Category Archives: Europe

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Bulgaria to Monitor Crypto Market with Focus on Regulatory Steps

Bulgaria has announced that it is to begin monitoring cryptocurrency and ICO activities in the country through its government watchdog, according to Cryptovest. The focus of Bulgaria’s Financial Supervision Commission (FSC) will be securing a safeguard against illegal activity such as money laundering and fraud connected with cryptocurrency.

As reported in Bitcoin News over the past few days, Bulgaria seized a massive BTC 213,519 in May currently worth around USD 1.4 billion, making the country a substantial holder of the currency. The total would reportedly be enough to pay off a quarter of Bulgaria’s national debt.

The commission sees eliminating such crime as crucial to the regulation of the industry. Four main areas have been targeted of which one is aimed at criminal activity. The others are largely designed to encourage cryptocurrency regulation.

The areas fall mainly into setting clear licensing and registration conditions for products and services, coming up with a regulatory process for outsourcing services, creating innovation hubs and finally dealing with cybersecurity concerns. The FSC ‘Financial Technology Monitoring Strategy in The Non-Banking Financial Sector’ document confirms and summarizes these four main areas of attention in the following statement:

“The challenge for the non-banking financial sector is to balance the benefits of the introduction of cutting-edge technology and preserve financial stability and safety for consumers and investors in the sector.”

Bulgaria has a had a history of banks blacklisting the IBANs of major exchanges such as Coinbase and Kraken. The new moves could at least add some clarification to the space and may go some way to appeasing the banks, perhaps softening their stance on dealing with exchanges, if current AML laws are addressed.

If, as suggested, the giant haul of Bitcoins seized by the authorities was the result of tax fraud, it appears that new cryptocurrency tax legislation would be fairly high on Bulgaria’s regulatory agenda moving forward.


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Russia Whitelists 50 Crypto Companies, but Rules Still on Hold

A register of 50 whitelisted companies has been compiled by the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain, reports

The list of companies, consisting of firms which are either approved and awaiting verification by the Russian regulators, includes cryptocurrency sectors from crypto mining to ICOs.

Russia is currently consumed with regulating the industry, in a turnaround which earlier this year had Vladimir Putin’s economic advisor, Sergei Glazev stating that cryptocurrency could be used to carry out “sensitive” state activities, such as avoiding sanctions imposed by foreign governments and private companies. A national crypto ruble was conceived and rejected.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency regulation in Russia has been delayed, and president Putin recently suggested that people should treat cryptocurrency cautiously since it was not supported and that the Central Bank of the Russian Federation did not consider cryptocurrency a means of payment or a store of value.

Blockchain continues to receive support among researchers in the country. The government is actively looking at how blockchain may be used to improve the workability of its defence and information systems, along with NATO and the Pentagon.

RACIB has said that part of its plan is to track what it regards as unfair ICO projects after an estimated RUB 270 million (USD 4.3 million) had been lost to illegal cryptocurrency scams or scams. The idea of the register is to shortlist companies which the body can verify as bona fide operators.

A statement by RACIB said that the new register “…consists exclusively of organizations that have undergone voluntary verification of reliability” which was based on “financial sustainability, experience and business reputation, lack of judicial judgments, availability of licenses and certificates (if necessary), [and] no arrears of taxes and fees”.

Russia’s position on the regulation of cryptocurrencies and ICOs is still awaiting clarification although the first bill “On Digital Financial Assets” successfully passed its first reading in the Russian Duma in May.


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Moon Zebra Launches Malta’s First Two-Way Bitcoin ATM

Moon Zebra has installed the first two-way Bitcoin ATM in Malta. The two-way Bitcoin ATMs allow users to both buy Bitcoin with fiat and to convert Bitcoin back to fiat, and are far rarer than typical one-way Bitcoin ATMs that only allow users to buy Bitcoin with fiat. Even though this is only the 4th Bitcoin ATM installed in Malta, it is a major positive step for Malta, which has been called ‘Blockchain Island’ by many for its extremely favorable stance towards crypto and blockchain companies, including giving the world’s biggest crypto exchange Binance a fiat bank account.

Two-way Bitcoin ATMs are essential for the global adoption of Bitcoin as a currency, allowing users to quickly and easily move money between fiat and crypto. Now people in Malta who are paid with Bitcoin by their jobs can easily turn their Bitcoin into cold hard cash and use it to buy food, necessities, and pay rent

According to Coin ATM Radar, there are 1,256 two-way Bitcoin ATMs in the world versus 2,218 one-way Bitcoin ATMs, as of this writing on 15 July 2018. A two-way Bitcoin ATM provides all the functionality of a cryptocurrency exchange and is much faster. Typically it takes several days to convert Bitcoin into fiat when using a cryptocurrency exchange, and it requires a bank account. Bitcoin ATMs are nearly instant, usually requiring 1 confirmation which takes about 10 minutes before dispensing cash for deposited Bitcoin. Also, Bitcoin ATMs don’t require a bank account, making them the only option for unbankable Bitcoin users besides Bitcoin dealers.

Although Bitcoin ATMs typically charge higher fees than a cryptocurrency exchange for both buying and selling, on the order of 5-10%, the time saved is worth it. This is especially true since the near instant nature of Bitcoin ATMs protect users from market volatility; Bitcoin price fluctuations can easily exceed 5% in a day and sometimes even 10%, so it is worth a fee to make an instant Bitcoin to fiat transaction.

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London Gallery Owner Helps Crypto Wealthy Make Expensive Choices

There is an increasing number of platforms being launched to help wealthy consumers part with their cryptocurrency, usually on luxury items, writes the China Morning Post.

Such entrepreneurs have created a business seemingly out of very little, but nonetheless, they are serving a specific crypto elite and creating a thriving retailer-consumer database.

Working from her gallery in London’s Mayfair, Eleesa Dadiani is one of the new providers to the crypto rich, with clients ranging from 20 to 70 years of age. It started a couple of years ago, she maintains, has noted that those who had made significant profits from cryptocurrency trading really had no idea how to spend it. Using her established clientele through her gallery Dadiani Fine Arts she decided to make it happen by forming a syndicate of retailers and customers to turn some of this wealth into goods. She explained:

“A couple of years ago, when we saw bitcoin perform as well as it did, there was no way to use those coins. You were rich on screen, but what could you do with it? You could invest in ICOs [initial coin offerings], but what about something tangible? The answer was ‘Nothing’.”

Dadiani is certainly a believer and wants to make cryptocurrency do what it was intended for. Her gallery was one of the first globally to accept multiple cryptocurrencies; she currently supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Ripple, Dash, and NEM. Her customers come to her so she can help them make that otherwise difficult crypto purchase.

The list of her client’s purchases are impressive to say the least, from bloodstock to jets, from gold bullion to rare cars, she’s handled them all. Even the purchase of four Formula 1 cars valued at £4 million ($5.3 million) wasn’t enough to dampen her enthusiasm for her role as crypto “ middle-man.”

She says she has little time for crypto-idealists trying to create decentralized government-free crypto utopias, suggesting that people need to make a “cognitive shift” and find a way of integrating cryptocurrency into real life through gradual change. She argues:

“These libertarians, they don’t understand money, they don’t understand history,” she says. “They know nothing about politics or international relations. You have to understand the world you live in before you can change it.”

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National Bank of Slovakia Illuminated by Massive Bitcoin Sign

Slovakian banks including the country’s central bank found themselves advertising Bitcoin on July 11th as a giant icon was illuminated on the exterior of banking institutions around Bratislava.

A local action group, an arm of Czech crypto group Paraleni Polis, were responsible for the giant batman style logo which advertised the coin.

The group, which is based in the Czech capital Prague, is a well-established anti-bank, pro-crypto organization which even has its own cafe and crypto hub. Along with an uploaded video of the central bank illuminated by the Bitcoin logo they added a statement referring to the hostility shown by Czech banks towards cryptocurrencies, part of which read:

“Slovak banks, instead of embracing the unlimited possibilities of cryptocurrencies and supporting the emerging crypto companies, due to state regulators or unclear legislation remain in the darkness.”

Further, the group drew attention to the age of enlightenment and the creation of the printing press in the 15th century making the analogy that a new contemporary witch hunt instigated by government legislators is now targeting the latest innovations. The Bitcoin illumination appeared to be a reference to the banking system needing to move from the “darkness” of the status quo into the dawn of a new era, presumably blockchain.

There have been a few reported incidents this year of banks denying services to customers who have Bitcoin investments, and some exchanges have been denied services as well. Also, there has been evidence that appears to suggest that mortgages may not be quite so easy to acquire for those with a cryptocurrency selling history as Bitcoin News reported recently. A major Australian bank has also recently informed its customers that they can no longer use mortgage equity for purchasing cryptocurrency.

This is not the first time that the anti-banking logo has been used, however, this time in Switzerland, where another activist group, Trust Square, projected the same Bitcoin logo onto the wall of the National Bank of Switzerland in May, according to InsideBitcoins.

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Binance Announces Plans to Create First Decentralized Tokenized Bank in Malta

Binance in Malta is backing plans to create a blockchain-based bank with tokenized ownership, according to Crowdfund Insider.

The world’s second largest crypto exchange had already announced its move to Malta in March and has set up a bank account on the island, thus demonstrating that Malta is moving ahead with industry-friendly regulations to facilitate its plans to become a major cryptocurrency hub.

The blockchain-based financial institution which will be known as the “Founders Bank” will become the world’s first decentralized, community-owned bank, and participants will be issued with “legally binding equity tokens” in return for their investment.

The blockchain-based equity fundraising platform Neufund will issue the tokens. The German-based company which has a base in Malta but retains its HQ in Germany, is said to have raised USD 11 million from well-known investors in 2017. Binance and Neufund are also reported to be partnering with one of Europe’s main stock exchanges later this year, although no names have been thrown into the hat as yet.

Binance Tweeted on its plans for the new bank:

“Founders Bank will become the first stable high-tech banking solution, not only focused on founders but also owned by them, bridging the gap between traditional financial world and innovative crypto companies.”

The bank’s first step will be to seek a licence from Maltese regulators. Malta has already approved three DLT and crypto-related bills which pave the way for new businesses to the island. Silvio Schembri, Junior Minister for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation within the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, stated that the island “is honoured to be chosen as the location of the first global community-owned bank”. He added:

“We welcome Founders Bank with the utmost excitement and hope that their Fintech solutions will attract even more world-class companies to our Blockchain Island.”

Schembri is known for being the leading advocate on Malta for pursuing an innovation economy build on blockchain and Fintech development.

Binance also recently opened a new crypto-fiat trading platform in Uganda, which supports the Ugandan shilling, alongside major cryptocurrencies.


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Europe: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 5th to 12th July 2018


Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.


TokenPay announces 9.9% WEG Bank stake for Litecoin Foundation: TokenPay, the company that purchased a significant stake in the German WEG bank, has announced that it will be gifting all of its 9.9% stake to the Litecoin Foundation.

In return, the Litecoin Foundation agreed that it would help TokenPay in the provision of cheap technology and marketing expertise for TokenPay’s native blockchain initiatives and the TPAY cryptocurrency.

Charlie Lee, the founder of Litecoin said:

“This partnership is a huge win-win for both Litecoin and TokenPay. I’m looking forward to integrating Litecoin with the WEG Bank AG and all the various services it has to offer, to make it simple for anyone to buy and use Litecoin. I’m also excited about Litecoin’s support in TokenPay’s eFin decentralized exchange.”


Regulators taking next step towards easing of ICOs: French regulators are now finally in a place to move forward with cryptocurrency regulation, according to a report from the Autorité des Marchés Financier (AMF).

According to AMF’s report, ICOs are also on the agenda for further regulatory framework. Robert Ophele, the president of AMF said recently:

“…[we] continue to reflect on changes in the regulatory framework in the face of new offers, in particular, the Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), and to promote at European level the French regulator’s approach to innovation.”

The question of regulation of ICOs has long since hampered the development of the cryptocurrency scene in the country.

United Kingdom

Premier league team signs sponsorship deal with CoinDeal: Newly-promoted English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers has signed a deal with cryptocurrency exchange platform CoinDeal.

The English club became the first official club in the big leagues of the world to sign a sponsorship with a cryptocurrency exchange. The new jerseys will sport the CoinDeal logo on their sleeves.

UK government testing platform for tokenization of assets: In a progressive move, the UK government has announced a new prospect of tokenizing assets of companies based on blockchain technology.

The tokenization of assets is based on an open-minded Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulatory sandbox that has entered its fourth round with over 29 firms competing. Two blockchain projects from the sandbox are also in talks with the London Stock Exchange for adoption of their applications.


Malta home to first “convertible” ICO and new blockchain degree: Malta is now home to the world’s first Initial Convertible Coin Offering (ICCO) that the company Palladium has launched in partnership with popular cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex.

An ICCO is a different concept from the mainstream ICO as it will allow the investors to convert their coins into shares of the company in the future. Palladium is offering a three-year wait before conversion right now.

Crypto-friendly Malta is also offering a blockchain degree as part of civil servant training starting from this year.


Bulgaria’s Bitcoin stash almost as big as Nakamoto’s: The Bulgarian government reportedly seized BTC 213, 519 during a raid on organized crime. If the government has held on to the Bitcoins, then it is now officially the most valuable stash of cryptocurrencies in the world, worth over USD 1.4 billion right now.

Nakamoto mined BTC 1.1 million using his own computer as it was particularly easy back then since he was virtually the only one on the network. This is now worth around USD 6.9 million.


Stock exchange launches crypto platform: Swiss stock exchange SIX has announced that it is opening doors to cryptocurrencies in the country according to latest reports from The Financial Times.

The new platform will offer integrated post-transaction services, deal settlement and asset custody through the use of Distributed Ledger Technology. SIX’s chief said:

“For us, it is abundantly clear that much of what is going on in the digital space is here to stay and will define the future of our industry. The financial industry now needs to bridge the gap between traditional financial services and digital communities.”

Switzerland is one of the most crypto-friendly countries in the world and the government is even considering shifting to e-franc, a state cryptocurrency.


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Which Countries Are Most Likely to Adopt Bitcoin First?

Bitcoin replacing a country’s government currency would be a huge achievement for cryptocurrency as well as a historical milestone. But which countries are most likely to adopt such a nascent currency?

One of the biggest drivers for adopting a cryptocurrency would be necessity. Countries where citizens experience hyperinflation, political instability, or other factors that shake confidence in a government currency typically see higher demand in alternative currencies like Bitcoin.

Countries possibly adopting Bitcoin on a major scale, for this reason, would be Iran, Venezuela and Argentina, to name a few.

Iran has made headlines with plans to withdraw EUR 300 million from German banks. Rising tension since 2015, when the US left the Nuclear Agreement, has only amplified with Trump entering the presidency.

The tension has only weakened confidence in the Iranian rial, leading to higher than market prices within Iran borders. Couple this with the US sanctions placed restricting liquidity and hyperinflation of 112%, and Bitcoin easily becomes the currency of choice for Iranian citizens.

While rial’s hyperinflation will lead to holders of the currency losing more than half of their value, this is nothing compared to Venezuela’s economic crisis.

A year ago, a cup of coffee in Venezuela was 2,200 Venezuelan bolivar (VEF), or around USD 0.20. Since then, inflation has been rampant, causing that same cup to be sold at VEF 1,400,000, for an effective annual inflation rate above 60,000%.

This has led to an extreme demand for the cryptocurrency; peer-to-peer exchange Localbitcoins shows Venezuela traders selling Bitcoin at rates of VEF 9 billion (USD 75,000) to VEF 19.5 Billion (USD 158,531). Despite these massive premiums and the cryptocurrency experiencing a correction of its own, Bitcoin is still a more attractive option than the fiat currency.

Such an extreme devaluation of the currency makes Venezuela a prime country to embrace Bitcoin wholeheartedly.

Argentina is in a similar situation and currently has the higher interest rate in the world (40%). Continually rising prices coupled with increasing unemployment rates makes Bitcoin a viable currency in this case, over the Argentine peso.

Cashless societies could also be primed for a crypto take over but cryptocurrency needs a lot of refinement before this could become a reality.

Contactless payment methods are already very convenient and with credit cards, even offer cashback rewards and customer protection. For cryptocurrency to penetrate markets like Canada, Sweden and the UK, digital currencies must not only offer similar characteristics but be much better than existing systems.

A good scaling solution needs to put in place as well, in order for Bitcoin (or whatever cryptocurrency a society adopts) to handle the number of transactions.

The third set of countries likely to adopt Bitcoin are the ones that are already open to cryptocurrency-related businesses, regulatory wise.

Countries that fall into this category include Japan, Estonia, Singapore, Australia, and South Korea. Sweden also goes into this category because despite its cashless society, recognizing Bitcoin as a legal form of payment.

Countries that are Bitcoin-friendly will typically have a higher percentage of citizens already exposed and actively using the cryptocurrency, making it far easier for Bitcoin to become widespread.

Being on welcoming turf also allows companies to come in and introduce new use case scenarios for the cryptocurrency, thus improving Bitcoin’s penetration rates.

Bitcoin is a fairly new currency and as more people begin to understand and classify it, more countries will become more receptive to the decentralized money. It will be interesting to see which country becomes to adopt Bitcoin as a dominant currency and if it’s from necessity, convenience or another reasons.


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Ledger Generates $29.4M Profit from Hardware Wallets, Plans to Launch Crypto Custodian Service

French crypto firm Ledger says it has sold over 1 million Ledger Nano S cryptocurrency hardware wallets in 2017, generating USD 52.9 million of sales and USD 29.4 million of profits. Ledger will soon be expanding its business to cryptocurrency custodianship, and is planning another major investment round that has already sparked interest from Google, Siemens, and Samsung which may bring their valuation up to USD 1 billion.

Hardware wallets like the Ledger Nano S are one of the most secure ways to store Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. One of the biggest mistakes that new cryptocurrency users make is they don’t keep their private key in a safe place, which can result in their cryptocurrency being stolen. The private key gives anyone who holds it total control over cryptocurrency held in the corresponding address. Another major mistake is keeping cryptocurrency in an exchange or an online wallet instead of in their own wallet; users who do this don’t have 100% control of their private key and would lose their coins if the online service they are using is hacked or shut down.

The Ledger Nano S and other hardware wallets give cryptocurrency users a fast and efficient way of safely storing private keys, which is beneficial for the crypto ecosystem since it reduces fraud and bad experiences. Considering this, it is perhaps no surprise that Ledger has sold over 1 million hardware wallets in a year. Hardware wallets are essentially a USB stick or external drive that holds a private key, but Ledger Nano S includes wallet software, encryption that can only be unlocked by entering a pin code, 2-factor authentication, and a display which shows transaction history. Also, Ledger Nano S supports multiple cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum.

Ledger is expanding its business and has created the Ledger Vault, which provides everyone in an organization with hardware wallets that access the same crypto wallets. Varying permission can be set on each hardware wallet, which is ideal for businesses that use cryptocurrency.

The biggest move that Ledger is planning is the launching of Komainu, in partnership with Japanese financial giant Nomura, which will be a full-fledged cryptocurrency custodian service. Cryptocurrency custodian services are considered the final barrier to mainstream institutional investment, which could release a tremendous amount of money into the cryptocurrency markets. Coinbase, BitGo, and Xapo have already launched fully licensed and operational cryptocurrency custodian services.


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TokenPay Gives Litecoin Foundation 9.9% Stake in Germany’s WEG Bank

Cryptocurrency payment service TokenPay purchased a 9.9% stake in Germany’s WEG Bank, and gifted a 9.9% stake to the Litecoin Foundation to forge a partnership. In return for the stake, the Litecoin Foundation agreed to provide technology and marketing expertise for TokenPay’s blockchain initiatives including the TPAY cryptocurrency, eFin decentralized exchange, TokenSuisse asset management, WEG Bank’s FinTech platform, and a multi-signature transaction engine.

Charlie Lee, founder of Litecoin and director of the Litecoin Foundation, says, “This partnership is a huge win-win for both Litecoin and TokenPay. I’m looking forward to integrating Litecoin with the WEG Bank AG and all the various services it has to offer, to make it simple for anyone to buy and use Litecoin. I’m also excited about Litecoin’s support in TokenPay’s eFin decentralized exchange.”

The CEO of WEG Bank, Matthias von Hauff, says, “The partnership with innovative institutions such as TokenPay and Litecoin might at first come unexpectedly for a very conservative institution like us. But we have thoroughly and diligently examined the prospects of a common future, and we became convinced that the future of banking will make adoption of such modern payment methods inevitable. We are therefore proud to have teamed up with the best in the field.”

Under German law, no entity can buy more than a 9.9% share in a bank without regulatory approval. If TokenPay receives approval they plan on buying up all the shares of WEG Bank. This is a big if, since it would probably be the first time in history that a cryptocurrency firm purchased an entire bank, and would be major positive news for the crypto world. They want to keep the Litecoin Foundation on board as a strategic partner, so the Litecoin Foundation would keep its stake even if TokenPay takes over WEG Bank.

Due to its partnerships with the Litecoin Foundation, WEG Bank and Verge, TokenPay is expecting to get several hundred thousand customers when it releases its crypto debit cards. Indeed, the fact that TokenPay has a large share in a bank sets the foundation for an ideal fiat to crypto exchange service for cryptocurrency traders. Oftentimes, centralized actions by banks are the biggest hindrance to trading crypto for fiat, but since TokenPay now owns a part of WEG Bank, it is likely it won’t face much banking problems.


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