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

Asia and Australia

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.

Japan

Japanese cryptocurrency traders exceed 3 million: Japan is one of the most crypto-friendly countries out there with more than 3 million Japanese trading in cryptocurrency according to the latest figures from its Financial Services Agency (FSA). The data also highlights that there were 17 registered cryptocurrencies by the end of March.

Millennials and younger age brackets represent 90% of the crypto traders. This data shows the inclination of the Japanese young populace towards the crypto trading phenomenon despite the recent Bitcoin price tank.

FSA halts operations of two exchanges over KYC failure: The FSA has ceased the operations of two exchanges when they failed to implement the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) licensing requirements. External Link and FSHO were also given penalty orders.

The move follows the agency’s suspension of 15 exchanges that were found to be complacent in implementing the rules and regulations of the FSA. The two exchanges were not available for any comment.

Government-backed study declares ICOs are not scams: While acknowledging the challenges that ICOs present, Japanese government’s recent study found out that ICOs are not scams and the right regulatory frameworks will be needed to legitimize them under the national infrastructure.

Insider trading and money laundering were found to be one of the major challenges posed by ICOs and cryptocurrencies.

South Korea

Financial watchdog investigating banks for crypto association: South Korea’s top financial watchdog Financial Services Commission (FSC) has announced that it will investigate three banks to see if they are complying with the new anti-anonymity regulations imposed by the government.

The FSC announced back in January that investors in South Korea will have to buy cryptocurrencies under their own own name and using fiat banking channels to tackling money laundering practices.

Police detain two cryptocurrency exchange executives for questioning: South Korean police has detained executives from two cryptocurrency exchanges for extensive questioning. Four executives were arrested, including the CEO of Coinnest, over charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Prosecutors claim that billions of Korean Won (KRW) were transferred from client accounts that could amount to fraud.

These arrests are part of a wider initiative by the government to clean house after a recent exchange hack.

China

Chinese state cryptocurrency to feature negative interest rates:  The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been working on a possible state cryptocurrency for some time, while cracking down on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like  Ethereum.

In a surprise move, the PBOC’s director general of financial research said that negative interest rate for the state cryptocurrency was on the cards: “In the long run, due to the lower natural interest rate, monetary authorities can incorporate negative interest rate policies into the normal monetary policy toolbox.”

Giving no quarter to cryptocurrencies: While China may be relaxed on blockchain research and implementation through their national system, it is tightening controls over cryptocurrency traded in the country.

The Bank of China appointed a new head in Yi Gang and many people’s hopes were crushed once Gang announced his sweeping anti-cryptocurrency measures.

Police halt blockchain conference in Shanghai: The Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrencies continued this week as a blockchain-themed conference was abruptly raided and closed down by the police in Shanghai on Thursday. The Global Fintech and Blockchain China Summit 2018 was organized as a business conference but was raided around midday by the Chinese police.

According to PTP, the organizer said, “We are still investigating the reasons of the halt, and so far the explanation offered by the police is due to security risk. We are working on a solution regarding how to make up for event attendees. The conference is in compliance with the regulation in China and does not feature any ICO roadshow.”

An update is expected in the near future.

India

India prohibits banks from handling cryptocurrencies: In a sweeping move, the Reserve Bank of India has announced that all banks and regulated financial entities will now be prohibited from dealing or abetting in trading cryptocurrencies.

The reason behind this was described as “associated risks” of cryptocurrencies and the ban was effective immediately.

Over 17,000 sign petition against Indian crypto ban: A petition with over 17,000 signatures was tabled against Indian Reserve Bank’s much-criticized move of banning cryptocurrencies in the country. The petition was mostly driven by younger users who are employed in the blockchain industry in the South Asian country.

Pakistan

Pakistani central bank snubs cryptocurrencies: The State Bank of Pakistan recently announced that financial companies are now barred from sending money abroad through cryptocurrencies. The announcement also carried an “advice” to refrain from “processing, using, trading, transferring value in virtual currencies or tokens…”

The move follows the regional trend of banning and warning against cryptocurrencies.

Australia

Australia sets deadline for registration of cryptocurrency exchanges: Australia has recently implemented regulations suggested by the Australian Financial Intelligence Agency and is now requiring all cryptocurrency exchanges to register themselves before mid-May 2018.

These regulations were passed after the Australian Senate passed legislation: “Effective immediately, DCEs (digital currency exchanges) with a business operation located in Australia must now register with AUSTRAC and meet the Government’s AML/CTF compliance and reporting obligations”.

 

 

 

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Over 17,000 Sign Petition Against India’s Crypto Ban

A petition supporting blockchain has gained 17,000 signatures since India Central Bank’s announced it was to terminate business with crypto-related accounts on 5 April.

Starting on the same day the Central Bank made its statement, the impetus behind the petition has been driven mainly by younger users who are employed in the industry, citing youth unemployment as a major concern.

The petition notes that blockchain technology is here to stay and that any prohibition of business activities reduces India’s competitiveness in the market risking the country being “left behind”.

Leaders from within the industry have been voicing their own particular concerns about the ban since the petition. Nischal Shetty, CEO of crypto exchange WazirX, sent a direct tweet to the Reserve Bank of India asking it to “think progressively” and “reconsider” its decision.

US, Japan, South Korea go towards regulating Cryptos so that their country progresses while RBI decides to block Indians from getting involved in the crypto revolution. We need to think progressively, @RBI please reconsider this and let’s take a positive step forward 🙏🏻

— Nischal (WazirX) (@NischalShetty) April 5, 2018

As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India needs to remain competitive by providing new technologies with skilled labour. The blockchain and cryptocurrency sphere is one such area employing many young people.

India has one of the highest youth populations in the world; current estimates indicate a high of 356 million youth. By 2020, 500 million Indian citizens are expected to be under the age of 25.

India’s recent financial growth has not trickled down to benefit the sheer volume of young people who are out work. A lack of skilled manpower is one of the reasons behind such large numbers of unemployed youth and new technologies provide opportunities for new skills to be developed. Since its introduction, blockchain technology has created tens of thousands of jobs for young Indians.

The economic factor is also a concern to many. Recently, tech investor Tim Draper voiced his concerns with the Central Bank’s announcement, suggesting that this “mistake” could cause a tech drain.He believed this scenario to be likely following any total ban of cryptocurrency in India due to other emerging players around the world needing the technological expertise to develop their own industry portfolios.

Pakistan’s State Bank was quick to follow India last week with a statement confirming that financial companies would be barred from working with cryptocurrency firms in the country.

 

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Pakistan Central Bank Curbs Crypto

Pakistan’s State Bank (SBP) has issued a statement which confirms that financial companies are now barred from working with cryptocurrency firms in the country.

The SBP website’s statement confirmed that all banks in Pakistan “are advised to refrain from processing, using, trading, holding, transferring value, promoting and investing in virtual currencies or tokens… any transaction in this regard shall immediately be reported to the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) as a suspicious transaction”.

Pakistan’s FMU sees its goals as developing a strong reporting culture amongst financial institutions, making a contribution towards fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. It also sees itself as a recognized model of financial intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination in Pakistan.

In the wake of this announcement, there has already been an impact on the industry in Pakistan. Urdubit, an exchange which was first launched in 2014, has shut down. Users attempting to access the platform today will be greeted with a screen message, “Urdubit is Shutting Down”, warning its users to withdraw their funds “as quickly as possible” due to a “State Bank of Pakistan prohibition on dealing with virtual currencies”.

Rodrigo Souza, co-founder of BlinkTrade, the provider of Urdubit’s open source software, suggests that governments and banks will fight Bitcoin due to a potential run on the central bank.

The news of Pakistan’s curb on cryptocurrency trading comes just a day after India’s announcement on Thursday that The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was now strictly prohibiting all banks and regulated financial entities in dealing with cryptocurrencies. On the news of India’s announcement, the price of Bitcoin plummeted to a low of 350,000 Pakistani Rupees  (USD 5,392) against its international market price of USD 6,617 according to cryptocurrency exchange Coinome.

Following yesterday’s ban the Pakistani government has indicated that those using cryptocurrencies to transfer funds outside Pakistan could be prosecuted. The SBP declared “no entity is currently licensed or authorized by SBP  to offer money remittance services and products in Pakistan using virtual currencies/coins/tokens”.

 

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