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Exclusive: How a Local Startup Was Instrumental in Pakistan’s Decision to Legalize Crypto

How a Local Startup Was Instrumental in Pakistan's Decision to Legalize Crypto (2)

Pakistan’s own national celebrity and humanitarian Wakar Zaka has told Bitcoin News that his project, TenUp, played a key role in both informing the government about the technology and rousing a significant pressure group among the country’s population in favor of cryptocurrency legalization.

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar has issued a recommendation to legalize cryptocurrency trading and business in the country. Around 5,000 digital currency exchanges are to be registered, while the cryptocurrencies will be classified as “investments” and net gains will be subject to taxation as per the US’s standard.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) banned cryptocurrencies in April last year, so observers are asking, why the policy U-turn now?

Bitcoin News caught up with Zaka where he explained the vital role his own cryptocurrency project TenUp had in influencing the government’s decision.

TenUp was actually a test case to use and present to the government to show how cryptocurrency work… the government was very humble and up for the technology so I knew that I had a chance.”

Zaka has been in contact with Finance Minister Umar for a while now and his relationship with the country’s top government officials including the prime minister meant he knew they would be a careful audience for his ideas.

The new cryptocurrency legislation is still in a “recommended” stage but should be rolled out by 20 July given its strong support from the finance minister who has assured there will be a focus on know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) policies when it becomes legal to trade. It is particularly exciting news as it will be the first time Pakistan is taking the lead in technology, particularly among its neighboring countries, Zaka noted.

The government task force

He is currently working closely alongside the new government-imposed task force devoted to ensuring the cryptocurrency legalization is rolled out responsibly and practically.

”The task force is taking contributions directly from us; basically, it’s us behind all the decisions. They will send us messages and ask us about stuff. I have full faith in the new government. The president of Pakistan is educated about the technology and is pro-blockchain. He is the first national leader in the region to be this outspoken in favor of it. He explains the technology in the common man’s language- that’s a very good sign for us.”

The task force is made up of ”tech-savvy guys” there to create appropriate legislation. Zaka has been showing them videos and presentations and sharing information about the TenUp project.

On the task force’s agenda is mainly how cryptocurrency will be traced and how to appropriately license come 5,00 exchanges to operate. There will also be a special investigation team set up for initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Zaka’s next ambition is to help launch a state-issued cryptocurrency for Pakistan; he has been using Venezuela and Iran as examples for the government to look into. But the Pakistani state is still in need of some convincing that it is the best decision. Zaka argues, however, that a government-issued cryptocurrency could be a way to bring in revenue from across the globe.

”Pakistan should hold its own ICO because the president has good credibility all around the world, better than Venezuela for sure. The entire world would look into it.”

He has high hopes and expectations that the G20 held in Osaka, Japan in June will be a big turning point for how cryptocurrencies are perceived on the international stage. ”India will definitely follow us in legalization,” Zaka predicted, ”we will see that in a month or so.”

Legalizing cryptocurrency will of course usher in some macroeconomic changes for the country, allowing much of the vast number of unbanked people in Pakistan access to personal accounts. New businesses and the technology sector would also flourish, perhaps even bring the ”tech revolution” Wakar predicts.

Celebrity for the good and bad

Zaka has happily used his celebrity status and huge fan following to share the message and educate people on cryptocurrencies. ”It was very difficult to make them understand how cryptocurrency can work and can eliminate money laundering for example,” he acknowledged.

”Everyone in my region, in India and Pakistan, thought this was a tool for money laundering. I have been education fans for about six months. There has never been another case of a celebrity with a big fan following promoting cryptocurrency properly. When a celebrity starts promoting it, their fans will follow it. Those fans become an army and then they start pushing the government. If other celebrities in India or Nepal start speaking up about it, I think people will definitely start to understand.”

Pakistani celebrities have historically tended to protest against religions such as Islam and build popular movements behind these ideologies so Zaka’s actions were quite unpredicted.

The problem, of course, comes when celebrities such as Floyd Mayweather throw their weight behind token projects that prove to be multilevel marketing or Ponzi schemes. These cases bothered the Pakistani government, of course, and Zaka made it clear he was not in conversation with the government for personal financial benefits by promoting his own cryptocurrency project, TenUp.

”In every region of the world celebrities should use their fame to help people not just to promote themselves. If you have fame you have responsibility. Celebrities in Nepal and India should look at the bigger picture.”

”I’m very happy the government has made the decision to legalize cryptocurrency and its a very big thing for our country,” Zaka finished.

 

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Thailand SEC Approves First ICO Portal

Thailand SEC Approves First ICO Portal

The first initial coin offering (ICO) portal in Thailand has been approved by the country’s securities regulator, the Bangkok Post reported.

According to the report, the first ICO portal that allows confirming smart contract source codes, screening ICOs, conducting Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures and performing due diligence was authorized the by board of directors of Thai Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC). A foreign entity will operate the ICO portal.

The director of fintech department at the SEC, Archari Suppiroj, announced the development stating that ICO portal has been finalized for approval with concerned government agencies like the Commerce Ministry. Under the digital asset royal decree, first ICO deal will be available for the public offering in the near future.

Suppiroj maintained that the ICO market has now evolved from intangible ideas and projects to the ICOs supported by physical assets. In future, criteria for allowing companies to tokenize securities and other assets will be issued by the SEC.

The Thai SEC’s initial plan was to launch a fully operational ICO portal by November 2018. It was expecting to approve each ICO offering by December 2018.

Last year, it declared that it was planning to consider certain exemptions for ICOs. However, caps on participation will still be enforced. At that time, the general secretary of the Thai SEC, Tipsuda Thavaramara, stated that proposed guidelines were aiming at finding a balance in reduced regulatory impediments and regulatory process, taking into account investor protection and risk management.

 

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Hodlers Buying Turkish Homes for as Little as 9 Bitcoins

Hodlers Buying Turkish Homes for as Little as 9 Bitcoins

Cryptocurrency shows no signs of dropping off as a means of payment in the real estate sector despite a lower Bitcoin price and the Turkish real estate market is the most recent location to offer buyers a digital means of settlement for their new home.

A house in Turkey can now be purchased for a little as 9 BTC (about USD 35,000) each, which has this writer thinking about a life in the sun. One of the platforms encouraging Turks and foreign investors to look to real estate purchasing with their Bitcoin is Antalya Homes with offices right across Turkey.

In fact, Turkey, with its unique position dividing two continents, became one of Europe’s most popular property investment locations in 2018 with some 40,000 properties having been sold to foreigners throughout last year.

Houses can now be purchased in a number of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC) Ripple (XRP), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Bitcoin Gold (BTG), Litecoin (LTC), Tether (USDT) and Stellar (XLM). Bayram Tekce, Chairman of Antalya Homes points out the befits of paying digitally:

“Payment with cryptocurrency enables a more reliable and faster transaction performance such as money transfer between bank accounts without any exchange loss. By making investments particularly in countries like Turkey, where housing is becoming increasingly valuable, investors can shift their investment to a less risky and safer area, and multiply their savings.”

To make it easier for clients the company has created a “Pay with Bitcoin” feature on the website, and to date, nine real estate purchases have been made using the facility.

Also in Europe, the first real estate transaction on blockchain was successfully completed in Switzerland last year. The feat was achieved by Blockimmo Ltd, a blockchain property transaction platform, in collaboration with two other companies.

The blockchain-backed real estate transaction, worth CHF 3 million (Swiss francs approximately USD 2.98 million), was conducted by Elea Labs Ltd, Swiss Crypto Tokens Ltd and Blockimmo, for a deal consisting of a restaurant and 18 apartments.

 

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New Startup Pushes Personal Finance Into the Hands of Indian Women

New Startup Pushes Personal Finance Into the Hands of Indian Women

Basis, a Bengaluru-based fintech startup, is hoping to change the look of personal finance for Indian women.

In the USA and other developed countries, up to 50% of adults make investments, and half of these are women. In India, this is not the case, with a mere 3% of Indians investing in the stock market, with figures showing that almost none of these are women. A graduate from the Wharton School in the US has decided to do something about the sorry statistics.

Hena Mehta worked on Wall Street before moving back to India to work at enterprise universal payments solutions Ezetap in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India’s third most populated city and hi-tech hub. Her new project is Basis, an online women-focused personal finance startup. Mehta explained:

“The idea was born out of my own pain point: I realized I wasn’t owning my personal finance and investing decisions, even though I have a prestigious MBA and worked in financial services.”

Her new company has recently benefited from an undisclosed amount of seed funding from India/US-based investors Nitin Saigal, Daniel Jacobs and Dahm Choi, having been successful in receiving a SEBI Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) license recently on 25 February.

Mehta wants to transform financial education and financial decision-making for Indian women in the country empowering them to take more control of their financial futures. She commented:

“In the next few years, we expect to be a full-service personal finance platform serving the financial needs of first-time investors, particularly the Indian women.”

Last year, it was reported that Indian women were investing more in cryptocurrency than men.

 

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Taiwan Promises STO Fundraising Mechanism in 2019

Taiwan Promises STO Fundraising Mechanism in 2019

Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) has said that a new Security Token Offering (STO) based fundraising mechanism will be established, according to an article published on Taiwan Economic Daily.

Administrated by the Executive Yuan of the Republic of China (Taiwan), FSC is an independent government agency. According to the report, the FSC has provided a detailed road map to adopt an STO-related fundraising mechanism as well. In order to listen to the opinions of the industrial stakeholders on the issue, a symposium will be held at the end of April 2019. By the end of June 2019, relevant issuance standards and norms will be formulated.

The chairman of Taiwan’s FSC, Gu Lixiong, highlighted the point that apart from existing stock exchanges, there can be different exchanges for STOs. He regarded them as a next generation product for the capital markets, adding that the region’s new creative teams’ popularity may be affected by STOs in the international market in the next five to ten years.

In October 2018, media reports revealed that Taiwan’s financial regulator was set to revise its hands-off crypto policy that was adopted in 2017. The regulator is expected to announce official regulations for initial coin offerings by June 2019.

 

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Asia and Australia: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 23rd February to 2nd March 2019

Asia

Asia and Australia

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Korea

ICONLOOP Denies That It Is Looking to Undertake an Ipo: Rumors concerning the launch of ICON’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) have been denied by ICONLOOP (South Korean company developing ICON).

Previously, a local media house reported that an anonymous source from the banking sector confirmed ICONLOOP’s plan to get listed on Korea Exchange by 2020. Moreover, Mirae Asset Daewoo Co. (a brokerage firm) was requested by ICONLOOP to lead the efforts of an IPO. The said news immediately gave rise to these rumors.

Singapore

Singapore’s GIC May Have Funded Coinbase, Says Report: Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte. may be involved in funding Coinbase, reports Bloomberg. According to various sources, Coinbase received around USD 300 million in terms of funding. In October 2018, against all the odds, Coinbase’s funding round gave it a valuation of USD 8 billion. However, both the parties have refrained from commenting on the matter.

Ranging from government bonds to private equity, GIC has a diverse investment portfolio. Reportedly, GIC has invested in over 40 countries and has a worth of over USD 100 billion.

Thailand

Thai Securities and Exchange Commission Updates the List of Approved Digital Assets: The list of approved digital assets that can be used as base trading pairs and in initial coin offerings (ICOs) has been expanded by Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), notes an official statement.

The updated list now includes Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum Classic (ETC) and Litecoin (LTC). However, the said list already consists of Ethereum (ETH), Stellar (XLM), Bitcoin (BTC) and Ripple (XRP). All the digital assets present in this list can be used in compliance with Thailand’s national regulations. Nevertheless, none of the listed currencies can be used as legal tender, clarified SEC.

India

Supreme Court of India Orders the Union of India to Finalize Crypto Regulations: The Union of India has been ordered by the Supreme Court of India to present a regulatory framework for the crypto sector within four weeks. In case the Union is unable to present the framework, the Court will be prompted to come up with its own decision.  Moreover, the Supreme Court has refused to hear any case until a proper regulatory framework has been worked out.

Advocate Vijay Pal Dalmia (earliest petitioner in the case) maintained that the Union of India has been given the last opportunity to regulate the crypto sector.

Japan

Japanese Tech Giants to Launch Tamper-Free Education Certificates: Sony and Fujitsu will join hands in order to provide tamper-free education certificates backed by blockchain technology, announced Sony.

A field trial has been launched by Sony Global Education and Fujitsu Research Institute to evaluate the feasibility of using blockchain technology in order to manage exam grades and course records. Moreover, Human Academy (serving foreign students) will be a part of the said trial.

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Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund GIC May Be One of Coinbase’s Backer

Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund GIC May Be One of Coinbase Backer

The cryptocurrency industry continues to elicit interest from mainstream financial services, the recent one being Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte. According to Bloomberg, it appears that the fund may have been involved in Coinbase’s USD 300 million funding round last year, citing people familiar with the matter, although neither of the companies had provided insight on the matter. However, at the time of the funding in October, Coinbase had only listed Tiger Global Management, Wellington Management, and Andreessen Horowitz as participants.

GIC has over USD 100 billion worth of assets in over 40 countries including a broad and diverse investment portfolio that ranges from government bonds to private equity. According to the source, Coinbase’s October funding round gave it a valuation of USD 8 billion, and against the odds of the trends in the crypto market last year, this, however, helped Coinbase rank as one of the most-valued startups.

Bloomberg further cited a document it accessed last year, reporting a forecast revenue to the tune of USD 1.3 billion to be made by Coinbase for 2018. The revenue was expected to be made from fees on its platform as well as its crypto holding’s profit/losses.

Parts of the Asian continent have always been supportive of the digital industry and clearly, they may as well be racing along with the rest of the world where blockchain and its underlying assets have been seen as revolutionary financial tools in the economy.

Binance is another beneficiary of Singapore’s government funding, as it reportedly received indirect funding last year to aid the launch of a cryptocurrency-to-fiat exchange desk in Singapore.

Most sophisticated investors may have been wary of cryptocurrency investments due to their volatility and chiefly because of the unregulated nature of the digital asset industry and possibly because in some cases, these assets may have been used in the financing of illicit trade activities. However, in recent times, the influx of large investors into the cryptocurrency industry has grown steadily, especially with newly introduced derivative markets, financial instruments, and services that are being tailored to suit their needs.

Moreover, in another recent report, retail investors were also found to have increased in a proportionate manner in the past few months. Despite the bear market that struck in 2018, interest in the digital asset marketplace continues to soar at various levels.

 

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Thai SEC Approves ETC, LTC, BCH for ICOs, Trading

Thai SEC Approves ETC, LTC, BCH for ICOs, Trading

Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has expanded its list of approved cryptocurrencies for use in initial coin offerings (ICOs) and as base trading pairs, according to an official statement from the SEC today.

These latest updates to the SEC’s approved list include Ethereum Classic (ETC), Litecoin (LTC), and Bitcoin Cash (BCH), joining Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP) and Stellar (XLM) as cryptocurrencies that can be used in compliance with the country’s national regulations. The SEC reiterated that it does not, however, class any of the above as legal tender, as stipulated in its statement.

The decision comes in accordance with the Royal Decree on Digital Asset Business BE 2561 but does not accord either of the currencies a guarantee of any other status.

Thailand is slowly moving its policies in a pro-cryptocurrency direction, last December announcing a public hearing to attempt to remove the obstacles associated with holding ICOs whilst keeping investors protected. The SEC hopes to allow private ICOs to take place without the registration statements and draft prospectus’ that are currently required.

A recent amendment to the Securities and Exchange Act also allows for tokenized securities such as stocks and bonds to be issued via blockchain, effective later this year.

 

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Asia and Australia: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 16th to 22nd February 2019

Asia

Asia and Australia

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

Japan

Japan Central Bank Examines Digital Currencies Again: The Bank of Japan (BoJ) has released its annual comprehensive report to reassess the role of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) in the prevalent monetary system. This report has attracted attention after last year’s report stating negative opinions about CBDCs. BoJ has cast light on several approaches to implement a CBDC and has analyzed the probable outcomes of each method.

It has also divided CBDCs into two broad categories, one accessible to the general public such as currencies while the other limited to large-value settlements. The report also states that since wholesale CBDCs will not enhance or modify the existing monetary system, its focus must be shifted to the general purpose currencies. 

The BOJ doesn’t have a good opinion of CBDCs and stablecoins currently available in the market and that is why it doesn’t classify them alongside cryptocurrencies.

Japanese Internet Giant Recruit Has a New USD 25M Blockchain Fund: Recruit Holdings, the USD 45 billion Japanese internet giant and the owner of Glassdoor and many other enterprises, has recently splashed some cash to launch a USD 25 million blockchain fund.

Based out of Singapore, the fund closed in November 2018, but it was revealed to the public only this week following the crypto fund’s first investment in BeamNow.

China

Major Chinese University Launches Blockchain Research Center: One of the highest merit universities in China, Fudan University, has recently inaugurated a blockchain research center named the Shanghai Blockchain Engineering Technology Research Center. This enormous step towards the development of blockchain technologies was taken in collaboration with Zhongan Online Property Insurance Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Zhongren Information Technology Co., Ltd.

The center aims to research and develop the latest blockchain technologies, discover new applications, and conduct talent training. It will also go a long way in further promoting the development of the blockchain industry in Shanghai.

Other universities in China are also helping the blockchain sector grow. Recently, the Blockchain Technology Research Scholarship Program (BRSP) was announced by the Institute for Fintech Research at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. The scholarship is considered extremely beneficial for the future development of the sector in China.

South Korea

Hyundai to Integrate Blockchain into Financial System with IBM’s Help: In the recent IBM Think 2019 event IBM and Hyundai Commercial have announced a partnership to work on the development of a blockchain financial system. The collaboration will include the development of a new supply chain financing ecosystem for Hyundai Commercial while IBM will employ open source Hyperledger Fabric blockchain technology to accelerate the development.

The blockchain-based financing ecosystem aims to replace the current manual processing with automatic processing to increase operational efficiency and enhance data security while offering a real-time view of all transactions on blockchain to all network participants such as the distributors, manufacturers, and dealers.

Thailand

Government Moves Forward with Digital Securities: The Government of Thailand is working to amend the existing securities laws to accommodate digital security assets in the country.

According to an article from The Bangkok Post: “National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is “paving the way for scripless securities issuance and tokenized securities leveraging blockchain technology,”

The crypto sector is already gaining traction in the South East Asian country and with increased regulatory clarity, it is expected to show further progress.

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Asia and Australia: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 9th to 15th February 2019

Asia

Asia and Australia

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

Japan

Financial Regulator Declares Drop in Crypto Inquiries: The top financial regulator of Japan, Financial Services Agency (FSA) has announced that there has been a drop in crypto-related inquiries reported to the agency during Q4 2018.

In Q3, around 1231 inquiries related to cryptocurrencies were asked by the public but in Q4, only 788 were filed signaling an almost 36% drop. While there has been an increase in the number of inquiries in other regions, signifying a rising level of interest in cryptocurrencies among the public, latest statistics from Japan shows that either the Japanese public is getting more aware of crypto regulations or the interest in the sector is cooling down. Only time will tell what it actually is.

South Korea

Telecom Company to Help Launch Local Cryptocurrency: