already launched a pilot in the Exuma region

According to a Feb. 13 report by local publication The Tribune, Rolle has presented the plan addressing a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation on the initiative, which is called Project Sand Dollar.

In fact, the Bahamas already rolled out the pilot project on the island of Exuma in December. As such, the CBOB governor declared that the pilot will be extended to the Abaco region, which originally was the first choice for the digital currency pilot. Rolle explained that the CBOB decided to start with Exuma:

“Abaco actually was the first choice for the digital currency pilot. [...] But we felt that what was missing from Abaco was that the financial inclusion, or financial access issue, wasn't as stark in the sense of all of the banks being present. But in terms of ecosystem, it would have been just as rich."

According to the report, the Bahaman central bank is still in the process of enrolling all of the 1,200 people who signed up for the pilot in Exuma. At least 2,000 people have also expressed interest in participating in the initiative in the region, the report notes.

Governor stresses that Sand Dollar is just a digital representation of fiat

In the report, the governor emphasized that the upcoming Bahamian dollar will be nothing more than just a digital representation of the country’s fiat currency, the Bahamian dollar (BSD). Rolle stressed:

“We're looking at a digital representation of our currency. It's not a different currency; it's the same currency. In law, it will never be different. It can't differ in value in any way or the other so Sand Dollars can never be priced different from Bahamian dollars.”

The governor noted that the Sand Dollar is originally targeting domestic use only. However, it’s also possible that it could be linked with a foreign currency, Rolle reportedly said. The official explained that this could be done only in case there's an “explicit buying and selling of foreign exchange.”

The CBOB governor also noted that the Bahamas “might be a little bit ahead of some countries” in terms of the timeline. Rolle said:

“We're not going to get to the rest of the Bahamas until the second half of the year, and that is predicated on certain things like during the pilot looking at a lot more issues around the technology infrastructure, making sure that the legal framework is more elaborated around regulations etc, and spending some time dealing with a lot of the cyber issues.”

Recently, the founder of major digital currency asset manager Grayscale Investments claimed that Bitcoin (BTC) would benefit from global central banks issuing their own cryptocurrencies.

Steemit to Shift Its Proprietary Blockchain and Token to Tron Network

Tron partners with Steemit, a major blockchain-based blogging and social networking website that will be moving to Tron’s network.

The Tron Foundation, a cryptocurrency firm that is known for hyping its long ledger of partnerships, appears to have entered a particularly important one today.

The maintainer of major cryptocurrency Tron (TRX) has just partnered with Steemit, a major blockchain-based blogging and social networking website to provide its network for Steemit services.

Steemit old token STEEM to move to the Tron blockchain, too

As part of the strategic partnership, the Tron Foundation will work with the firm to move Steemit and other Steem blockchain-based decentralized applications (DApps) to the Tron blockchain, the firms said in an announcement shared with Cointelegraph on Feb. 14.

The partnership also includes the shift of old Steem (STEEM) token to a new STEEM token based on the Tron blockchain. Following the news, Steem token surged almost 26% over a 24-hour period as of press time. TRX has also edged up notably, trading 10% higher at the time of publication.

Additionally, the collaboration will enable giveaways to the existing TRX users with the new Tron-based STEEM token as well as a new accelerator program towards the developer community.

Tron founder and CEO Justin Sun expressed confidence that the new partnership will allow the companies to “usher in a new era of decentralized social networking.” Sun confirmed the news on Twitter, giving the name Steemit 2.0 to the upcoming Tron-based Steemit.

Tron and Steemit will be driving mass adoption together

Ned Scott, a co-founder and chairman at Steemit, emphasized that the platform was created in 2016 with the original mission of meeting cryptocurrencies to achieve mass adoption. Scott continued:

“From launching the platform in 2016 on a shoestring budget to today, I’ve enjoyed the development of the platform and the growth of its user base -- now I’m excited to see a strategic partner attempt to bring it to new heights.”

Providing a Reddit-alike service running on the Steemit’s proprietary Steem blockchain, Steemit is one of the largest DApps, with over 1.3 million registered accounts as of press time, according to data from Steem block explorer. Steemit is also known for releasing blockchain-based alternatives for major media websites like Youtube and Instagram such as DTube and APPICS.

The partnership will apparently bring much more traction to Tron’s blockchain with Steemit's solid user base. According to data from website traffic analysis tool SimilarWeb, Steemit website had over 7.8 million visits in January 2020. According to the announcement, Tron’s now has over 800 DApps running on its ecosystem.

The news follows a reported bug on the Steem blockchain-based rewards platform for publishers in September 2019. In fact, the platform apparently experienced multiple bugs on its blockchain, with some of them halting the network operation for at least two days.

Andrew Levine, head of communications at Steemit, noted to Cointelegraph that the company has been actively working over the past year despite largely avoiding the spotlight in 2019. Levine said:

“A lot of people think we've been standing still for the past year, but we've been working a lot on our infrastructure including Hivemind, Mira, and with communities on Steemit."

Earlier in February, Tron founder Sun finally had his charity lunch with Berkshire Hathaway chairman and famous Bitcoin (BTC) critic Warren Buffett after a series of delays in 2019.

OKEx Expands Into India’s Crypto Market via Partnership With Local Exchange

Despite the ongoing uncertainty toward crypto regulation in India, major global crypto exchange OKEx has just made another push in the country’s market.

Despite ongoing uncertainty regarding cryptocurrency regulation in India, major global crypto exchange OKEx has just made another push in the country’s market.

On Feb. 14, OKEx partnered with India’s largest cryptocurrency trading platform, CoinDCX, to launch a new crypto futures product in India.

As part of the partnership, OKEx will make a major step into the Indian cryptocurrency market, enabling more liquidity with its extensive expertise in developing world-class futures, CoinDCX said in an announcement shared with Cointelegraph.

Specifically, the partnership purportedly unlocks CoinDCX’s new crypto futures product, DCXfutures, that will enable users to trade futures contracts with major cryptocurrencies with up to 15x leverage. 

According to the firm, the futures contracts will be available for at least eight coins including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), XRP, Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), EOS, Cardano (ADA), and Tron (TRX). Additionally, users will be able to trade perpetual futures contracts with Bitcoin and Ether, the announcement reads.

According to the firm, maker fees will account for 0.2% at the DCXfutures launch, while the service will be initially open for select users on an invitation-only basis. Once available for the general public, users will be able to access DCXfutures from a single wallet from Q2, 2020.

India’s potential to drive mass adoption of crypto

Zac Zou, head of OKEx India, emphasized the role of India — the world’s second biggest nation — as a primary country behind the mass adoption of crypto:

“As one of the largest economies in the world, India is primed to be the driving force behind the  mass adoption of cryptocurrencies, which is why we are keen on adding more equitable currencies to the ecosystem. We believe having a variety of options to transact digital currencies will bolster the growth of economy in India as it positively impacts both crowdfunding and institutional funding”

Sumit Gupta, co-founder and CEO at CoinDCX, outlined the rapidly increasing demand for futures trading in the Indian crypto market. Gupta noted:

“With the huge potential of cryptocurrency markets to accelerate economic growth and wealth generation in India, we believe that this collaboration takes India one step closer to joining the ‘5 trillion dollar club’ as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, allowing us to avail of new opportunities and take on new challenges.”

Cointelegraph contacted both OKEx and CoinDCX for additional comments on the partnership and will update this article if we hear back.

News of the new partnership comes on the heels of recent court hearings regarding the existing complicated stance of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) toward crypto. During the hearings, the Supreme Court asked the RBI to clarify its position as to why exactly it enforced a nationwide banking ban on the country’s crypto market. Cointelegraph has recently reported on the latest developments in this regard, while CoinDCX’s Gupta published a public call for a “sensible regulation” approach.

Report: Middle East and Africa’s Blockchain Spending to Surge 400% by 2023

The International Data Corporation projects that Middle East and Africa’s blockchain spending would surge from $21 million in 2019 to $105 million by 2023.

As global blockchain adoption is accelerating, countries in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are forecasted to massively increase their spending on the tech in the next few years.

According to a new report by United States-based market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), governments across MEA will see a 400% surge in their investment to blockchain-based solutions in four years.

MEA to increase blockchain spending from $21 million in 2019 to $105 million by 2023

Issued on Feb. 12, the IDC report outlines that blockchain tech is increasingly growing its share in digital transformation initiatives in the MEA region. Specifically, MEA countries are predicted to increase its blockchain spending from $21 million in 2019 to as much as $105 million by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of nearly 50%.

According to the report, the authorities in the MEA region are actively developing blockchain-enabled solutions to reduce fraud, increase security and improve public administration.

Jyoti Lalchandani, vice president and regional managing director at the IDC's division for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, emphasized that governments in the MEA region are facing a challenge to learn a whole new set of technologies like blockchain. Lalchandani also noted that many governmental structures are not prepared for digital transformation:

"Governments across the region are under mounting pressure to become both more efficient and more effective. However, this is proving to be a troublesome task as many government organizations are simply not prepared for digital redesign. Whether it's finding ways to integrate 5G, AI, and blockchain or protect against intrusions on digital trust, government agencies have a whole new set of IT skills to learn.”

Blockchain’s share in total digital transformation spending is small

Despite blockchain being increasingly explored in MEA countries, blockchain spending still accounts for a small part of the total digital transformation initiatives. According to the IDC, MEA countries spent a combined $12.8 billion in 2019 on digital transformation as a whole, and is expected to cross the $15 billion mark by 2023.

The IDC has been continuously updating blockchain spending predictions as the sector develops. The research company had previously predicted that global blockchain spending would amount to nearly $3 billion in 2019, with a 89% surge from 2018. The IDC also forecasted that this figure would hit almost $16 billion in 2023. 

While the MEA region is expected to see a significant surge in its blockchain spending, other regions like Asia/Pacific excluding Japan (APEJ) are projected to spend far more than $105 million in the coming years. According to another IDC prediction, the APEJ will be spending as much as $2.4 billion on blockchain by 2022.

Poloniex Platform Masters Russian Language After Leaving US Market

Poloniex introduces “partially localized” version of Poloniex for Russian speaking users on its platform.

Russia is apparently becoming a more attractive market for cryptocurrency firms as another major crypto platform is adding Russian language support.

Poloniex, a popular crypto exchange originally based in the United States, has begun adding the Russian language on its platform just three months after leaving the U.S. market.

Announcing the news in a Feb. 13 blog post, Poloniex said that it had started introducing a “partially localized” version of Poloniex for Russian speaking users.

The exchange noted that the currently presented Poloniex interface in Russian is just a starting point as the team has translated just a small part of the platform:

“What we’re rolling out today is just a starting point. We’ll continue introducing newly translated pages throughout the coming weeks and plan to have a fully localized version of our website and mobile apps in the coming months.”

As of press time, Poloniex’s Russian interface is indeed Russian but only partially, as major sections of the website including announcements are still written in English alone.

A number of services like crypto exchange, margin trading and lending have been translated at the time of publication alongside sign up page. However, major pages including information like Poloniex’s fees, user agreement, privacy policy and others are still presented in English within the Russian version of Poloniex to date.

At press time, Poloniex website supports Russian and simplified Chinese alongside English.

Poloniex’s “partial” Russian support. Source: Poloniex

Additionally, the company has also introduced its “localized communities” with Poloniex Poloneers on Twitter. The Poloniex Poloneers Twitter account has been posting in Russian before making the recent announcement earlier in February. Introduction of Russian on Poloniex Poloneers comes in addition to already supported community posts in French, Spanish, German, Hindi, and others.

The news comes in line with Poloniex’s recently announced plans to focus on global crypto traders and new features. The firm revealed its plans as part of its separation from former parent firm Circle in October 2019. Acquired by Goldman Sachs-backed crypto startup Circle in 2018, Poloniex spun off into an independent company called Polo Digital Assets. The platform stopped servicing U.S. clients starting Nov. 1, 2019.

Crypto industry doesn’t seem scared of Russia’s unregulated crypto market

Poloniex’s departure from the U.S. market has apparently affected its business. The crypto trading platform fell out of the top 10 exchanges in the CryptoCompare’s Exchange Benchmark rankings in Q4 2019, due to the action as well as a decline in its market quality.

The platform’s entrance to the Russian market comes amid the existing uncertainty about crypto in the country as the crypto industry still remains unregulated by the government. However, this doesn’t seem to scare crypto firms like Binance, which has been actively adding new ruble onramps recently, alongside a Russian version of its website.

Coinbase Fails to Top CryptoCompare’s Exchange Rankings due to 2019 Flash Crash

Coinbase misses the number one spot among platforms on CryptoCompare’s new Exchange Benchmark due to a 2019 Bitcoin price glitch.

Coinbase, one of the most popular platforms in the United States, missed out on the number one spot in a ranking of crypto exchanges due to a 2019 Bitcoin (BTC) price glitch.

The major U.S. crypto exchange and wallet service did not get to the top of the latest CryptoCompare’s crypto Exchange Benchmark rankings because its institutional trading arm Coinbase Pro experienced a major Bitcoin price flash crash in October 2019.

CryptoCompare confirmed to Cointelegraph that the glitch was the primary reason behind the five-point drop for Coinbase in the “Negative Reports” section of rankings. “Coinbase would be top without this event, and in fact topped our rankings last year in June, before this event,” the firm noted.

As reported, Coinbase Pro experienced a system glitch that caused the deletion of some stop-loss orders before Bitcoin’s sharp drop from $9,260 to $9,055 on Oct. 31. That wasn’t the first time when Coinbase experienced a flash crash though. Back in 2017, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was investigating Coinbase over an Ether (ETH) flash crash that occurred on its GDAX exchange. The GDAX glitch caused Ether to drop to just 10 cents from $317 in milliseconds before quickly recovering.

Another U.S.-based exchange ItBit gets the top rank

On Feb. 12, British crypto analytics firm CryptoCompare updated its crypto exchange rankings, releasing an accompanying report covering Q4 2019. The number of analyzed crypto exchanges on the online ranking amounts to 159 platforms at press time.

As previously reported, CryptoCompare’s rankings do not rely on aggregate volume data of exchanges but rather represents the firm’s proprietary risk-based method of ranking.

As such, New York-based ItBit, currently the 20th-largest crypto exchange by 24-hour volume, is now the top platform of the new Exchange Benchmark, while Winklevoss’ Gemini exchange slipped to second place since the previous ranking release.

In order, the top 10 crypto exchanges in CryptoCompare’s third Exchange Benchmark are: ItBit, Gemini, Coinbase, Kraken, Bitstamp, Liquid, Bitfinex, OKEx, bitFlyer and OKCoin.

The new top 10 list included only one newcomer, OKCoin, which was allegedly caused by Poloniex’s departure from the U.S. market in October 2019. Poloniex also saw a decline in their market quality score, CryptoCompare said in an email to Cointelegraph.

Top 10 crypto exchanges in CryptoCompare Exchange Benchmark Q4 2019

Top 10 crypto exchanges in CryptoCompare Exchange Benchmark Q4 2019. Source: CryptoCompare

Only 16% of crypto exchanges hold the majority of funds on cold storage

CryptoCompare launched its Exchange Benchmark in June 2019 in response to a study that claimed that 95% of volume on unregulated exchanges is fake. The analysis also aimed to warn crypto users about the level of risk across the industry, providing an overview of crypto exchanges based on eight major ranking components including regulation, security and market quality.

According to the latest Exchange Benchmark report, only 16% of analyzed crypto exchanges hold more than 95% of their crypto funds on cold storage, while just 4% of exchanges formally offer some form of crypto insurance. Additionally, crypto exchanges that are located in the U.S., Luxembourg, Japan and South Korea are among those associated with the lowest level of risk, according to CryptoCompare.