Category Archives: Malta

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Nigerian Crypto Association Asks Government for Clear Guidelines

The Electronic Payment Practitioners Association of Nigeria (E-PPAN) is asking government regulators in the country for clearer guidelines to drive the industry forward.

This follows reports, including a statement by E-PPAN, that there is a growing possibility of fintech businesses offering blockchain services being driven overseas unless both the Nigerian government and the Central Bank of Nigeria can offer clarification on its view towards cryptocurrency.

A new Nigerian blockchain hub was announced by the government in August in conjunction with UK blockchain firm Coinfirm. The resulting launch of the Africa Blockchain Lab promises to offer financial inclusion to many Nigerians outside of the country’s financial system and also to attract new startups as part of the country’s drive to support the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies in the continent.

However, the Bitcoin Exchange Guide claims that Central Bank governor Godwin Emifele has done little to encourage the growth of cryptocurrency; investors continue to be reluctant owing to the government’s lack of guidelines. Despite the launching of the Africa Blockchain Lab by state-backed KAD ICT Hub, cryptocurrency still struggles to receive recognition in Nigeria due to its continued links to criminal activities by authorities.

“Investments in blockchain-based financial services such as cryptocurrency are today going to Rwanda and Malta, which have provided regulatory frameworks that guide operators of the technology,” claims Ade Atobatele, founder of Gboza Gboza Technology Ltd, and member of E-PPAN.

This hasn’t stopped PundiX setting its sights on Nigeria, recently introducing Point of Sale (POS) machines which enable users to pay in Bitcoin and Ether along with the country’s local currency, the Naira. Nigeria certainly has the potential to accommodate such facilities with Africa’s largest contingent of Bitcoin holders and a population of 185 million, representing the continent’s largest population of potential users and investors. Localbitcoins is reported to have seen a trading volume of USD 260 million this year to date.

Nigeria should be looking to overseas for regulation, according to E-PPAN member Michael Kiberu, calling for regulators to look to countries such as Uganda, Switzerland, Kenya, and Japan, where cryptocurrency guidelines are clear and operate with legal status, while creating a healthy flow of capital into the financial sector.


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European Parliamentarian Says DLT ”Provides More Security”

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Maltese government official Roberta Metsola, has stated that decentralization via distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a more secure option than centralized models.

Speaking at the Malta Blockchain Summit on 2 November 2018, Metsola stated that European officials should make it their duty to inform citizens of this fact, saying that blockchain’s primary focus regards ”increasing trust” between parties, as reported by Cointelegraph. According to Metsola, its use can bring ”peace of mind” because of the trusting decentralized quality.

Metsola also took the opportunity to share her positive outlook on the European Parliament’s handling of the cryptocurrency and blockchain industries, saying that these subjects remain firmly on the agenda, with MEPs currently being encouraged to turn adoption from a ”vision to reality.”

However, she included that the parliament had to be sure to encourage the ”right type of regulation,” which for her means to avoid stifling innovation.

In Malta

Malta’s newest blockchain and cryptocurrency legislation passed in July was brought up by Metsola as a ”good step forward” and an example of the type of regulation that can be implemented in the European Parliment’s jurisdiction. Europe’s open, non-restrictive regulatory system was said to allow other countries to follow in Malta’s wake.

Despite this praise, she said it was still important for the government to remain alert for any changes or issues within the industry that requires its support.

Malta has managed to firmly establish itself as a country at the forefront of progressive blockchain regulations. As reported by Bitcoin News, Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat, gave a speech to United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA) in September where he declared cryptocurrencies to be the ”inevitable future of money.”

He also shared the promise he sees in blockchain technology as an answer to pressing issues such as healthcare records and verifying humanitarian aid.


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Demand for XRP Doubled in Q3 2018

The native token of the digital payment network Ripple, XRP has reportedly benefited from twice as much demand in the third quarter of this year compared to that in the second.

The Q3 2018 XRP Markets Report shows that sales of XRP reached USD 163.33 million in Q3, compared to USD 75.53 million in Q2. The largest proportional increase came from institutional direct sales, gaining a massive USD 81 million to reach a total of USD 98.06 million. Programmatic sales offered smaller gains, from a Q2 total of USD 56.66 million to USD 65.27 million.

The total XRP sales in Q3 come in at USD 163.33 million.

The report touches on the fall of the total market capitalization of digital assets during the quarter, adding that while XRP traded in tight correlation with this in the majority of the quarter, it benefitted from an independent price rally in September.

Geographical trends are also brought up, with Malta making the most significant impact. The report reads: ”For more than two-thirds of the quarter, overall global digital asset trading was led by exchanges based in Malta… Prime Minister Dr. Joseph Muscat has called cryptocurrencies “the inevitable future of money.””

Further praise of the Mediterranean nation in the report applauds its clear legal framework regarding cryptocurrencies, and its 5% corporate tax rate for international companies.

Ripple in the 2020 Olympics?

A recent campaign to get XRP nominated as the 2020 Olympic’s official cryptocurrency has achieved nearly 14,000 signatures of its targeted 15,000 on a petition.

Organizers of the Tokyo games have not yet made it clear whether or not any cryptocurrencies will be accepted, although Ripple campaign head Ken Takahashi says that it would be the perfect opportunity to test cryptocurrency payments on a large scale.

Takahashi explained, ”As tourists stream into the country, demand for the local currency skyrockets, causing long lines at currency exchanges, as seen at past events like Beijing 2008 and Rio de Janeiro 2016. Confusing exchange rates and language barriers further complicate the problem.”


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Low Pass Rate in Malta’s Crypto Exam Hinders Government’s Blockchain Aspirations

Malta’s Financial Services Authority’s (MFSA) cryptocurrency exam for financial practitioners has returned some unexpected results with a disappointing 39% pass rate.

The questions set by the MFSA were in accordance with Malta’s latest legislation, the Virtual Financial Assets Act (VFA), which requires financial practitioners wishing to move into cryptocurrency to gain agent certification through a pass in the new exam.

Clearly, the government hadn’t expected such poor results, particularly given late changes to questions to make them more manageable for examinees. This now means that 61% are unable to make the move from careers such as accountancy, auditing, and law. The 250 candidates sat a multiple-choice paper which was simplified towards the end when examiners noticed that the responses were going to result in a poor pass rate, but despite this, only 39% managed to get through the paper successfully with a pass-grade.

The new legislation is part of Malta’s drive to becoming Europe’s hub for cryptocurrency and blockchain. The exam was intended as a first move towards ensuring companies offering ICOs or portfolio management services in the future would have someone on staff who had a high degree of crypto competence with certified credentials.

Malta’s Digital Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri would be dismayed by the outcome of this first set of accreditation examinees, particularly given the sentiments of a recent speech at this year’s Delta Summit 2018 Blockchain Conference:

“Malta will be the epicenter of the Blockchain industry. I invite stakeholders, operators within this space, investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators to be part of yet another exciting chapter for Malta and be part of the Blockchain Island.”

Having adequate skilled personnel will be an integral part of the country’s drive to raise its fintech profile. Schembri will hope that the recent EUR 300,000 blockchain scholarship partnership forged between the University of Malta and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) will be a more successful training programme for young aspirants transitioning from ICT, law, finance, and engineering.

Split over three years and starting this academic year, students can apply for the scholarship and start blockchain and DLT-related Masters and Ph.D. research dissertations. Of the courses, Schembri, said, “These companies need technical resources both to build and to operate by use of this technology, as well as experts in financial services, law, and managerial roles.”

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Zebpay, India’s Biggest Crypto Exchange Moves To Malta

Zebpay was the biggest crypto exchange in India before the banking ban, where the Indian government outlawed crypto exchanges from using banks. Peer to peer trading platforms have since proliferated in India, but Zebpay determined that meaningful business could not be done without bank accounts closed down on 28 September 2018. This caused Zebpay to lose 3 million investors, which is actually half of the total investors in India. Now Zebpay has moved to Malta, which has the nickname blockchain island, and will be serving 20 European countries. Zebpay is now incorporated under the name Awlencan Innovations Malta Limited.

India is notably absent from the list of 20 countries which Zebpay is available in. Exchanging crypto in India is impossible from a distance due to the continued banking ban. The European countries Zebpay now serves include Malta, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Zebpay’s abandonment of India and proliferation into the global market is reminiscent of the major Chinese exchanges after the 2017 fiat to crypto ban in China. Huobi, OKCoin, and Binance were the biggest exchanges in China, and after some temporary turbulence they have re-established themselves overseas in many different countries and are stronger than ever. Indeed, Binance and OKEx, which is intimately linked to OKCoin, have also established businesses in Malta, which is part of the reason it has been nicknamed blockchain island.

It seems Malta is the place to go when a crypto exchange has to flee a hostile nation. The Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, considers crypto to be the inevitable future of money and warmly welcomes any blockchain or crypto firm.

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Crypto on the Rock: Gibraltar Gets Its First Regulated Exchange

The tiny British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula is to get its first fully licensed exchange, Coinfloor.

Coinfloor, the UK’s oldest crypto exchange is the first to be fully accredited as a “distributed ledger technology (DLT) provider” under the legislation which requires the government to satisfy itself that 9 operating principles of good practice are being adhered to.

Obi Nwosu, the CEO of Coinfloor, commented that these were all met by his company, including those which guarantee adequate AML and KYC safeguards and security against the risk of cyber attack. He said:

“What impressed us was that this [legislation] was in the works for a long time… It’s been well thought out, well considered. They are focusing in on quality over quantity.”

Gibraltar, known affectionately as “The Rock” among residents and visitors, and home to the only Barbary macaques living in Europe, has begun attracting new and existing fintech companies to its shores. It is attempting to follow in the footsteps of other European countries such as Malta and Switzerland, both of which have seen the arrival of major cryptocurrency players like Binance and Bitmain in 2018. It now holds regular events such as the Gibraltar International Fintech Forum, demonstrating the country’s serious intent when it comes to encouraging fintech companies to do business there.

Coinfloor’s CEO said that he was glad to be able to fulfil the requirements of the new legislation, thereby securing a position in Gibraltar’s blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem, particularly as the UK exchange had recently been forced to lay off employees due to weakening demand in the UK through Bitcoin’s fall from its 2017 highs. He argued:

“It’s never desirable to make these changes, but it’s a natural part of the market cycle… The market has contracted and you should make appropriate changes to your team . . . It’s happening across this space.”

Despite some companies looking to Gibraltar as a possible home, it is more likely that Malta, with its vibrant crypto community and favourable blockchain legislation, will be become a favourite with established exchanges and startups, particularly given the ongoing concerns regarding a no deal Brexit.

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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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Vanuatu Seeks Maltese Help to Frame Blockchain Regulations

The tiny Pacific island of Vanuatu is to get some help from crypto dynamo Malta to assist with the drafting of its new blockchain legislation.

The island’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu, has sought support help from the Maltese government in framing blockchain legislation after a meeting with Maltese PM Dr Joseph Muscat and pro-crypto Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri, where it was decided that regulatory structures would be crucial for a developing blockchain environment such as Vanuatu.

The Vanuatu archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 kilometers east of northern Australia, 540 kilometers northeast of Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji. Vanuatu is moving ahead with its blockchain and crypto plans having recently approved a stock exchange license to a crypto exchange on the island, making it the first such event in the South Pacific island’s business history.

The latest plans to accept Malta’s offers of assistance have disregarded the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu’s earlier warnings that virtual currencies are “not perceived as legitimate tender in Vanuatu and are not issued or controlled by the bank”.

The Maltese support will come in the shape of training for state regulators and students, as well as technical help with regulation. MaIta, highly experienced in legislating for emerging technologies could well become a go-to advisory for emerging blockchain territories. It is no accident that the Delta Summit 2018 held last week in Malta had been chosen for this particular time, given recent legislative moves to position itself a crypto/blockchain world leader.

This is not the first time that the tiny jurisdiction of Vanuatu has hit the press, as another crypto revelation earlier this year claimed that the nation would patriate new citizens to the islands for the sum of USD 200,000 payable in Bitcoin, a report refuted by local authorities.


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Non-Profit Blockchain Hub Opens in Slovenia

The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana has become the host of the European Blockchain Hub – a non-profit organization that hopes to become a leading platform in Europe that brings together blockchain stakeholders.

Founders of the hub partnered with 13 organizations prior to its launch last Friday, coming from a range of areas within the blockchain industry including education, regulation and research. Several prominent partners from this group include the Slovenian government and Blockchain Alliance Europe.

A spokesperson for the project said that the hub will be based on “European values and principles of good corporate governance”, working towards a goal of promoting blockchain adoption and furthering the development of the technology. It will also be used to aid and work closely with blockchain startups.

Headquarters for the European Blockchain Hub will be located in BTC City, Slovenia’s largest shopping district. BTC City has recently made significant investments in technology to promote the district as an “innovative and digital city”, according to its chairman Joze Mermal. Bitcoin has already been made available as a local payment option, while it has also begun testing driverless cars.

Acceleration Business City or ABC Accelerator is also located in Ljubljana, acting as a private company aimed at promoting entrepreneurs from around the globe.

While the blockchain hub will certainly benefit the country’s standing in the field, its ambition of turning Slovenia into the ”leading blockchain nation in Europe” may not quite hit the mark considering its fierce neighboring competitors.

In particular, Malta has taken great measures to promote itself a blockchain and cryptocurrency friendly nation. Earlier this year, two on the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges made a move to headquarter themselves in the country.

Binance and OKEX Technology Co were both presumably allured by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s transparent, thorough regulatory framework that gives blockchain companies assurances for the future that so many nations cannot offer right now.


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Wikipedia Gets Some Competition From Co-Founder’s Blockchain Fork

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger’s new blockchain based innovation could rival his world-renowned brainchild.

Speaking from this year’s Malta Delta Summit where Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was promoting blockchain technology, Sanger explained the benefits of his latest knowledge database.

Wikipedia, which grew out of a web-based encyclopedia, Nupedia and co-founded by Jimmy Wales, became the benchmark in open-source, collaborative encyclopedias. It also gained Sanger a name as a critic of his own creation. He called for more accountability and academic quality to be brought to articles which appeared on the website, leaving in 2002 and then later launching Citizendium in a quest to deliver greater accuracy and credibility.

Sanger discussed Everipedia, which forked from Wiki in 2015. Speaking at the summit he commented: “Thanks to new technology, it’s now possible to move beyond Wikipedia just as we moved beyond Britannica almost two decades ago.”

Sanger spoke of Wikipedia’s shortage of content contributors, despite it being the envy of any website with 18 billion views per month. He argued that a major issue for Wiki had been tasking 12,000 editors to check the contributions of 129,672 active writers and mentioned that an incentive scheme could encourage a higher quality work.

The forked site Everipedia will operate in a different way by rewarding contributors with its own token called “IQ” which can be traded on crypto exchanges, thereby incentivizing quality content creation. Another advantage is that the site can’t be banned by overseas governments due to its decentralized nature.

Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat was also speaking at the conference, suggesting that the pro-crypto government’s next target after making Malta the envy of Europe, would be the focus on AI technology, after building the strong foundations of a regulatory framework for blockchain and cryptocurrency. To blockchain developers he said of the “the next big idea”:

“We want to know how we can help and how we can make that happen.”

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