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Dutch Authorities to Curb Crypto Trading Anonymity

Dutch Authorities to Curb Crypto Trading Anonymity

The Netherlands Authority for Financial Markets (AFM) and the central bank, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), are making recommendations to put an end to anonymous buying and selling of cryptocurrencies in the Netherlands.

Under proposed new rules, all crypto exchanges and wallet providers would be required to apply for a special license to operate, with Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra pushing forward the new changes.

Some feel that this may be an “after the horse has bolted” scenario given what has been regarded as a largely uncontrolled crypto market in the country over the 18 months; a period where first-time investors have risked losses due to inexperienced and occasion fraud events. Also, given that many investors have withdrawn from the market due to dip in cryptocurrency values, some exchanges think this has a come a bit too late.

However, figures do illustrate that the industry has remained vulnerable, with Dutch police’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) reporting digital-relegated fraud rising since the beginning of last year from an average of 300 to nearly 5,000 a year.

It is possible the Dutch are simply responding to last year’s new AML directive introduced by member states of the EU which stipulates that cryptocurrency trading platforms follow the same AML laws as traditional financial institutions. Under these laws, the 27 nations of the EU are also required exchanges to keep full records of transactions and report those which are felt to be in any way dubious.

 

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Dutch Central Bank Takes Closer Look at Exchanges

Dutch Central Bank Takes Closer Look at Exchanges

The Dutch Central Bank, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) has announced its plans to impose regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges in the country in order to counter money laundering and fundraising for terrorist activities.

In future, registering exchanges will need to ensure that any “unusual transactions” are reported and that exchanges’ KYC rules are tightened.

The new legislation was not completely unexpected by the Dutch cryptocurrency community. The central bank has long been unreceptive to the idea of digital currency, maintaining back in November of 2017 that Bitcoin had no real worth. According to DNB regional director Petra Hielksma at that time, “If something wants to be treated as money, you have to be able to spend, save and calculate with it.”

The Netherlands has been quick to find numerous worthy use cases for DLT, particularly in projects that support local communities, health, and civic pride. The larger community has been mainly positive towards cryptocurrencies too, despite the country’s Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra proposing a ban on cryptocurrency advertising and trying to douse enthusiasm.

Arnhem, near the German border, has become the country’s crypto haven, where Bitcoin can be used to buy anything from bread to beer using Bitcoin and other major currencies. Despite the DNB’s concerns about cryptocurrency, approximately 60% of the households in the Netherlands have some cryptocurrency investment.

However, the DNB points to the more than USD 88 million reportedly laundered over 46 cryptocurrency exchanges around the globe during the past two years, as enough evidence that the government needs to take firmer measures with exchanges with regard to money laundering and other illegal activities.

In terms of expressing a social conscience though, the nation continues to demonstrate its progressive uses for blockchain by forming partnerships with the World Bank, the UN, and the EU Forum. Earlier this year, the Dutch government announced that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy had created a special unit devoted to researching the ways in which blockchain technology could be harnessed to provide reliability in the area of tech development while being energy sustainable.

 

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Dutch Province of Limburg Launches Community Crypto

Dutch Province of Limburg Launches Community Crypto

Dutch cryptocurrency platform Studio/Belfius has joined with payment platform LimbU in Limburg in the South of Holland to create its own cryptocurrency for promoting community spirit.

The initiators of the project suggest that the aim is to encourage sustainability, community support, promotion of local produce, and the creation of supply chains throughout Limburg’s 10 provincial regions.

Limburg is the southernmost of 12 provinces of the Netherlands. It is in the southeastern part of the country, stretched out from the north, touching the province of Gelderland, to the south, where it internationally borders Belgium.

The new digital currency, the “Limbu” has no fiat support but is transferable to users’ wallets throughout the province after locals complete a range of civically responsible activities such as; garbage collection, doing small repairs, giving blood, collecting clothes for charity, undergoing first aid training or composting organic waste.

The aim is to also encourage companies, public authorities, and associations to contribute through the scheme towards building a “greener, more welcoming Limburg.” The project’s member Wim Van De Putte explains:

“It was not easy finding the right partner with the required experience and expertise. But from the very outset, Studio Innovation Lab impressed us with its ability to understand this complex issue and its willingness to meet the challenge. In fact, The Studio has its own scalable platform for creating a digital currency based on the blockchain.”

As the project, Uitmuntend Limburg, grows in numbers, it plans to hand over to Limburg.net. and widen the range and scope of activities around the province, especially as thousands of Limburgers across the 10 regions already have their wallets. Ronny Neckebroeck from The Studio commented:

“We are honored to be part of such a beautiful project. Developing the platform and payment app is a major step forward along the way towards making the LimbU project a professional and sustainable initiative. Working with Uitmuntend Limburg, we will make the LimbU a success – we are sure of it. And our experience in innovative digital solutions and blockchain makes us the ideal partner for handling the technological side of this great story.”

At the beginning of this year, The Studio also developed Pengo, an innovative service that enables individuals to send payment requests via instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

The Netherlands is a leader in advancing blockchain technology in Europe and often slips under the radar, but the Dutch government is no slouch when it comes to promoting the interests of companies adopting new technologies, especially when such projects benefit the entire community such as Uitmuntend Limburg. Holland is a country with a social conscience, and legislation over the years has illustrated the degree to which its population is a beneficiary of the desire shown by the government to support its society as a whole.

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Holland in Forefront of Promoting Blockchain Economy With Government Support

All the talk in Europe these days are about crypto-havens Malta and Switzerland as they continually break down borders with blockchain and emerging technologies and the subject of a flurry of positive government legislation, but Holland rarely gets a mention.

The Netherlands is a leader in advancing blockchain in Europe and often slips under the radar, but the Dutch government is no slouch when it comes to promoting the interests of companies adopting new technologies, especially when such projects benefit the entire community. Holland has been noted by others as a country with a social conscience, and legislation over the years has illustrated the degree to which its population is a beneficiary of the desire shown by the government to support its society as a whole.

With partners such as the World Bank, UN, and the EU Forum, the Netherland’s aims are progressive and express its social conscience. Emanuele Francioni, Tech-Lead of non-profit blockchain-based Dusk Foundation, explains where this government led social conscience is taking DLT:

“The Netherlands hosts one of the most passionate blockchain scenes in the world,” he suggests, adding that, “Most of the early experimentation by the government was done with multinationals through consortia, often in the permissioned [private] space…we are starting to see the first permissionless [public] initiatives getting more public traction, which is a very exciting area that should get a lot more attention.”

The Dutch government announced earlier this year that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy had created a special unit devoted to researching the ways in which blockchain technology can be harnessed to provide reliability in the area of tech development while being energy sustainable. Encouraged by the government’s actions, John Jansen of cryptocurrency exchange Deribit suggests:

“It’s amazing that the Dutch government created a special blockchain unit with the goal of not just regulating the new technology but actively looking for opportunities,” adding that this shows “ a positive attitude toward this technological development which benefits the blockchain ecosystem in the Netherlands.”

Jansen is further impressed by the stance of the Dutch population when it comes to trading and holding cryptocurrencies, commenting:

“Furthermore, crypto is catching on with the Dutch people as well… It was recently reported that in October of 2017, an estimated 135,000 Dutch people had invested in cryptocurrencies. But by February of this year, that number rose to 580,000. That’s 430% growth in five months. We have every reason to expect that number to continue to rise.”

The Dutch Central Bank may be wary, but even the Dutch royal family is in on the act with Plamen Nedyalkov, CEO of Zoom noting that Prince Constantijn van Oranje has been attending blockchain conferences across the lowlands, and has also become the chairman of StartUpFest Europe, which works with blockchain startups.

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Europol: It’s Cash that Funds Terrorism

A 72-page long report recently published by Europol has clarified that it is conventional banking which is the primary source of terrorist funding such as the recent attacks on European cities.

The report explains that such outrages are financed through cash as it is a tried and tested form of funding. Finding an alternative source, such as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which publicly log transactions, is of little interest to terrorist cells operating in Europe, according to the findings.

Europol based in The Hague, the Netherlands, supports the 28 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organized forms of crime. They also work with many non-EU partner states and international organizations.

Also, in line with the findings of the report, in the US last week, a senior member of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies Centre on Sanctions and Illicit Finance spoke out against anti-crypto rhetoric, particularly those aimed at the financing of militant jihad.

A senior member of the center, Yaya Fanusie maintained that despite continual references by governments around the world that cryptocurrency finances terrorist activity, terrorist networks have been mainly unsuccessful in using cryptocurrency to fund their activities. The Europol report agreed, stating:

“…despite the clear potential, none of the attacks carried out on European soil appear to have been funded via cryptocurrencies. The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions – their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.”

It is undeniable that just like cash, cryptocurrencies are on the radar of criminals but the use of Bitcoin in criminal activity has dropped to 35% of the market share from a peak of 80% when the flagship digital currency was its infancy. It is now known that criminals are more likely to use Zcash and Monero across the globe than Bitcoin. The report clarifies that:

“While the criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies remains largely within the realm of cybercrime, some Member States reported that they are increasingly encountering their use by non-cyber [organized crime groups].”

The report concludes that law enforcement information sharing and tighter security measures are the best weapons cybersecurity has against cyber-attacks.

 

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Half a Million Dutch Households Own Crypto but Central Bank Still Wary

A Dutch Central Bank spokesperson still maintains that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are too volatile for savings and their value can only be expressed in fiat terms.

In a recent CB publication on fintech, bank divisional director Petra Hielkema expressed these sentiments, also adding that there are still risks associated with buying cryptocurrencies in her view. Despite these concerns, the Dutch Central Bank has no plans to impose a cryptocurrency ban.

“If something wants to be treated as money, you have to be able to spend, save and calculate with it… However, things are not often bought with cryptocurrencies, it is too volatile for savings and its value is expressed in real money”, she said.

Clearly, such views are not shared by those that do save, spend and calculate with currencies such as Bitcoin on a daily basis. In Holland, the current figure is estimated to be about half a million households where a form of cryptocurrency is invested in or used.

She continued, clearly following the trend by banks to separate cryptocurrency from the technology behind it:

“So we do not consider it to be money as such… Nevertheless, the central bank does consider the technology behind bitcoins – blockchain – to be extremely interesting. We have been experimenting with the technology for the past three years and have developed four prototypes.”

Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra wants to see European intervention in order to combat risk such as a ban on risky financial products and limiting the use of credit cards so that cryptocurrency can’t be purchased with them.

In contrast, the Dutch government’s CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) has released a report claiming that cryptocurrencies present a low risk to financial stability in the country. The report, published on 29 May, was initiated in order to establish if cryptocurrencies posed any kind of economic risk in the light of its increasing use and popularity in Holland.

Because Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies reached the news often in 2017, approximately 60% of the households in the Netherlands who invest in cryptocurrencies started doing so in 2017. In the first three quarters of 2017, there were approximately 44,000 transactions in Bitcoin from the Netherlands on a trading platform called BTC Direct, according to Statistica.

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Dutch Speed Trading Firm to Trade Crypto Despite Regulator Concerns

Amsterdam-based Flow Traders NV, Europe’s largest trader of exchange-traded funds is now going crypto, but it has turned out not to be a move recommended by the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), according to Cointelegraph.

Flow Traders NV is reputed to be the first trader to buy and sell exchange-traded notes based on Bitcoin and, by association, is likely to encourage clientele to cryptocurrency from traditional stock, particularly given cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum’s ease of purchase.

Co-CEO Flow Traders NV Dennis Dijkstra believes that cryptocurrencies are underestimated. He said:

“It’s big, and it is to be regulated very soon. The market participants are much more professional than people think. Institutional investors are interested – we know they are because we get requests.”

The AFM doesn’t share these sentiments claiming that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are not regarded as an asset class by the authority. However, as the exchange is regulated there is little the government agency can do to forestall crypto trading activity. Nienke Torensma, a spokeswoman for the AFM, is quoted as stating:

“We discourage activities in cryptos both by consumers and professional license holders. By virtue of its newness and the anonymity it potentially offers, it is very prone to abuse. Given its inability to serve the promised purpose as a currency, we don’t regard it to be an asset class.”

Earlier this year, the AFM made attempts to dissuade companies considering trading in cryptocurrency to reconsider by circulating a letter suggesting that such activities came with risks and that any attempt to offer the new service may put their current licensing in question.

This is a curious move given the Dutch government reported just a month prior to the circulation of the warning letter, that cryptocurrencies posed little risk to financial stability, but it did call for further regulation.

The report stated that although cryptocurrencies pose a low risk to the financial system at this time, due to comparatively low levels of capitalization, the risk would increase with an increase of involvement by government and financial institutions in the future.

 

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Dutch Report Claims Crypto Low Risk to Financial Stability If Banks Keep Out

The Dutch government’s CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) has released a report claiming that cryptocurrencies present a low risk to financial stability in the country, writes Cointelegraph.

The report, published on 29 May, was initiated in order to establish if cryptocurrencies posed any kind of economic risk in the light of its increasing use and popularity in Holland.

Because Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies reached the news often in 2017, approximately 60% of the households in the Netherlands who invest in cryptocurrencies started doing so in 2017. In the first three quarters of 2017, there were approximately 44,000 transactions in Bitcoin from the Netherlands on a trading platform called BTC Direct, according to Statistica.

The capital Amsterdam has transformed itself into a venue for crypto meetups and currently is hosting more than 550 full nodes, around 4.7% of the total nodes in the world, showing Bitcoin’s popularity across the country. This puts Holland in the world’s top 5 by node distribution.

The report shows that although cryptocurrencies pose a low risk to the financial system at this time due to comparatively low levels of capitalization, this risk would increase with an increase of involvement by government and financial institutions in the future. The CPB also pointed out that cryptocurrencies are not “money substitutes”, that users are more likely to hold on their crypto assets than actually spend them as they would a fiat currency.

The report stressed that a balanced financial regulation, rather than introducing harsh restraints, will reduce the risk of “shadow banks” emerging – non-bank financial intermediaries that provide services similar to traditional commercial banks.

In a landmark court case this year a Dutch court ordered a defendant to pay his debt in BTC since the obligation was originally made in Bitcoin.

 

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