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Quebec Government Defends Bitcoins Liberty

The Chief Scientist of Quebec, Rémi Quirion, has published a report on Bitcoin, taking an in-depth look at the state of legality that Bitcoin faces on a day-to-day basis. It finds no direct link between Bitcoin and criminal activities.

Quirion disagrees with accusations such as that by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink who labelled Bitcoin as “an index of money laundering”, saying that Bitcoin’s distributed ledger technology has helped law enforcement agencies track down illegal activities with ease.

“Bitcoin is not above the law, nor is it a magnet for illicit transactions: it forms only a tiny part of the criminal money circulating around the planet. The reason: it is less attractive for anyone who wants to make transactions without leaving a trace,” said Quirion.

The Center for Sanctions and Illicit Finance of the Defense of Democracies Foundation’s study found that funds linked to criminal activities accounted for only 0.61% of money entering the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

The percentage of Bitcoin transactions as a whole related to money laundering has decreased over the last five years, from 1.07% to a minuscule 0.12% in 2016.

The report cited that Bitcoin was still unregulated, although the Quebec government insists that companies must obtain a crypto specific license before operating a cryptocurrency exchange in the country.

While these figures might challenge commonly-held views about Bitcoin, they come as little surprise to veteran Bitcoin users. Others argue that fiat currency, in particular, the US dollar still ranks highly as currency favored by criminals.

 

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Europe: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 6th to 13th April 2018

Europe

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.

European Union

EU urged to become a leader in blockchain technology: Vice President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip has called for Europe to become the leader in blockchain technology around the world. Ansip said this during the EC’s Digital Day 2018 convention in Brussels on 10 April. He urged the governments to invest in the technology both politically and financially in the future.

“A significant number of member states have already started to pioneer blockchain initiatives with the aim of developing and reinforcing local innovation ecosystems and aiming to create governmental services on the blockchain,” he said.

United Kingdom

Survey shows 20% of UK adults will own cryptocurrency in the next five years: A recent survey in the UK by Citigate Dewe Rogerson came to the conclusion that cryptocurrency will become more and more popular with the local people in the future with more than 20% of adults likely to own cryptocurrencies in the next three years and as much as 1 in 10 stores already accepting cryptocurrencies.

Head of marketing at Paymentsense Gur Moreve said: “It’s clear that cryptocurrencies are moving swiftly towards the mainstream. However, small business owners considering cryptocurrency as a payment option should be clear about how they can integrate it with their existing financial arrangements. Will suppliers or staff accept it? Can they pay local and national government agencies with it?”

UK’s financial watchdog to deliver crypto regulation analysis next year: The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recently announced that they are undertaking a long-term study regarding the risks and benefits for Blockchain regulations and cryptocurrency tradings. The study will be delivered in 2019.

The FCA Business Plan 2018/19 states: “Cryptocurrencies has been an area of increasing interest for markets and regulators globally. In the UK, the Treasury Committee has announced that it will be launching an enquiry, to which we intend to respond.”

FCA warns against cryptocurrency derivatives: The UK’s top financial watchdog is of the opinion that cryptocurrency derivatives will require authorization from the financial agency to do business. The FCA website posted last Friday that derivatives have the quality to be considered as tradable assets but they need to be registered with the government to be lent legitimacy.

Hull launching its own cryptocurrency: Hull city is planning to launch its own cryptocurrency according to latest reports coming from the UK. The city with a 262,200 population will launch HullCoin and will implement “the world’s first Community Loyalty Point” according to latest reports. The coin will come pre-mined and individuals will partake in social activities and earn Hull Coins.

France

C’est magnifique! French chickens on blockchain: French supermarket Carrefour has recently announced that it has incorporated blockchain technology into a data system that allows shoppers to track the full history of the chickens they are buying.

This innovative approach came is currently limited to poultry in the Chain’s Auvergne stores but will be adopted for the majority of their inventory. Carrefour is one of the world’s largest retailers in the world coming only after US giant Walmart.

Germany

Localbitcoins.com to stop operations in Germany due to regulatory disagreements: Localbitcoins, one of the largest Bitcoin buying/selling portals in the world, is withdrawing from the German market for a while because of regulatory reasons. This may be a worrying sign for the German cryptocurrency industry and comes as a surprise after the country vowed not to “over-regulate” cryptocurrencies.

Officially, Germany recognizes Bitcoin as “private money”, which is short of calling it a real currency.

Spain

Sixty cryptocurrency companies contacted by Spanish tax authorities: In a sweeping move, more than 60 Spanish cryptocurrency companies have been contacted by the Spanish tax authorities regarding their clients according to a report by El Confidencial. Among these are 40 businesses that accept online cryptocurrency payments.

The move comes after the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Maroy’s party announced that his team was preparing legislation including possible tax breaks to attract cryptocurrency companies to the Iberian country.

Eleven arrested in crypto drug money laundering: Spanish Guardia Civil has arrested 11 people involved in laundering more than EUR 8 million via cryptocurrencies and fiat sources according to the latest press release by Europol. The individuals arrested were part of a crime ring which launders narcotics money using credit cards and cryptocurrencies.

Russia

Mining company charged with USD 1 million in electricity theft: Russian police have arrested two illegal cryptocurrency miners after an investigation found them mining without a license on stolen electricity. More than 6,000 pieces of mining equipment were found on the site which was at an abandoned factory in Orenburg, a small town 1,458 km away from Moscow.

Russian state bank to trial cryptocurrency transactions: Russia’s Gazprombank has announced that it plans to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions in Switzerland. An interview with Russian news outlet Vedomosti revealed that the operations would be for the benefit of the bank itself and not for commercial purposes at the moment.

According to the bank’s head, “this is a demand from the sides of our large private clients for such amenities”, acknowledging the significant call for traditional banks to streamline the banking services of clients holding cryptocurrency funds.

 

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C’est Magnifique, French Chickens on Blockchain

French supermarket chain Carrefour recently introduced blockchain technology into a data system allowing shoppers in Auvergne, Southern France, to get a full detailed history of their purchase: a chicken.

Carrefour’s system provides customers with a blockchain-based traceability program, currently limited to some poultry in the chain’s Auvergne stores. The system offers a record of the chickens’ life from egg to supermarket. Shoppers can use a smartphone to scan in a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

Carrefour originally chose the new technology in order to trace production of chickens, but now plans to extend the data sharing program to include products such as eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and hamburgers by the end of the year.

The supermarket chain, which was once the world’s second-biggest retailer after US group Walmart, has said that it believes that blockchain tech applications for the food chain are effective as they allow for secure sharing between producer and consumer.

Walmart itself currently shares a blockchain platform with Nestle, Dole Food, Tyson Foods, Kroger and JD.com. Company vice-president for food safety and health, Frank Yiannas, shares Carrefour’s enthusiasm, saying that “there’s no question about it, blockchain will do for traceability what the internet did for communication”.

Yiannas claims that the new technology will considerably cut down on foodborne diseases, benefiting the economy about USD 700 million through increased productivity, thanks to fewer work days lost to sickness.

Many consumers are unaware of where their food comes from and how it’s produced. New innovators argue that blockchain provides that visibility.

Lance Koonce, partner for Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and head of the firm’s cross-practice blockchain initiative, argues that currently, the window remains open for fraud and food safety breaches, issues which would be addressed under blockchain labeling. He suggests that companies want the ability to “tell stories to their customers about honest products and provide accurate labeling”.

Carrefour announced in January a major overhaul of its business given increased competition from traditional rivals as well as online retailers.

 

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French CryptoCurrency Plan Unclear but Optimistic

French minister of finance and economics, Bruno Le Maire, has made comments recently which appear to extol the merits of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies as being revolutionary.

Le Maire suggested that blockchain technology would offer startups the option to “…create a network of trust without intermediaries…and offer increased traceability of transactions” generating a climate for a more efficient French economy.

The minister suggested that France should become “actors” rather than “spectators” although he clarified that the government should still be wary of speculation, security issues and criminal activities such as money laundering.

French comments were made prior to the recent G20 summit this month in which there was at least some agreement on cryptocurrencies regarding the need for regulation. France and Germany are in agreement, both advocating moves towards a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. German banks have made it quite clear that effective regulation of virtual currencies is an international imperative.

Some French enthusiasm for cryptocurrency at a governmental level can be due in part to French National Assembly member Laure de La Raudiere, a Republican who represents the Eure-et -Loir region of France. As part of another investigation into the use of blockchain technology, she was asked to lead The National Assembly’s Mission d’information in order to inform legislators on how the technology should be used and regulated. La Raudiere’s is scheduled to take six months to complete this prior to the G20’s next meeting where cryptocurrency regulation will return to the agenda.

Less vague, and certainly more optimistic, comments were recently made by Raudiere when she suggested that recent legislative amendments attempting to ban peer-to-peer technology revealed a “total misunderstanding” of the nature of the technology, pointing out that most of the time it was the way technology was used, not the technology itself that required restrictions.

 

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French Finance Minister Calls For ICO Regulations To Attract Crypto Startups

In a recent op-ed for French news website Numerama, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire outlined his ambitions to create a legal framework that would regulate initial coin offerings (ICOs) founded in France.

In his piece for Numerama, Le Maire emphasized his intent in establishing France as the first major financial center to provide ad hoc legislative framework for companies holding ICOs. The minister stated that former central bank official Jean-Pierre Landau was entrusted in drafting the legislation that would be debated in the French parliament. The final legislative proposal gives the market regulators in France, the Autorité des marches financiers, the ability to authorize fundraising through ICOs, provided the companies holding them follow specific guidelines in protecting investors.

“A revolution is underway, of which Bitcoin was only the precursor”

Echoing the sentiment of many Bitcoin supporters, Le Maire described Bitcoin as leading the international revolution within the finance and technology sectors. A priority of the policy proposals is to provide security for both the companies and investors participating in ICOs, as this is integral to establishing them as reputable financial events. For Le Maire, adopting cryptocurrency-friendly policies is the next natural step for France, as he sees the country as having a historical tradition of financial innovation.

This is not the first time Le Maire has discussed his interest in promoting the use of cryptocurrencies. The minister is an open advocate for digital currencies, chairing the cryptocurrency task force in France. This announcement also follows Le Maire’s persistence in bringing cryptocurrencies on the agenda at theG20 summit held in Argentina earlier this month. He took the opportunity at the summit to highlight the critical role of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for the future of finance. Although his actions at the summit were unsuccessful in establishing any sure form of international monetary policy, cryptocurrency regulation proposals are set to be announced by July.

Le Maire plans to bring the legislative proposal that targets regulating ICOs to the French Parliament within a few weeks, where he hopes to find government support to back his policies.

 

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