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Japanese Police Investigate 700% Increase in Suspicious Crypto Activity

Japanese Police Investigate 700% Increase in Suspicious Crypto Activity

Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) has announced a huge hike in reports of dubious cryptocurrency transactions, most which occurred between January and October of this year.

In all, 5,944 reports from cryptocurrency exchanges were recorded, possibly linked to money laundering and tax evasion. These figures represent an eight-fold increase from the 699 cases reported in 2017.

Japan has the world’s most progressive regulatory climate for cryptocurrencies with a buoyant and energetic market. Its regulator has tightened regulation om trading and exchanges over time in order to provide a secure business environment and now requires all cryptocurrency exchanges to be screened and registered by the Financial Services Agency (FSA). In 2017, this vigilance was stepped up by the FSA also requiring a form of mandatory reporting expecting exchanges to report any suspect trading activity to the regulator.

These laws appear to have done little to prevent an escalation in cases of illegal activity, although they are at least now being brought into the public light. An NPA official commented, “It’s already been some time since the reporting system began, and it has been embraced by the industry through guidance from the Financial Services Agency.”

The cost of this crime, however, is alarming, with the JPY 660 million stolen from crypto exchanges and individual wallets swelling to a huge JPY 60 billion in only the first half of 2018.

Just this week, the National Safety Commission released its latest report on the state of the industry with regards to the misuse of cryptocurrency funds, a factor that many nations’ leaders cite as being the main deterrent towards civic adoption by central governments and banking institutions.

The main areas of misuse thrown up by the report include factors such as reuse of the same face photo by several users with different names and birth dates, multiple trading accounts initiated from a single IP address, logins from overseas on accounts with Japan addresses, as well as registration of out-of-use mobile phone numbers.

But FSA registrations continue, with 16 recent exchanges passing the screening process and another three awaiting the green light to operate, highlighting that the FSA feels that it has this situation under control.

 

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Japan to Regulate Crypto Wallet Services

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) is planning to impose regulations on cryptocurrency wallet service providers, according to a published account of its latest meeting.

The agency gathered earlier this week for its ninth cryptocurrency study group meeting. The FSA also hosts regular study group meetings to discuss various crypto regulatory issues, particularly those concerning the regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges.

A major topic of its last meeting was a plan to regulate wallet service providers, given that currently, FSA regulations are not applicable to such services as such providers are not in the business of actually trading. The agency now feels that because such providers manage transfers and storage of digital currencies, they should be brought in line with financial regulation.

It was revealed that any new regulations would not apply to wallet software developers and hardware wallet manufacturers as these are often simply coded private facilities with no company backing.

The focus is again on money laundering and as such, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations will become the basis for the new regulations according to the FSA. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization that designs and promotes policies and standards to combat financial crime. Recommendations created by the task force target money laundering, terrorist financing, and other threats to the global financial system.

Other issues discussed in this ninth meeting of the cryptocurrency study group around the topic of wallet services touched on stolen funds during cyber-attacks, wallet failures, money laundering, and other risks shared by crypto exchanges.

The FSA is continually updating its cryptocurrency regulations. At this last meeting, further measures to regulate the industry were discussed, such as financial audits and the separate management of funds belonging to service providers and customers. Also, it was suggested that during a transition period for introducing new wallet regulations service providers would not be able to add new businesses, customers, or coins supported by the wallet.

 

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Japan’s FSA: Finding Balance Key as Transactions Overheat

Japan’s regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), has suggested that there needs to be a balance between consumer protection and technological innovation as the blockchain industry expands.

The government body’s top regulator Toshihide Endo has suggested that the industry needs to grow under “appropriate regulation” and as such won’t need government intervention to further enforce curbs on how exchanges operate within the country.

On-site inspections of Japanese exchanges by the FSA early this month revealed that investor protection remains a key issue but as the commissioner stated, the government has “no intention to curb excessively”.

A key finding of the report following the last FSA inspections was that exchange’s internal control systems were showing signs of lagging behind, given the rapid increase of transactions; an increase partly accredited to investors climbing back into the market after 2017 recent falls. The Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) had called for trading limits in line with FSA suggestions earlier this year.

The JVCEA, which has already applied to the FSA to become cryptocurrency’s one and only self-regulatory body in the country, had attempted to stem the tide of transactions earlier this month when it recommended its own “appropriate regulations” for growth by proposing new rules that would affect the way exchanges operate, placing privacy coin listings and insider trading under the regulatory microscope.

Another tool for limiting the transaction surge suggested by JVCEA was to enforce trading caps and restrictions according to age group, i.e. the very old and the very young. The FSA regulator has already released figures showing that in April, there were 142,000 crypto traders in Japan. That monthly figure represents a small percentage of the total of 3 million Japanese traders.

The JVCEA has suggested that the new borrowing limit for trading platforms in Japan should be set at four times the customer deposit when margin trading. Currently, there are no limits on how much cryptocurrency investors can borrow when trading in this way.

 

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