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Latvia Joins Baltic Neighbor Estonia to Drive Fintech and Blockchain Charge

The Baltic state of Latvia may be a fledgling in terms of fintech development but it is beginning to make real inroads into developing the space, writes Fintech Switzerland.

Fintech has a rapidly growing footprint in the startup scene and cryptocurrency interest is growing despite government’s uncertainty regarding regulations in the sector.

Latvia currently levies a 20% capital gains tax, and applying it to cryptocurrency would reportedly require a change in the country’s tax laws. Currently, cryptocurrencies are not recognized under existing legislation. However, its exponential growth in the Baltic country has generated an increased interest from the government as a potential tax revenue.

Latvia is still lagging behind its crypto-friendly neighbor Estonia, which is beginning to attract outside companies due to its innovative and vibrant crypto community. Estonia has a significant internet penetration and has recently considered its own national token, the Estcoin, although it later rejected the proposal for a CBDC.

However, Latvia is well networked, occupying the third position in the OECD with its fast fiber-optic broadband and has several government programs active after launching the introduction of a startup visa in 2017. This change to legislation introduced new tax laws which effectively doubled venture capital investors’ money for new companies.

Along with an EUR 15 million hand out to seed investments and several conferences held in Latvia’s capital Riga every year, the fintech space is catching up with its neighbors. The Latvian Startup Association also promotes new business in the country, although with such a small market and a population of 2 million, business is increasingly searching for new overseas markets.

In March 2018, Latvia hosted an international discussion between industry experts on the future of fintech in the Baltics and the overall EU, which featured the vice-president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, as keynote speaker.

European fintech platform and community B-Hive recently released a research paper showing that the most developed technological area in the country’s economy is now fintech with a startup industry worth USD 878 million, with blockchain technology a contributing factor.

 

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Spain Vows to Tackle Corruption and Fraud with Blockchain and AI

Spain is amending its anti-corruption laws and updating its existing Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) measures by developing blockchain and AI solutions, writes Cointelegraph.

Since the OECD measures came into force in 2015, Spain has continued to struggle with high-profile corruption scandals, marking a period of 18 months in 2016/2018 with 1,379 officials prosecuted for corruption.

Again this year, the Gurtel scandal in May saw another 29 officials convicted, finally resulting in the ousting of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy. The High Court stated that Spain’s Popular Party (PP) participated in “…an authentic and efficient system of institutional corruption via mechanisms to manipulate public tenders at the national, regional and local level.”

In order to combat the recent surge of corruption, Angel Gurría, OECD secretary-general, has suggested that “integrity, transparency and the fight against corruption have to be part of the culture. They have to be taught as fundamental values”.

In February, the EU invested more than EUR 80 million into projects. As a member of the European Blockchain Partnership with other members, Spain is developing blockchain and AI applications to fight digital crime and cooperate on developing blockchain projects. Along with Spain, 21 European countries signed the declaration earlier this year to establish the partnership, including other EU nations Germany, France, and the UK.

Spain is further stepping up its fight against corruption in the cryptocurrency space with another project supported by the European Regional Development Fund. In order to add more clarity to tracking crypto transactions and clamp down on fraud, a Spanish blockchain company is working on an Ethereum-based programme which eliminates the need for intermediaries, as it transfers verified tracked funds using electronic time stamps and certified electronic delivery services.

Researchers from the University of Valladolid have developed an AI application which is an ingenious early warning system which calculates the probability of corruption in Spanish provinces. The system calculates data from various sources as to where corruption has taken place historically over a period of 12 years, between 2000 and 2012. It then predicts public corruption based on economic and political factors.

In a positive development for the country, Spain’s Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) or National Securities Market Commission, recently stated that investment funds could interact with Bitcoin, which has given a significant boost to the Spanish market in terms of giving more credibility to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The EU promised that another EUR 300 million more is to be allocated to blockchain support by 2020.

 

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Jon Matonis – The Fincen Whistleblowers

Jon Matonis – The Fincen Whistleblowers:

Bitcoin Foundation board member Jon Matonis (@JonMatonis) writes a post on how the financial surveillance also occurring is no secret.  Excerpts:  

“The Fincen bureau conducts all of its surveillance activity out in the open and in plain sight, probably for its effect as a deterrent. Fincen even recruits banks and other agent financial institutions to participate in the direct surveillance that make serious and consequential judgment calls along the way.”

“Two generations of educated Americans, including some smart attorneys, have been conditioned to think of money laundering as a real and legitimate category of crime. Eradication of privacy is the goal and manipulation of the semantic crime debate is the tool.”

“Since the available cryptography and technical tools of today permit near absolutes on each side of the privacy-surveillance spectrum, each advancement from one side elicits an equally strong reaction from the other side.”

“As shameful as the existence of PRISM is, and it is monumentally shameful for a free society, it doesn’t even compare to the unprecedented level of financial surveillance the world is on the verge of witnessing.”

“Digital currencies with proper mixing services such as bitcoin become a viable option for preserving some transactional privacy, even if identification is required for its initial acquisition from licensed money transmitters.”

“A world where privacy isn’t sacrificed and all human transactions aren’t tracked is not only possible, but imperative. The alternative will be far worse than you can imagine.”

 – http://bit.ly/1anVlwV
 – http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=236621.0 (Further discussion of the article)

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