Jack Ma resurfaces in new video after an almost 3-month ‘disappearance’

A representative for the Jack Ma Foundation confirmed to reporters that the businessman had “participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher initiative event on January 20.”

Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba, has made his first public appearance since October, bringing almost three months of intense speculation about his possible whereabouts to a close.

In a new video clip published online on Jan. 20, Ma was reportedly shown visiting a school rebuilt by his foundation — a glimpse that was enough to spur Alibaba's Hong Kong-traded shares to rise by almost 9%. 

Investors' momentary reassurance follows months of inscrutable actions from the Chinese state to reassert control over one of the country's wealthiest figures, whose conglomerate provides over 70% of China's citizens with fintech services through AliPay. 

A representative for the charitable Jack Ma Foundation confirmed to reporters that Ma had “participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher initiative event on January 20.” In the video, Ma is said to have pledged his commitment to working with his colleagues to improve education and public welfare.

Ant Group has, over these months, come under fire for its allegedly monopolistic overreach and fallen prey to the Chinese Communist Party politburo's intent to prevent a "disorderly expansion of capital" in the national economy. The conglomerate's present difficulties date back to late October, the last time Ma was seen in public, when he delivered a speech that was sharply critical of both regulators and China's banking sector. 

The speech was delivered on the eve of Ant Group's planned initial public offering, which had been expected to draw in $37 billion at a company valuation of well over $300 billion. 

Ma's ill-received speech sparked the Chinese authorities to step up their moves to rein in the corporate giant, pulling the plug on its plans to go public and then launching an antitrust probe into Alibaba — while keeping media coverage of the investigation tightly under control. There have been unverified suggestions that Chinese President Xi Jinping had himself been behind the decision to halt Ant's initial public offering.

Uncertainty as to the eventual outcome of ongoing regulatory and state intervention into Ma's business persists, notwithstanding the entrepreneur's brief resurfacing earlier today.

Antitrust regulators have meanwhile been stepping up their efforts to reassert control over tech behemoths such as Facebook in the United States, where the outgrowth of tech empires has similarly raised increasing concern at a federal level.

UK health service to use blockchain to monitor COVID-19 vaccine storage

The U.K.'s National Health Service will implement an IoT solution built on the public distributed ledger network Hedera Hashgraph in order to monitor the storage of its COVID-19 vaccine supplies.

Public distributed ledger network Hedera Hashgraph is being used by a United Kingdom-based digital asset tracking provider called Everyware to provide the country's National Health Service with a system for managing its COVID-19 vaccine storage.

Several of the widely-used COVID-19 vaccines being administered at present require ultra-cold storage conditions in order to remain effective, presenting a significant challenge for public and private health services around the world. 

To ensure that COVID-19 vaccine maintenance can be securely and transparently monitored by participants in the distribution process in the U.K., Everyware will provide several NHS facilities with its asset tracking and monitoring software, using the Hedera Consensus Service as a secure, distributed trust layer. 

The Hedera base layer provides a verifiable timestamp and ordering of events across the vaccine supply chain and allows healthcare facilities to securely share data with other participants involved in the vaccine delivery chain — among them pharmaceutical providers, centralized storage facilities, and transportation companies. Speaking to Cointelegraph, an Everyware representative wrote:

“To date, other participants, e.g. pharmaceutical companies, have been communicated with via existing NHS channels. Onboarding third parties [to the vaccine monitoring system is] as simple as creating accounts for users and groups that have an interest in a particular set of assets. Additionally, using Hedera opens up opportunities for integration via the Hedera Consensus Service as a publish/subscribe broker; plus, deployment of mirror nodes.”

Initially, Everyware is providing the Hedera-based solution to a select group of NHS facilities in the South Warwickshire region, including the Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick hospitals, before a wider rollout in the future. 

The representative said that Everyware has already been working with the NHS trust for "a number of years, starting with monitoring refrigerated and room temperature drugs." Assets such as blood fridges, freezers and warmers, are all examples of the types of assets that Everyware monitors at public health facilities in the U.K. There are also discussions with NHS trusts to implement the system in the future to reduce drug wastage at various facilities.

In addition to the software and Hedera base network layer, the COVID-19 vaccine storage solution relies on hardware to monitor the assets involved in distribution and administration. The representative told Cointelegraph that the Everyware Platform is built on Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud infrastructure and offers an Internet of Things, or IoT, capability, for clients to integrate with sensors:

“Typically, on site, we would deploy sensors on the individual refrigerators (or cabinets, for room temperature drugs), which send data via a local mesh network to an Everyware Smart Hub. As well as providing local alerts, the Smart Hub is an Internet gateway for devices to connect to the cloud platform.”

Countries like Brazil have already recognized blockchain as a valuable tool for ensuring that vaccine delivery is transparently and efficiently tracked. Alongside vaccine delivery challenges, Hedera's technology has been used by scientists to understand the spread of infections across populations.

Nornickel to use blockchain for its new ETCs on Deutsche Börse and LSE

A palladium fund founded by Norilsk Nickel will launch exchange-traded commodities for metals custodied using blockchain at the Deutsche Börse and London Stock Exchange.

The world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel, Norilsk Nickel, is pressing ahead with its digital technologies strategy. As of Jan. 18, Nornickel's Global Palladium Fund has launched exchange-traded commodities, or ETCs, for metals on the Deutsche Börse, which are custodied by TokenTrust AG and also make use of its distributed ledger platform, Atomyze.

Nornickel's Global Palladium Fund intends to launch the ETCs on the London Stock Exchange "within a few days." An ETC, which is an instrument that is tradable like a stock or share, offers traders and investors exposure to an underlying commodity — in this case, metals. Nornickel's fund will contribute palladium, platinum, gold and silver to the newly-launched ETC instrument and will collaborate with the Swiss-based company TokenTrust AG on metals custody arrangements and a tokenization strategy.

TokenTrust provides the fund with a distributed ledger technology-based platform called Atomyze, built on Hyperledger Fabric that will be used to immutably record metals information and tokenize a part of the mining group's contractual volumes.

The ETC instruments will be offered at the LME — London Metals Exchange — spot price and will provide additional guarantees about the provenance of the underlying commodities due to the usage of distributed ledger technology for monitoring and verifying standards. The CEO of Nornickel's Global Palladium Fund, Alexander Stoyanov, said:

"Our way of digitalization of commodities allows one to capture and trace the source of underlying metals and the way they were produced, coupled with ESG credentials. Nornickel, whose products we carry, sets a new standard for responsible mining by fully endorsing the UN2030 charter and the existing LBMA source of metal standards. This gives our ETC platform a [...] clear differentiator.”

As reported, Nornickel has recently joined an initiative called the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, which was set up to improve the transparency, traceability and verification of sustainable practices in the global minerals and metals industries. The network is built on the IBM Blockchain platform, similarly powered by Hyperledger Fabric. 

Mitsubishi and Tokyo Tech create blockchain system for P2P energy trading

Beginning in April, the electronics giant and university R&D team will evaluate and tweak the new trading system's performance before commercialization.

Mitsubishi Electric has teamed up with researchers from the prestigious Japanese university, Tokyo Tech, to jointly design a blockchain-based trading system that can support more flexible, peer-to-peer energy trading.

Announced on Jan. 18, the new system is intended to support the efficient use of surplus electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources. In particular, it is hoped that the trading system can ensure that at any given moment, there will be the maximum available amount of surplus electricity accessible on the market for consumers. 

Peer-to-peer energy trading set-ups allow consumers and prosumers to engage in direct trading as buyers and sellers. To make their new system less reliant on hardware-intensive, high-volume computations, Mitsubishi Electric and Tokyo Tech have customized their blockchain system in order to optimize matches and make clearing buy and sell orders more efficient. 

According to the announcement, a distributed-optimization algorithm, which differs from most blockchain technologies, enables customer computers to share their trading goals and data and then to "optimally match buy and sell orders using minimal computations." As well as requiring fewer computations, what Mitsubishi and Tokyo Tech call their "new mining method" can be executed on a micro-computing server. The four steps involved in the method are as follows:

"In the first step, information on buy and sell orders with a common trading goal (market surplus, profit, etc.) are shared by computing servers during a predetermined timeframe. Second, each server searches for buy and sell orders matched to the common goal in the first step. Third, each server shares its search results. In the fourth and final step, each server receives the search results and generates a new block by selecting trades that best meet the shared goal, which it adds to each blockchain."

Moreover, to ensure trading is fair, the search for the solution for each shared goal occurs in a decentralized manner — i.e., in parallel on multiple computers, where equivalent matches are selected at random.

The flexibility of the system ensures that buyers and sellers can make trades above or below bid prices if the right match is found. Those who fail to make a trade can also change the terms of their subsequent offer on the basis of assessing the previous offer/bid conditions. 

Mitsubishi and Tokyo Tech anticipate that by ensuring the maximum amount of surplus electricity is available for trading on the market, the cost of sustainable consumer goods such as electric vehicles will drop accordingly. By proposing a peer-to-peer solution, the onus will no longer be on retail power firms to respond to market fluctuations.

As previously reported, blockchain-based digital energy platforms have already been operative for some time in other countries. The Australian firm Power Ledger, for example, offers blockchain-based transactive energy solutions that include peer-to-peer energy trading and virtual power plants, along with trading in carbon credits and renewable energy certificates.  

Mitsubishi and Tokyo Tech have announced that, following evaluations of the system's operations beginning in April, their aim is to commercialize the product as quickly as possible.

Minerals giant Norilsk Nickel joins Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network

The world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel is joining a multi-stakeholder initiative that uses blockchain technology.

"Mining" may be most frequently used in the crypto industry to refer to the process by which digital currencies are collectively generated — but there are contexts in which firms are adopting blockchain infrastructure to manage the most physical of mining supply chains.

The Russian company Norilsk Nickel — the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a large producer of platinum and copper — has joined an initiative called the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, according to an announcement published on Jan. 14.

The Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network, or RSBN, is the outcome of an initiative by the global sourcing audit and advisory RCS Global Group. Aimed at improving the transparency, traceability and verification of sustainable practices in the minerals and metals industries, the RSBN network is built on the IBM Blockchain platform and is powered by Hyperledger Fabric

To join RSBN, companies must be assessed — at the outset, and then each year — according to the framework provided for by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. These requirements are outlined in "Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas." 

RCS Global Group also audits participant companies according to sourcing standards laid out by an industry body known as the Responsible Minerals Initiative, or RMI. As an RSBN member, several of Nornickel's supply chains will be audited across its operations from mines in the Russian Federation to refineries, both domestic and in Finland. The data from this audit will be tracked on the RSBN platform, providing a record of sustainable nickel and cobalt production and providing information regarding its maintenance and provenance. 

Nornickel's participation in RSBN comes as part of the company's wider digital technology strategy that intends to make its supply chain more "customer-centric." This appears to refer both to providing more transparency and assurances about sustainable practices, and to create possibilities for Nornickel partners to trace commodity flows "in near real-time." 

For this second goal, Nornickel is also adopting a platform called Atomyze that tokenizes physical assets. Similarly to RSBN, Atomyze uses Hyperledger, with IBM's participation.

Prior to Nornickel, British-Swiss commodity trading and mining company Glencore joined RSBN in late 2019, shortly after the World Economic Forum launched its own "Mining and Metals Blockchain Initiative" to promote responsible sourcing and sustainability practices in the global industry.

Galaxy enters Bitcoin mining, launches financial services unit for miners

Mike Novogratz's Galaxy Digital is launching its own Bitcoin mining operations and creating a new business unit dedicated to providing financial services to miners.

Galaxy Digital — the financial services and cryptocurrency investment management firm founded by Mike Novogratz — has set its sights on establishing a footing in the Bitcoin (BTC) mining sector.

After a year of increasingly diversifying its products and activities, the company has announced two new forays into the Bitcoin mining sector for 2021. The first project will be a new business unit that Galaxy describes as "a one-stop financial services platform for miners." 

Dubbed Galaxy Digital Mining, the unit is being led by Amanda Fabiano — formerly the director of mining at Fidelity Investments. In a brief snapshot of her background in financial services, Galaxy notes Fabiano's experience in working with non-traditional securitization, real-asset financing, structured products, investment banking, and strategic advisory.

Galaxy's services for miners will, at the outset, encompass trading and risk management, investing and lending, as well as corporate advisory. Co-president Chris Ferraro has given some insight into where Galaxy Digital Mining fits into the company's overall roadmap:

"We see major opportunities in mining project financing, equipment financing, digital asset-backed financing, as well as working capital optimization and hedging solutions."

Alongside miner-focused financial services, Galaxy Digital Mining has also created a proprietary Bitcoin mining operation and is reportedly hosting its rigs at a third-party datacenter in the United States. Fabiano claimed that the two aspects of the unit's activities will be complimentary, saying that "by mining ourselves, we are able to deeply understand and solve for the financial needs of miners."

As previously reported, Galaxy Digital had a bullish 2020, mirroring the fortunes of the wider industry and signaling increased institutional investor participation in crypto. Its third-quarter earnings report showed a 75% year-on-year rise in trading volumes, which it attributed to an expanding counterparty base, the launch of its electronic trading platform, and the growth of its crypto derivatives business.

Programmer has two password guesses left before losing $266M in Bitcoin

The perils of inaccessible digital wealth — potentially lost forever — are being all the more keenly felt during the 2021 bull market.

A German-born programmer in San Francisco has now used up eight of 10 password attempts he has to unlock the hard drive containing the private keys to his Bitcoin wallet, which contains 7,002 Bitcoin (BTC). As of press time, those holdings would be worth $268 million — that is, if only they were accessible.

As a New York Times profile on Jan. 12 outlined, Stefan Thomas uses a hard drive called an IronKey, but lost the paper on which he wrote down the password for the device "years ago." If Thomas fails to remember it, 10 failed guesses will result in the drive encrypting its contents forever. He has, so far, tried eight guesses with no luck. 

“I would just lay in bed and think about it. Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”

Nearly 20% of all existing Bitcoin — 18.5 million BTC — is thought to have been lost for good, in so-called "stranded" wallets, according to Chainalysis data. Thomas is not alone in his self-avowed desperation: a Los Angeles entrepreneur, Brad Yasar, told the Times that over the years "I would say I have spent hundreds of hours" trying to get back into inaccessible wallets.

 Yasar has stored away his hard drives "in vacuum-sealed bags" so that he is no longer "reminded every day that what I have now is a fraction of what I could have that I lost."

Neither story is uncommon: Wallet Recovery Services, a company that specializes in recovering lost digital keys, reportedly gets 70 requests each day from clients seeking help. That number is three times higher than it was before the bull market.

Thomas's experience has apparently turned him off the concept of a technology that places the onus on individual users to take their finances into their own hands — with all the freedom, and risks, that it entails. Having originally received the 7,0002 BTC as a gift in exchange for producing a video to educate people about the currency, he's now skeptical about leaving users with that degree of control: 

“This whole idea of being your own bank — let me put it this way: Do you make your own shoes? The reason we have banks is that we don’t want to deal with all those things that banks do.”

Aside from his extraordinary losses, Thomas nonetheless held on to enough Bitcoin over the years to make a fortune — he is reportedly so wealthy that he barely knows what to do with it, to paraphrase the report. He also later joined Ripple and acquired XRP, although the company's recent legal difficulties may now cast a shadow over the project's future prospects.

The report notes that similar risks exist when users entrust third-party custodians with their keys — citing Mt. Gox and other industry crimes — but does include input from those who believe the trade-offs of digital currency are, at the end of the day, worth it.

An entrepreneur in Barbados, despite having lost 800 BTC in the past, claimed that "the risk of being my own bank comes with the reward of being able to freely access my money and be a citizen of the world." His view, from a corner of the globe where financial inclusion remains a concern, provides an insight into why many individuals may continue to think likewise.

ECB president Lagarde renews calls for global regulation of Bitcoin

In a recent interview, Lagarde said that Bitcoin has been used to conduct "funny business" and "totally reprehensible money laundering activity."

The European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde has repeated her insistence that global regulators need to tighten the rules to ensure Bitcoin (BTC) falls under more coordinated oversight. 

In an interview at the Reuters Next conference — amid an unprecedented bull market for the veteran cryptocurrency — Lagarde argued:

“[Bitcoin] is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity.”

While Bitcoin is pseudonymous, rather than anonymous, its distributed nature and complex interaction with jurisdictional regulatory frameworks present a challenge for international authorities. During the interview, Lagarde did not reportedly refer to any specific instances of money laundering involving Bitcoin, but instead alluded to her awareness of various criminal investigations into illegal activities connected with its usage. She told reporters:

“There has to be regulation. This has to be applied and agreed upon [...] at a global level because if there is an escape that escape will be used.”

Lagarde has been consistent in advocating the necessity of international regulation of cryptocurrencies, claiming in 2018 that their ascendancy had been fueled, in part, by “herd mentality” among those looking for high yield financial products.

She struck a more conciliatory tone — notably, during a less overheated crypto market — in Sept. 2019. At the time, Lagarde balanced the need to mitigate the potential risks of crypto through increased regulation with a recognition of the potential for "wider social benefits from innovation" that could be attained by allowing the space to develop.

Lagarde has meanwhile suggested that it could take the Eurozone up to four years before it possibly launches a digital euro.

Notwithstanding Brexit, the European Union and Britain appear to be on the same page when it comes to private cryptocurrency markets. In response to Bitcoin's intense volatility in recent weeks, the United Kingdom's financial regulator has posted a new warning to the public, telling them they should be ready to lose all they invest.

‘Drive your lambos to the moon,’ says Lindsay Lohan in crypto promotion vid

The celebrity was commissioned to record a promotional video for cryptocurrency, in which she forecast new all-time price highs for Bitcoin and Ether.

The crypto bull season — and the accompanying hype — is undoubtedly upon us. Recalling some of the celebrities who got in on crypto during the historic winter 2017 market, the actress Lindsey Lohan has now recorded a paid, promotional video for Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH).

Lohan's video was commissioned by a crypto news outlet via a platform called Cameo — an online service that allows people or businesses to hire celebrities to record personalized video messages at an agreed price. According to the site, as of press time, a user can make a video request from Lohan for roughly $350

In the 12-second-long video, the actress — appearing in a selfie frame in front of a nondescript, bleached window view — told viewers:

“I'm just here to say that Ethereum is going to $10,000 and Bitcoin is going to $100,000. Enjoy a prosperous 2021 and I hope you all get to drive your lambos to the moon.”

Cointelegraph readers will remember the likes of Stevan Seagal, Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather getting wrapped up in the initial coin offering, or ICO, fever of 2017 — stories which ended in lawsuits and tears, or in the case of Hilton, at least some shrewd distance after her chosen ICO fell into disrepute.

Unlike these earlier involvements, Lohan's video predictions are not tied to emerging, smaller altcoins, and as such, remain restricted to a vaguer endorsement of the industry's most veteran and largest market-cap coins. Her reference to "Ethereum" — as opposed to the accurate, strictly speaking, asset name "Ether" — suggests the actress has not immersed herself to any significant extent in crypto markets and online culture.  

As of press time, Bitcoin is circling the $34,220 mark, down just over 2% on the day, but up 77% on the month. Ether is retaining its foothold above the $1,000 mark, at close to $1,060, and is similarly up close to 80% on the month.

Grayscale reopens crypto trusts for investment as Bitcoin price climbs

The fund manager had temporarily stopped taking on new investors in late December but has now resumed for almost all crypto trusts.

Digital asset investment manager Grayscale has resumed accepting new investments into almost all of its cryptocurrency trusts. The investment manager had paused new inflows into six of its trusts in late December 2020, just as the six-month lock-up period for selling recently-purchased shares in its Bitcoin Trust, which trades under the ticker GBTC, was winding up.

As of the time of writing, products such as the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and the Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund Trust are all available for new investors, although the Grayscale Ethereum Trust remains unavailable. The Grayscale XRP Trust is inactive, and will likely remain so. In early January, the fund manager had liquidated its holdings of the asset shortly after news broke of a major lawsuit filed by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission against Ripple.

Screenshot of Grayscale trusts open for investment

Grayscale periodically halts and resumes new investor inflows into its funds; during these periods of closure, the funds remain open for private placement funds. As well as this, all investors in the Grayscale crypto trusts are subject to a six-month lock-up period for newly-purchased shares, after which they are free to sell the shares on the open market to non-accredited investors.

Crypto investors keep a close eye on action from Grayscale, which has evolved into the world's largest cryptocurrency asset manager. As of Jan. 11, Grayscale has $24.5 billion assets under management across its various crypto funds. In early January, Cointelegraph reported that Grayscale's purchases of Bitcoin were outstripping the minting of new coins by a factor of three, capping a year of aggressive accumulation by the fund manager

Bitcoin is up close to 10% on the week, trading at $35,833 as of press time. With new investments now open, the six-month lock-up period begins afresh. Some analysts have alleged that when this period draws to a close, the Bitcoin spot market is driven higher as shares in Grayscale's GBTC hit the open market.

Grayscale reopens crypto trusts for investment as Bitcoin price climbs

The fund manager had temporarily stopped taking on new investors in late December but has now resumed for almost all crypto trusts.

Digital asset investment manager Grayscale has resumed accepting new investments into almost all of its cryptocurrency trusts. The investment manager had paused new inflows into six of its trusts in late December 2020, just as the six-month lock-up period for selling recently-purchased shares in its Bitcoin Trust, which trades under the ticker GBTC, was winding up.

As of the time of writing, products such as the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and the Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund Trust are all available for new investors, although the Grayscale Ethereum Trust remains unavailable. The Grayscale XRP Trust is inactive, and will likely remain so. In early January, the fund manager had liquidated its holdings of the asset shortly after news broke of a major lawsuit filed by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission against Ripple.

Screenshot of Grayscale trusts open for investment

Grayscale periodically halts and resumes new investor inflows into its funds; during these periods of closure, the funds remain open for private placement funds. As well as this, all investors in the Grayscale crypto trusts are subject to a six-month lock-up period for newly-purchased shares, after which they are free to sell the shares on the open market to non-accredited investors.

Crypto investors keep a close eye on action from Grayscale, which has evolved into the world's largest cryptocurrency asset manager. As of Jan. 11, Grayscale has $24.5 billion assets under management across its various crypto funds. In early January, Cointelegraph reported that Grayscale's purchases of Bitcoin were outstripping the minting of new coins by a factor of three, capping a year of aggressive accumulation by the fund manager

Bitcoin is up close to 10% on the week, trading at $35,833 as of press time. With new investments now open, the six-month lock-up period begins afresh. Some analysts have alleged that when this period draws to a close, the Bitcoin spot market is driven higher as shares in Grayscale's GBTC hit the open market.

IOTA blockchain used to track COVID-19 test results at Frankfurt Airport

Ubrich GmbH is providing a solution using IOTA to the Frankfurt Airport Corona Testing Center.

Early on in the pandemic, the heightened need for various biosurveillance measures sparked interest in the relevance of privacy-enhancing technologies such as blockchain that could protect public health data amid the crisis. 

An individual Twitter user claimed last week that Frankfurt Airport's Corona testing center appeared to be using IOTA blockchain technology to manage passengers' health stat, and this fact has now been confirmed to Cointelegraph by the technology provider.

Ubirch, a blockchain-based cybersecurity technology provider based in Cologne and several other locations, has developed the IT infrastructure for a solution it calls the "Digital Corona Test Certificate." The solution supports verification of an individual's SARS-CoV-2 status while remaining compliant with European data protection standards under the GDPR framework. An Ubirch representative explained:

"Ubrich anchors an anonymous digital fingerprint in a blockchain. This way, an individual's certified SARS-CoV-2 status can easily be verified by the airline at the departure gate, the arrival airport, or any other entry point by scanning a QR Code. Important to know is that at no point during the process are person-specific user data or test results visible in the blockchain."

The Ubirch service is being used at the Centogene Corona test center at Frankfurt Airport, the company has confirmed, and uses, in part, underlying technology from IOTA:  

"Among others we use IOTA for making the Corona test results verifiable [...] We are working with IOTA for a while now. Our public anchors are in the main tangle for broad trust. In fact, we put trust anchors in multiple blockchains." 

Ubirch's reference to "the main tangle" refers to the specific character of the IOTA protocol. Tangle is, strictly speaking, different from blockchain in that it does not use “blocks” or mining, but is built upon a directed acyclic graph: a topologically ordered system in which different types of transactions run on different chains in the network simultaneously.

Digital identity solution providers have increasingly developed various products involving blockchain that are targeted for use during the pandemic, alongside special blockchain apps to provide countries with "health passport"-like solutions for easing restrictions. 

Some security experts remain concerned, however, about these emerging "proof-of-health" solutions and the complexities and challenges involved in truly ensuring the integrity of millions of users' sensitive health data.

South Korean gaming conglomerate Nexon denies plans to acquire Bithumb

Reports last week had claimed that Nexon was poised to acquire the exchange at an evaluated price of roughly $460 million.

Major gaming conglomerate Nexon will not be acquiring leading South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb, as previously alleged in local media.

In an email to Cointelegraph, a representative for Nexon said that the firm "has not invested in Bithumb and has no plans to acquire that company." The email clarified that claims to the contrary had resulted from "an inaccurate news account last week." "We cannot comment on the investment plans of other companies," the representative added.

The prospective sale of the exchange has reportedly been on the agenda since late August 2020, with preliminary bidding ostensibly held in September. Yet the process, if underway, appears to be complicated by the ongoing police investigation involving Lee Jung Hoon, chairman of board at Bithumb Korea and Bithumb Holdings.

A parallel investigation into a Bithumb executive over allegations of fraud has further raised a question mark over the exchange's prospects of securing a legally required registration as a crypto entity with the Korean authorities, as well as alleged plans to launch an initial public offering, reported in June 2020.

Despite at least two police raids of the exchange's offices connected to these investigations, the exchange remains popular in the Korean crypto market and is currently the 6th largest platform in the industry worldwide by daily traded volume, according to CoinMarketCap data.

Novogratz predicts young people will buy Bitcoin with their stimulus checks

Mike Novogratz claims that many people bought Bitcoin after the last round of federal stimulus checks, and thinks they're likely to again.

Amid a long battle over whether or not United States citizens will get their $2,000 stimulus checks to help them to weather the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike Novogratz has weighed in on what the news could mean for the stock and crypto markets.

The CEO of Galaxy Digital spoke to CNBC Squawk Box amid the surreal image of a Wall Street apparently unfazed by the commotion in the Capitol yesterday. As a Fox News caption had it in real-time yesterday, "markets rally as protestors disrupt electoral college vote."  

A further round of stimulus checks at $2,000 each, recently approved by the House of Representatives, could, from Novogratz's perspective, be further good news for the markets. With the Senate now flipped after the run-off in Georgia, he noted that:

"A lot of that [stimulus] will find it's way into the markets. Certainly, when it comes into young people's hands, they're going right to their Robinhood accounts. One of the most unique things last time was seeing how many people bought Bitcoin with the exact amount of stimulus. Boom, boom."

"The market's sensing all that," Novogratz added. While many working Americans continue to struggle through the economic turbulence and job precarity exacerbated during the 2020 crisis, he pointed to the bullish sentiment among traders of all stripes: 

"There's speculative excess all over the place, when you look at the amount of options buying in stocks like Tesla, it's to the point of insanity."

This disconnect is likely to, however, spell trouble at some point — even for those cashing in on the crisis. "You've got to watch for the cracks. One day we'll wake up, and markets will be reversing, and then they'll reverse hard. I just don't know when that is," he said.

Earlier this week, Novogratz had attributed Bitcoin's unprecedented price highs to institutions moving in, pointing to PayPal's servicing of Bitcoin, as well as action from big U.S. insurers.  As of press time, the coin is trading at close to $38,000, up almost 8.6% on the day.

US crypto firms invest in tax solutions as IRS updates reporting forms

Coinbase Ventures, PayPal Ventures and Winkelvoss Capital have all invested in cryptocurrency tax automation software provider TaxBit.

United States regulators are continuing to fine-tune their tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrency users. A second draft of Form 1040 from the Internal Revenue Service for the 2020 tax season published online suggests that the agency will now require anyone who was engaged in any transaction involving cryptocurrency in 2020 will need to declare it:

"If, in 2020, you engaged in any transaction involving virtual currency, check the ‘Yes’ box next to the question on virtual currency on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR."

The draft guidance clarifies that transactions encompass "the receipt or transfer of virtual currency for free" (e.g., via airdrops and hard forks), the exchange of virtual currency for goods or services, the purchase or sale of virtual currency, an exchange of virtual currency for other property, including for another virtual currency, and the acquisition or disposition of "a financial interest in virtual currency."

Simply holding virtual currency in a wallet or account, or transferring it between two wallets or accounts that are controlled by the same owner, does not count as a transaction for the IRS. 

Those who disposed of virtual currency that is held as a capital asset through sale, exchange or transfer will need to calculate their capital gains and losses, and report them on Schedule D of Form 1040, the IRS outlines.

Against this backdrop of intensifying focus on crypto tax reporting in the U.S, it is perhaps no surprise that big-name industry players are investing in tax solutions providers that could lighten the reporting burden for consumers and businesses alike.

TaxBit, which offers cryptocurrency tax automation software for retail users, exchanges, and merchants, has today announced new investments from PayPal Ventures, Coinbase Ventures, as well as new investment from existing backer Winklevoss Capital.

Answering "yes" to the IRS's questions does not, notably, imply that individuals who do so are necessarily liable to pay taxes on their crypto for 2020. Cointelegraph has published recent commentary and guidance from crypto tax specialists for U.S. readers, explaining some of the main requirements and developments. 

The new updated draft form does, however, notably provide more clarity as to what kinds of activities exactly count as needing to be declared. An earlier version of the form had sparked concern in the industry for its inadequate and vague formulations, with some commentators going so far as to accuse the IRS of setting a "perjury trap" and sowing confusion. 

Report: Major gaming conglomerate Nixon prepares to acquire Bithumb

South Korean media has reported that Nexon, a multi-billion dollar conglomerate led by CEO Kim Seong-Ju, plans to acquire the country's largest cryptocurrency exchange.

After a troubled few months, crypto exchange Bithumb looks like it's set on turning over a new leaf through an acquisition by one of South Korea's top gaming firms. 

South Korean media reported on Jan. 7 that Nexon, a multi-billion dollar gaming conglomerate, has signed a memorandum of understanding, or MoU, to acquire the exchange at an evaluated price of 650 billion won ($460 million).

Nexon, led by CEO Kim Seoung-Ju, will reportedly work with one of the major shareholders in Bithumb, Vidente, to buy out the exchange and take control of the company, crypto journalist and Cointelegraph contributor Joseph Young has summarized. According to South Korean media, Nexon plans to take a 65% stake in Bithumb.

As the report notes, Bithumb's existing shares are trading at a total value of 1 trillion won ($914 million) on the over-the-counter market, meaning that the deal, if successful, will allow Nexon to take over at a "discounted price."

The sale of the exchange has reportedly been in the works since late August 2020, with a preliminary bidding held in September at which a number of financial and strategic investors, including domestic and foreign private equity fund managers, bid for success.

Yet the ongoing police investigation involving Lee Jung Hoon, chairman of board at Bithumb Korea and Bithumb Holdings, appears to have slowed down the process.

The report notes that the legal entanglement of the exchange's current shareholders, who are also being sued for embezzlement by investors, could make it difficult for the exchange to secure the legally required registration as a crypto entity with South Korean authorities. 

An acquisition and change in management could clear this regulatory obstacle. Young has commented that Nexon's acquisition would, more generally, "improve the image around the most dominant crypto trading platform in the local market."

Nexon's holding company, NXC, has previously invested in cryptocurrency and fintechs, including the well-known exchange Bitstamp. Given Bithumb's prime position as South Korea's largest crypto exchange by trading volume, Nexon's market dominance is expected to benefit if the acquisition is successful. 

In the third quarter of 2020, the number of subscribers to Bithumb reportedly exceeded 5 million, and the company is said to have plans to expand its products and upgrade its compliance measures in the hope of securing a virtual asset business license. 

Blockchain.com follows other exchanges in delisting XRP

Ripple's woes multiply as Blockchain.com becomes the latest exchange to suspend trading of XRP.

Popular wallet provider and crypto trading platform Blockchain.com has announced it will be delisting XRP and suspending its trading next week, following in the steps of Coinbase, Binance.US, OKCoin and others.

Although, as of press time on Jan. 6, Blockchain.com's information on supported crypto assets continues to feature XRP, a blog post published on Jan. 4 informed users that:

"Blockchain.com will halt XRP trading beginning Thursday, January 14th at 11:59pm GMT. For all customers who have XRP balances, you will continue to have access to your XRP to send after we halt trading, but we will no longer support receiving more XRP in the Exchange."

XRP's delisting on multiple platforms is due to an anticipated yet controversial move by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in late December to initiate a lawsuit against Ripple, its CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, and co-founder Christian Larsen, for alleged violations of U.S. securities laws.

Without explicitly referencing the SEC's lawsuit, Blockchain.com's delisting announcement alluded to the exchange's monitoring of "developments as they unfold — everything from network security to regulatory compliance and more" as an integral part of its decision-making process when it comes to including or revoking the trading of assets on its exchange and wallet services. 

News of yet another delisting for XRP follows shortly after reports of another lawsuit, filed by one of the lead investors in Ripple's 2019 $200 million Series C funding round, the investment company Tetragon.

Blockchain.com has not announced a date, provisional or otherwise, for the possible future resumption of XRP support. Exchanges who have responded to the SEC's action have either chosen to delist XRP entirely or to at least suspend its trading until further notice. Coinbase, for example, will continue to support XRP as part of its wallet and custodial services, and some have reserved restrictions to U.S. users alone. In parallel to these developments, Grayscale Investments appears to have ended subscriptions for its XRP Trust.

The case against Ripple, Garlinghouse and Larsen is scheduled for a virtual pretrial conference in February. XRP has now lost its position as the fourth-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization and is currently trading at $0.23, down close to 60% on the month. 

Bitcoin could hit $146K long-term by ‘crowding out gold,’ says JPMorgan

Strategists at the American megabank believe the cryptocurrency has a chance to hit $146,000 in future years if it can evolve into a compelling alternative to gold.

Drawing parallels between Bitcoin (BTC) and gold's role as a hedge for investors has been popular for years. Until now, the stark discrepancy in the total market capitalizations of the two assets has limited these analogies to a significant extent. Gold, even after a major Bitcoin price rise in Dec. 2020, continues to command roughly 4.6 times Bitcoin's current $5.85 billion market capitalization.

Yet strategists at the American multinational megabank JPMorgan Chase are forecasting a possible scenario in which Bitcoin can seriously take on its predecessor. On Jan. 5, a Bloomberg report cited a note from the bank's strategists, led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, in which they sketched out a path to the total private sector investment in Bitcoin coming to equal the value that is currently invested in gold via either exchange-traded funds or bars and coins. 

Yet such a path crucially depends on Bitcoin's volatility converging with that of the precious metal, they stressed, and that is likely to take some time:

“A crowding out of gold as an ‘alternative’ currency implies big upside for Bitcoin over the long term [...] a convergence in volatilities between Bitcoin and gold is unlikely to happen quickly and is in our mind a multiyear process. This implies that the above-$146,000 theoretical Bitcoin price target should be considered as a long-term target, and thus an unsustainable price target for this year.”

As Cointelegraph reported yesterday, Bitcoin has weathered a couple of days of choppy and highly volatile price action, with a brief dive down to $27,700 on Jan. 4 followed by a bounce to almost $30,000. As of press time, the coin is trading closer to $31,5000. Yesterday's plummet was the starkest since the coin recovered the $20,000 price point in December 2020.

Amid this backdrop of persistent volatility, the JPMorgan strategists nonetheless identified strong positive signs for the cryptocurrency — pointing to an accumulation of speculative long positions — yet warned that reading the investment landscape in the medium-term remains difficult:

“The valuation and position backdrop has become a lot more challenging for Bitcoin at the beginning of the New Year [...] While we cannot exclude the possibility that the current speculative mania will propagate further pushing the Bitcoin price up toward the consensus region of between $50,000–$100,000, we believe that such price levels would prove unsustainable.”

On Jan. 1, Bitcoin reached an all-time-high against gold, surpassing its previous peak back during the winter 2017 bull market. In December of last year, the same team of strategists led by Panigirtzoglou was already suggesting that Bitcoin could eat into gold's market share in the future, envisioning a major shift in institutional allocation towards the cryptocurrency. 

Meanwhile, an eventful trading climate has caused volumes on major cryptocurrency exchanges to hit record highs. On Jan. 4, Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trade volume, reported an all-time-high of $80 billion in 24-hour trade activity. "To put this in perspective, from Nov 15, 2017 to Dec 15, 2017, the month leading up to the ATH [all-time-high] in 2017, Binance did $20 billion in trading volume in 1 month," the exchange's CEO wrote on Twitter.

Equally unprecedented, however, was futures traders' loss of a total of $190 million on Binance alone in just one hour, the largest value of a mass liquidation to date on the platform. 

Selected Shenzhen residents to get lottery ‘red envelopes’ with digital yuan

Winners of the city's lottery will have 10 days to spend their gifted digital currency, at any of 10,000 supported merchants.

Programs to pilot and encourage widespread adoption of China's central bank digital currency, known as DC/EP or the digital yuan, are continuing apace. 

As a New Year's offering, the city of Shenzhen is offering its residents the option to register to take part in a municipal lottery, as of Jan. 1, with registrations closing this morning, Jan. 4, at 10 a.m. local time. Those interested were able to sign up for the lottery using the iShenzhen event registration platform, according to an announcement by the Shenzhen government. The lottery is strictly speaking not a competition but is being settled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

In total, the city plans to give 100,000 "red envelopes" to lottery winners, each containing 200 digital yuan (roughly $31).  The envelopes' combined value is estimated at roughly $3 million, and recipients will be able to spend their gifted currency across 10,000 supported merchants. The envelopes will only be active for just 10 days, after which the currency will expire.

To spend their currency, lottery winners will need to download and install an app and open a personal digital wallet, having earlier provided their resident ID cards and mobile phone numbers for registration.

As previously reported, China's highly-anticipated digital currency had already been used in over 4 million transactions by November 2020, totaling more than 2 billion yuan ($299 million) in value. Pilots have been ongoing since April of that year, with early trials focused on major cities such as Shenzhen, Chengdu, Suzhou and Xiongan.

The digital yuan's unveiling has drawn public officials and reporters to analyze its potential geopolitical implications and its potential impact on a global financial system that continues to pivot around the United States dollar as the global reserve currency. In mid-December, the South China Morning Post cited Zhou Xiaochuan — the president of the Chinese Finance Association and former People's Bank of China governor — who argued that the DCEP does not intend to replace global fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar or the euro.

China Construction Bank’s blockchain bond efforts take a new direction

After an earlier attempt, China Construction Bank has gone back to the drawing board with new partners and a new proof-of-concept for a blockchain-based bond.

China Construction Bank, the world's second-largest bank by assets, is cooperating with Malaysian and Singaporean partners to test blockchain technology for use in the bond market.

As previously reported, China Construction Bank's branch in Labuan, Malaysia, had initially pursued a partnership with a Labuan-based fintech to issue what was hailed as prospectively the first-ever blockchain-based digital security to be issued by a Chinese financial institution. 

CCB Labuan's plan had been to use the Ethereum blockchain to issue bonds and raise up to $3 billion in total, starting with a tranche of $58 million, from both individuals and institutions. 

Within days of the announcement, however, the bond issuance was delayed until further notice, and trading of the first tranche, in the form of tokenized certificates of deposits, did not go ahead on the Labuan-regulated Fusang Exchange. 

On Dec. 3, a new announcement suggested that work on the blockchain-based issuance has not been suspended altogether, but that some of the key actors have changed. Malaysia's national stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia and the Labuan Financial Exchange are both now involved, and there is no mention of Fusang Exchange.  

Fusang notably supports cryptocurrency trading, so traders had been expected to be able to exchange Bitcoin (BTC) for U.S. dollars in order to purchase the bonds. 

Instead of the Ethereum blockchain, a proof-of-concept for the bond is now being explored with STACS, a Singaporean fintech development firm that specializes in the use of blockchain technology in capital markets. STAC has developed a blockchain-based platform, dubbed Trident, and has been awarded a financial sector technology and innovation proof-of-concept grant from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Alongside CCB Labuan and Bursa Malaysia, other partners on the proof-of-concept include domestic regulators, the Labuan Financial Services Authority and Securities Commission of Malaysia, as well as two banks, CIMB Investment Bank Berhad, and Maybank Investment Bank Berhad, also known as Maybank. According to the announcement:

"Using [...] Trident [...] bond templates were mirrored onto smart contracts for rapid deployment, while operational workflows were streamlined to increase efficiency and flexibility in settlement cycles. Together with CCB Labuan, CIMB and Maybank, the [proof-of-concept] simulated several bond issuances which were all issued and managed on the STACS Blockchain."

Those involved claim that this successful collaboration between private sector fintech firms, banks and regulators demonstrates the increased efficiency and transparency that blockchain technology can bring to the bond market. Further co-development of the technology for the next phases of the project is in the pipeline.

One of Pakistan’s four provinces urges federal gov’t to legalize crypto

The draft resolution reportedly notes that digital currencies are likely to replace paper currencies in the future.

The assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in northwestern Pakistan, has become the first legislative assembly to call for changes in the country’s stance toward cryptocurrencies.

As previously reported, Pakistan has, to date, been relatively slow to introduce new frameworks for digital assets and cryptocurrencies. This week’s resolution to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was reportedly introduced on Dec. 2 by Sumera Shams, a member of the provincial assembly and the centrist political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI.

Fellow PTI member Zia Ullah Bangash, who is also Advisor to the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Science and Technology and Information Technology, summed up the resolution as a demand that the federal government “take action to legalize cryptocurrency and cryptomining in Pakistan.” The bill was reportedly passed unanimously.

Waqar Zaka, chairman of the Technology Movement Pakistan, social media activist and self-described cryptocurrency influencer, was optimistic about the news, tweeting, “One province done, three more to go.”

According to local media, the draft resolution stated that current trends indicate that digital currencies are likely to replace paper currencies in the future.

In November, Cointelegraph reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, or SECP, had published a consultation paper on regulating digital assets. The paper examined the regulatory frameworks that have already been developed in jurisdictions across the globe, and characterized digital assets as “the start of a new era of finance.”

While the SECP focused on assets such as security and utility tokens, and privately issued currencies in general, Pakistan’s central bank has also previously announced its intention to issue a central bank digital currency by 2025.

Bitcoin is the ‘ultimate anti-lockdown investment,’ says Nigel Farage

The Financial Times scorns Nigel Farage for his apparently predictable embrace of libertarian cryptocurrency influencers.

The United Kingdom Tory Party's nemesis, Nigel Farage, has gone “full crypto.” 

On Nov. 27, Farage sat down for a video interview to discuss all things crypto with Sam Volkering, the editor of Southbank Investment Research, which is, notably, the publisher of Farage's recently launched investor newsletter "Fortune & Freedom." 

In the interview, Farage derided the government's “funny money,” which it continues to print throughout the pandemic at warp speed, and concluded that it's therefore “crucially important” to get one's head around crypto. 

He has elsewhere called Bitcoin “the ultimate anti-lockdown investment,” pointedly on-brand for his newly-launched Reform UK party.

Farage and Volkering's video interview is apparently just the first in a series, which will educate viewers about how to buy crypto, how to store it and keep it safe. 

Journalists at The Financial Times have apparently long expected the politician's pivot to crypto — “it was only a matter of time,” as Alphaville columnist Jemima Kelly would have it.

The evidence for the “inevitable” crypto pivot is hard to quibble with. Farage's Fortune & Freedom pitches itself to an audience that aspires to “grow [its] wealth” in a “New Britain, unleashed after Brexit.” Farage, a former commodities trader, tells his readers that having secured political freedom through Brexit, it's time for them to get their money and their destiny back in their hands.

Other newsletters published by Southbank Investment Research include titles such as “Short the World,“ “Crypto Profits Extreme,“ and “Exponential Investor Premium.“ Volkering is a self-described “authority in the new field of digital assets,” having first bought Bitcoin in 2011 and “followed the cryptocurrencies ‘wild west.’” 

He is also the author of a book called Crypto Revolution: Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies and The Future of Money, also published by Southbank Investment Research. Kelly scathingly recommends the book as an opportune gift choice for FT readers who may have ended up with a despised colleague for their 2020 office Secret Santa. 

The FT's unabashed dislike of Farage and his crypto enthusiast colleague aside, some of the influences on Fortune & Freedom appear to be more eclectic than the alleged free-market fundamentalism of the Brexiteers.

The close ties between the libertarian movement and the arch-Atlanticists of the Vote Leave campaign have, by now, been well documented. One Whitehall source stated that "not even Margaret Thatcher or monetarism at its height had contemplated such shock therapy” as the Brexiteers, with their drive towards a unilateral opening up of the U.K. to the United States market and a radical economic liberalization of the country.

Yet Farage's partner on the newsletter, Nick Hubble, published a piece on Dec. 3, claiming that both "Keynes and Friedman died of COVID-19" and advocating the "radical future" promised by the proponents of Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT. 

MMT takes up the argument that states create the demand for their fiat currencies by taxing the population. Money is therefore seen as a unit of account for credit and debt, which can be created and destroyed at will by sovereign states. MMT popularizer Stephanie Kelton writes that the state can, “afford to buy whatever is for sale in its own unit of account.” 

This is a view starkly opposed to many Bitcoiners’ conviction that loose monetary policy represents a putative, inflationary debasement of value.

How Hubble will reconcile his apparent embrace of MMT with his previous view that cryptocurrencies "represent the first reversal of [...] government theft in hundreds of years" remains to be seen.

With the U.K. poised to face its worst shock in 300 years due to the combined impact of coronavirus and Brexit, it is perhaps the spirit of the monetarists, if not the letter, that will triumph according to Milton Friedman's legendary maxim: "Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."

Whether it be MMT, the crypto revolution or Farage-Hubble eclecticism, something will present itself as being ready to hand for the select few beneficiaries of Britain's 2020 twofold crisis. It is, after all, the perfect time for someone's preferred alternative to shift from "politically impossible" to being "politically inevitable.” 

Bitcoin moves $500K around the globe every second, says Samson Mow

Samson Mow, chief strategy officer at Blockstream, says Bitcoin was never about “transactions per second and coffee,” but about value and a “new financial paradigm.”

Blockstream’s Samson Mow wants to move the conversation away from Bitcoin’s (BTC) performance in transactions per second and toward its role in ushering in “a new financial paradigm,” that is, serving as a permissionless medium for the store and transfer of value.

Mow’s argument is that “VPTS [value transacted per second] not TPS [transaction per second]” is what really counts. Calculations for the video were reportedly made using on-chain data by the editor of the Blockstream engineering blog, who goes by “Grubles” on Twitter. The editor similarly tweeted that “Bitcoin scales just fine. 1 BTC can store an infinite amount of value.”

The video, according to a follow-up tweet from Mow, “was inspired by a stupid XRP marketing video comparing their sh*tcoin’s TPS [transaction per second] to Bitcoin’s.”

 Blockchain.com data shows that as of Dec. 1, the total estimated value of transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain was estimated at $4.627 billion. This figure hit $5.15 billion, close to its all-time-high, on Nov. 5.

Total estimated value of transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain, 2008–2020. Source: Blockchain.com

TPS has long been presented as a purported Achilles heel for Bitcoin, whose capacity maxes out at a lower threshold than competitor coins like Ether (ETH). This is notably the line taken by Bitcoin Cash (BCH) evangelists like Roger Ver, who tout the asset as a better currency for retail adoption in small-scale transactions.

Mow’s line on Bitcoin has been consistent, arguing that those who are interested in everyday transactions can use second-layer solutions like the Lightning Network. Bitcoin in itself, he says, has an altogether different purpose:

“It’s more of a store of value and a medium of wealth transfer. It’s not something you would use every day in payments. I’ve said this before, and people have twisted around and said I hate Bitcoin, but Bitcoin is bad for payments.”

Crypto.com secures an Australian Financial Service License

The mandatory license will allow Crypto.com to issue crypto debit cards in Australia.

Crypto exchange and debit card provider Crypto.com has completed the acquisition of an Australian financial services company in order to secure an Australian Financial Service License, or ASFL.

The acquired firm, named The Card Group Pty Ltd, has been described as specializing in "prepaid card, mobile, and wearable solutions" for enhancing cardholders' engagement. Crucially, the firm was already approved by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board, paving the way for Crypto.com's ASFL.

With an ASFL under its belt, Crypto.com will be licensed to legally issue its proprietary card in Australia and to establish direct relationships with domestic consumers along with actors in the wider Australian financial services system.

Crypto.com — which operates an app, an exchange and a DeFi wallet, as well as a Visa card — has already made some first steps toward establishing an Australian user base; it recently enabled Australian dollar transfers in and out of its platform via NPP (PayID) or BPAY from user bank accounts.

All blockchain businesses whose activities encompass certain financial services are required to secure an ASFL to operate in Australia, which means they are obliged to comply with the country's Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.

As a recent Cointelegraph analysis piece outlined, Australia is considered by crypto business operators to be "a relatively permissive jurisdiction" from a regulatory perspective. The measures the country has introduced so far draw on a long-term awareness of the nascent sector, dating back to as early as 2014 — well before the 2017 hype and bull run of the asset class. From the perspective of blockchain technology more broadly, however, the country's national blockchain roadmap has drawn some criticism for its ostensibly narrow vision.

Report: ICOs left retail investors in the dark

New, small-scale research from Xangle takes a look at investors’ reflections on their initial coin offering investments between 2017 and fall 2020.

Research outfit Xangle has found that a third of sampled retail investors in the United States felt “deceived” by initial coin offerings, or that the projects had withheld information from them.

Notably, Xangle’s survey is small-scale, based on 600 respondents who invested in an ICO sometime between 2017 and October 2020. The majority (44%) of those surveyed were between 25 and 44 years old, with more women represented than men, at 58%. 

On this basis, Xangle suggests there is “no such thing as a typical ICO investor,” though it does not give more insights into its survey methodology and choice of respondents. 

However, Xangle does note that surveyed retail investors were not confined to those caught up in the early ICO boom. Only 22% of the respondents first invested in 2017, whereas 35% first invested in 2018, 26% in 2019 and 9% in 2020.

The lion’s share of respondents (46.7%) invested a small sum, less than $1,000. After this, a significant share of investors (29.2%) invested $1,001 and $10,000. Close to 8% invested between $10,001 and $20,000.

Informal ties and word-of-mouth played an outsized role in these investors’ decisions: 45.7% said that either friends, family or co-workers were the source of information for the ICO they chose to invest in. After this, media coverage, forums and social media sites were the source of information for 15%, 19.2% and 17.7%  of investors, respectively.

Close to 55% of respondents invested in the ICO because they were motivated by seeing a potential return on their investment, 23% did so because they believed in the idea behind the project, and 17% because they wanted to learn more about the technology behind crypto.

A constant theme in the survey is investors’ feeling that they had failed to conduct sufficient research into the project, with almost 56% saying that they would invest in an ICO again in the future, but would investigate the offering more thoroughly. Close to 33% felt the ICO had intentionally deceived or withheld information from them. A further 17% responded that they “didn't know,” implying they still did not have sufficient information to even assess, in retrospect, whether or not the ICO was misleading or fraudulent. 

These stats perhaps explain the fact that at 54%, the majority of respondents believe ICO operators should be held criminally liable for projects found to have been fraudulent. 

Out of five defined answers to the question, “What’s holding crypto back?” three answers referred to matters of information and oversight; 27.5% cited the lack of awareness about what crypto does and how it works in general; 23.7% pointed to under-regulation; and a further 14.5% cited a lack of transparency in ICO disclosures.

Earlier this year, Cointelegraph ran a piece titled “The Death of the ICO,” pointing to the increased role and impact of U.S. regulators within the token offering space in the years following the industry’s initial 2017 boom.

Report: ICOs left retail investors in the dark

New, small-scale research from Xangle takes a look at investors’ reflections on their initial coin offering investments between 2017 and fall 2020.

Research outfit Xangle has found that a third of sampled retail investors in the United States felt “deceived” by initial coin offerings, or that the projects had withheld information from them.

Notably, Xangle’s survey is small-scale, based on 600 respondents who invested in an ICO sometime between 2017 and October 2020. The majority (44%) of those surveyed were between 25 and 44 years old, with more women represented than men, at 58%. 

On this basis, Xangle suggests there is “no such thing as a typical ICO investor,” though it does not give more insights into its survey methodology and choice of respondents. 

However, Xangle does note that surveyed retail investors were not confined to those caught up in the early ICO boom. Only 22% of the respondents first invested in 2017, whereas 35% first invested in 2018, 26% in 2019 and 9% in 2020.

The lion’s share of respondents (46.7%) invested a small sum, less than $1,000. After this, a significant share of investors (29.2%) invested $1,001 and $10,000. Close to 8% invested between $10,001 and $20,000.

Informal ties and word-of-mouth played an outsized role in these investors’ decisions: 45.7% said that either friends, family or co-workers were the source of information for the ICO they chose to invest in. After this, media coverage, forums and social media sites were the source of information for 15%, 19.2% and 17.7%  of investors, respectively.

Close to 55% of respondents invested in the ICO because they were motivated by seeing a potential return on their investment, 23% did so because they believed in the idea behind the project, and 17% because they wanted to learn more about the technology behind crypto.

A constant theme in the survey is investors’ feeling that they had failed to conduct sufficient research into the project, with almost 56% saying that they would invest in an ICO again in the future, but would investigate the offering more thoroughly. Close to 33% felt the ICO had intentionally deceived or withheld information from them. A further 17% responded that they “didn't know,” implying they still did not have sufficient information to even assess, in retrospect, whether or not the ICO was misleading or fraudulent. 

These stats perhaps explain the fact that at 54%, the majority of respondents believe ICO operators should be held criminally liable for projects found to have been fraudulent. 

Out of five defined answers to the question, “What’s holding crypto back?” three answers referred to matters of information and oversight; 27.5% cited the lack of awareness about what crypto does and how it works in general; 23.7% pointed to under-regulation; and a further 14.5% cited a lack of transparency in ICO disclosures.

Earlier this year, Cointelegraph ran a piece titled “The Death of the ICO,” pointing to the increased role and impact of U.S. regulators within the token offering space in the years following the industry’s initial 2017 boom.

Former digital head at luxury brand group LVMH takes role at Ledger

Ian Rogers, newly appointed as a chief experience officer at Ledger, says digital assets are moving from “science fiction” to the mainstream.

The revolving door between traditional finance and the crypto space is well established. Now, executives from the luxury goods sector appear to be following in their steps.

Ian Rogers, formerly the chief digital officer at LMVH, is taking on a new role as “chief experience officer” at Ledger, the well-known French crypto hardware and software maker. LMVH was formed in 1987 from the merger of high fashion house Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy, which itself formed from a merger of champagne maker Moët & Chandon and cognac producer Hennessey, back in 1971.

The newly-created role of chief experience officer involves taking charge of business-to-consumer operations and “reinventing the user experience” of Ledger's products.

In an official statement Rogers gave an insight into how he plans to approach this new role:

“I remember when you couldn’t simply say ‘go to my website' [...] You had to first explain the concept of the internet [...] I love those moments when technology moves from science fiction to mainstream. Digital assets are standing on the verge of this move."

Rogers further referred to the “inevitable transformation” from marginal, geek technology to mass product, and to the cryptocurrency "revolution" when speaking of Ledger and the nascent digital assets industry.

At LMVH, where he worked from 2015 onwards, Rogers's work involved overhauling the e-commerce strategy at luxury brands and implementing new technologies, such as big data and AI, to help with this goal. Prior to his time at LMVH, he worked at Apple Music, Yahoo Music and Beats music, having begun his career as a website developer for the American band The Beastie Boys.

Cryptocurrencies have often been described as a finance “counterculture,” both in academic papers and the mainstream press, due to their origins in libertarian and cypherpunk movements. Now that their appeal has broadened, and their relationship to mainstream finance has become ever more intertwined, Ledger's move to onboard luxury brand executives is, perhaps, not as surprising as it would have been in the industry's earlier, more offbeat days.

Huobi launches regulated crypto exchange in Malaysia

The new entity is called Huobi Labuan, and its brokerage license allows it to offer crypto spot and derivatives trading for an initial nine-month trial period.

Huobi Global, Huobi Group's flagship crypto exchange headquartered in Singapore, may have had a rocky fall in 2020 — at least, as circulating FUD and the rumors go. Today, Nov. 27,  the brand has better news to announce, with the launch of another, independent platform licensed to use the Huobi name. 

Targeted at the Malaysian market, the new Huobi Labuan is launching trading services shortly after having secured a digital asset trading brokerage service license from Malaysian authorities in Sept. 2020.

For an initial nine-month trial period, the new platform will be able to offer crypto spot and derivatives trading for over a dozen cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), EOS and Huobi’s native token.

In terms of infrastructure, Huobi Labuan will act as a local operating partner of Huobi Cloud, and therefore use Huobi's established trading technology for its local digital transaction brokerage services.

As reported, Labuan is just the latest in a string of licensed Huobi platforms or subsidiaries: the seven-year-old brand has a foothold in Thailand, the United States via strategic partner HBUS, Argentina and Turkey, to name a few

Notwithstanding the regulatory turbulence that exchanges are now facing in certain jurisdictions, Huobi has continued to expand its offerings, engaging with the DeFi space and decentralized internet projects such as Filecoin.

As of press time, Huobi Global is the second-ranked crypto spot exchange by daily traded volume as well as in the derivatives exchange charts.

Chinese police seized crypto assets worth $4.2B today from PlusToken Ponzi

Court filings from Nov. 19 show that a large volume of crypto assets, including Bitcoin and Ether, was seized from seven convicts in the PlusToken case.

The PlusToken controversy, which has led to the arrest of 109 individuals so far, has also reportedly resulted in a titanic seizure of crypto assets by Chinese authorities, worth $4.2 billion at today's prices.

According to court filings released publicly on Nov. 19 and posted by The Block, authorities seized a staggering 194,775 Bitcoin (BTC), 833,083 Ether (ETH), 1.4 million Litecoin (LTC), 27.6 million EOS, 74,167 Dash (DASH), 487 million XRP, 6 billion Dogecoin (DOGE), 79,581 Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and 213,724 Tether (USDT) from seven individuals convicted in the case.

According to the ruling from the Yancheng Intermediate People's Court, gains from the seized crypto assets will be forfeited to the national treasury. The precise details of how the assets will be dealt with and processed, in accordance with national laws, have not been fully spelled out.

The PlusToken scheme, which first released its white paper back in Feb. 2018, had presented itself as a South Korean crypto exchange and wallet provider that could provide users with interest-bearing accounts capable of generating up between 8% and 16% returns monthly, with a minimum deposit of $500 in crypto assets.

According to local reports in Sept. 2020, PlusToken drew in 2 million members between May 2018 and June 2019.

The Yancheng Intermediate People's Court puts the estimated figure of members at 2.6 million, and outlines that the scheme absorbed 314,000 BTC, 117,450 BCH, 96,023 DASH, 11 billion DOGE, 1.84 million LTC, 9 million ETH, 51 million EOS, and 928 million XRP by June 27, 2019.

At the time of their absorption, these funds were reportedly with close to 15 billion yuan — roughly $2.2 billion. Today, in 2020 bull market conditions, that value is of course significantly higher.

Some of these funds were used to incentivize members to recruit new targets, while some were cashed out for daily expenses and personal spending by the scheme's ringleaders.

By summer 2019, the scheme had ceased operations citing purported "system maintenance," in what appears to have been one of the industry's largest-ever exit scams. Chinese authorities closed in, arresting and/or detaining many of the key individuals involved. 

The Yancheng Intermediate People's Court ruling notes that 15 individuals have been convicted to date, and have been sentenced to between two and 11 years in jail, and fines ranging between $100,000 and $1 million.

Additional reporting by Ting Peng

Chinese police seized crypto assets worth $4.2B today from PlusToken Ponzi

Court filings from Nov. 19 show that a large volume of crypto assets, including Bitcoin and Ether, was seized from seven convicts in the PlusToken case.

The PlusToken controversy, which has led to the arrest of 109 individuals so far, has also reportedly resulted in a titanic seizure of crypto assets by Chinese authorities, worth $4.2 billion at today's prices.

According to court filings released publicly on Nov. 19 and posted by The Block, authorities seized a staggering 194,775 Bitcoin (BTC), 833,083 Ether (ETH), 1.4 million Litecoin (LTC), 27.6 million EOS, 74,167 Dash (DASH), 487 million XRP, 6 billion Dogecoin (DOGE), 79,581 Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and 213,724 Tether (USDT) from seven individuals convicted in the case.

According to the ruling from the Yancheng Intermediate People's Court, gains from the seized crypto assets will be forfeited to the national treasury. The precise details of how the assets will be dealt with and processed, in accordance with national laws, have not been fully spelled out.

The PlusToken scheme, which first released its white paper back in Feb. 2018, had presented itself as a South Korean crypto exchange and wallet provider that could provide users with interest-bearing accounts capable of generating up between 8% and 16% returns monthly, with a minimum deposit of $500 in crypto assets.

According to local reports in Sept. 2020, PlusToken drew in 2 million members between May 2018 and June 2019.

The Yancheng Intermediate People's Court puts the estimated figure of members at 2.6 million, and outlines that the scheme absorbed 314,000 BTC, 117,450 BCH, 96,023 DASH, 11 billion DOGE, 1.84 million LTC, 9 million ETH, 51 million EOS, and 928 million XRP by June 27, 2019.

At the time of their absorption, these funds were reportedly with close to 15 billion yuan — roughly $2.2 billion. Today, in 2020 bull market conditions, that value is of course significantly higher.

Some of these funds were used to incentivize members to recruit new targets, while some were cashed out for daily expenses and personal spending by the scheme's ringleaders.

By summer 2019, the scheme had ceased operations citing purported "system maintenance," in what appears to have been one of the industry's largest-ever exit scams. Chinese authorities closed in, arresting and/or detaining many of the key individuals involved. 

The Yancheng Intermediate People's Court ruling notes that 15 individuals have been convicted to date, and have been sentenced to between two and 11 years in jail, and fines ranging between $100,000 and $1 million.

Additional reporting by Ting Peng