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Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

Google Ads Allegedly Blacklists Ethereum Keyword

It has been reported that Google is now blacklisting keywords mentioning Ethereum on its Google Ads advertising platform. The first indication of this would-be policy buster by the internet search giant appeared in a Tweet by smart contract auditing startup Decenter before the weekend.

We are seeing a hard stop on Google Ads containing “Ethereum” as the keyword in the last two days. Is anyone else noticing the same change? Where there any new policy changes introduced @GoogleAds? #ethereum pic.twitter.com/P5XMGphdiV

— Decenter (@DecenterTeam) January 10, 2019

The current situation following Google’s initial ban on all cryptocurrency-related advertising last June was revised and updated in September 2018, allowing some businesses to advertise on its platform providing that any ads for cryptocurrency exchanges must be limited to targeting the US and Japan.

Google’s response to Decenter’s Tweet was that clearly, the ad must have been targeting countries other than the US and Japan, thereby resulting in the rejection of the Ethereum Google Ads keywords. When the startup pointed out that they were simply doing smart contract security audits and seeing errors when keying in “Ethereum development services” and “Ethereum security audits”, Google responded:

“Although we wouldn’t be able to preemptively confirm if your keyword is eligible to trigger ads, we’d recommend that you refer to the ‘Cryptocurrencies’ section of our policy on Financial products and services.”

Decenter’s Reddit post explained that the team had tested keywords such as “ethereum smart contract audits” and “eos smart contract audits” and only the EOS keyword yielded advertising as a result of the keyword search.

Reddit’s Ethereum community team came back with their response: “Any of the keywords that contain “ethereum” in our campaigns are no longer showing ads as of January 9th…”.

A Reddit user put his own case, clearly bemused by Google’s double standards: “Google has various political and economic agendas, and they are quite willing to use their various services to promote their preferences. AdSense and Youtube are notorious for this, but there have been some incidents regarding the play store as well.”

 

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Bitcoin in the Americas: The Changing Face of Money in Latin America

bitcoin, america, latin america, cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies are on the march in South America despite the continent’s relatively small slice in the global ownership breakdown.

The number of users of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Dash continues to swell in many Latin American countries, and historically it is not hard to see why.

The last World Bank study revealed that as few as 49 percent of adults in the region had access to traditional banking, mainly due to the costs inflicted on potential new customers, and the bureaucracy involved in setting up a bank account. However, the deep penetration of smartphones continues to give autonomy to many without banking facilities by enabling them to conduct simple financial transactions using Bitcoin. South Americans love cash, it has always been the mainstay of a market economy, with credit cards still little used by much of the community for similar reasons as those for circumventing the traditional banking system.

Venezuela

Countries suffering inflation are currently the key drivers of Bitcoin and alternative currencies in South America and the mother of all these currently in Venezuela. For this reason, the movers and shakers of the crypto space in South America are rarely out of the press. Venezuela and Columbia are now almost joined at the hip, with President Maduro’s economic crisis causing refugees to flee across Venezuela’s nearest border.

With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting that Venezuelans may face consumer prices that will “increase by 10 million percent over the course of 2019,” many nationals have been forced to flee, or remain but shun the traditional economy by using bitcoin as a tool.

In terms of tracking the rise of Bitcoin in the Americas, the numbers speak for themselves. The latest statistics show Venezuela’s weekly Bitcoin Volume increasing from 11 BTC in the first week of January 2017 to a staggering 190 BTC in the first week of January 2019. Volume-wise, the figures are equally impressive with trade volume in Venezuela up to 252 BTC in the last week of 2018. President Maduro’s saving grace, the Petro, backed by huge oil reserves has been a failure, and the country has turned to more traditional cryptocurrencies in order to bypass the worthless national currency, the Bolivar.

Bitcoin is now recognized as the only way of getting around the country’s currency controls, and bitcoin mining offers Venezuelans a chance to pay for good imported from overseas. Although the process is not sanctioned for individuals other than going through ‘official’ methods, residents are able to sidestep the government’s control to buy foodstuffs from Florida and Miami by trading Bitcoin for bolivars.

Brazil

Brazil is the economic giant of South America, and a recent change in government has analysts waiting to observe how this might change the direction of the current legislation regarding cryptocurrency. Bitcoin use is certainly not undercover in the country, it is out there and being used as Satoshi intended. Supermarkets, construction, e-commerce, hospitality, and transportation have all become highly visible evidence that cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly mainstream.

BTC, BCH or LTC are commonly used and now, a supermarket chain ‘Oasis Supermercados’ allows customers to use any of these to pay for groceries. Transportation companies, such as ‘Viação Garcia’ are also open to payment in any of these three currencies. Some businesses and retailers have been taking Bitcoin since 2013. Other businesses including Nobile Plaza Hotel, e-commerce website Fasttech.com, robotic and electronic parts retailer Webtronico, and Imperius Food are also accepting crypto.

Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has cryptocurrency advocates worried, however. His views are hard right and his opinions regarding women, race, immigration, and homosexuality, among other topics, have caused concerns amongst many. Both the use of cryptocurrency and questions around the treatment of Brazil’s minorities have come in to play, and these areas have already felt the effect of a change of government following his election.

The new administration has already canceled a contract which would have benefited indigenous communities living in the Amazon basin. The project with an elongated title Study and diagnosis of socioeconomic viability of the creation of an indigenous cryptocurrency; development of the cryptocurrency platform; and implementation of that platform,” included the launch of a cryptocurrency affectionally referred to as the “Bitcoin of the Indian.”

As part of the project, the new cryptocurrency would have been distributed amongst Brazil’s indigenous communities, with organizers establishing a database of indigenous territories through working with local universities. Bolsonaro has not minced his words in the past regarding Brazil’s indigenous population arguing:

“There is no indigenous territory where there aren’t minerals. Gold, tin, and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. I’m not getting into this nonsense of defending land for Indians.”

Columbia

The number of Bitcoin ATMs in the country, the most in South America, speaks volumes when analyzing the degree to which the Bitcoin imprint is becoming more visible. There are now 17 ATMs around cities across the country. The city of Medellín, the second largest in Colombia, has recently installed the third Bitcoin ATM in one month.

The largest users of these ATMs are Venezuelans fleeing in greater numbers across the border into neighboring Columbia. Mostly uncovered by mainstream news in the past year, a staggering 1.9 million have fled poverty, hunger, crime and hyperinflation in Venezuela since 2015.

Dash has achieved great popularity in Columbia in some areas, often more so than the flagship cryptocurrency, with adoption on the increase, illustrated by an increase in merchant use of the Dash wallet in 2018. Bitcoin use is huge though, and in a comparison of the weekly volume of January 2017 to that of January 2019, it can be seen that the weekly Bitcoin volume in Columbia has increased from a 135 BTC to 364 BTC. The BTC weekly trade volume reached a maximum of 759 BTC in the last week of 2018.

Peru

Peru is not a big South American player but cryptocurrency use is on the rise. Bitcoin’s biggest hurdle is overcoming bad press caused by misuse. Peru’s Enrique Cardoza, Project Manager at Bitinka Exchange explains the situation and some of the complexities surrounding cryptocurrency business in the country:

We can say that this is being divided into two camps: There are people who are very much in favor of promoting information and spreading the word so that people can learn. [And also] There are many people who know about this and take advantage of people’s ignorance.”

Cardoza claims that much of the problem has been caused by those who have deliberately cheated, damaging the fledgling ecosystem. It has affected the businesses as potential new clients now lack confidence in companies offering cryptocurrency services as they consider them to be risky. He claims that Ripple (XRP), and Ethereum (ETH) are the greatest cryptocurrencies in demand.

Elsewhere

In other South American countries such as Bolivia and Chile, governments have restricted access to online payment systems like PayPal, who do not accept local documentation as a means of verifying the identity of the account holder. Bitcoin is being used more regularly in these countries because of limited financial services operating in these jurisdictions.

Chile, Bolivia, and Equador

Cryptocurrencies have never been legal in Bolivia and the government has been known to enforce its anti-Bitcoin stance with a firm hand. Mining and use of Bitcoin are still under strict regulation in the country. Chile is somewhat more forward thinking, and just recently, attempts to close cryptocurrency exchanges’ bank accounts has been thwarted by the Chilean anti-monopoly court granting these exchanges protection. In Equador, there are several ways to purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and although still illegal, Bitcoin is often used by a small number of the population.

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ICO Fundamentals: Empowering or Misleading Investors?

ICO Fundamentals: Empowering or Misleading Investors

The year 2018 saw the dramatic decline of the initial coin offering (ICO) market. January began with an outstanding USD one and a half billion invested into ICOs, with this figure trickling down to less than USD 200 million per month as the year closed. 

So, what killed the booming ICO industry? In large part, the US government crackdown and the relatively poor performance of the cryptocurrency market seemed enough to scare off investors last year.

Token offerings are an innovative way for startups with solid proof of concept to raise capital should the option of collateral needed to take out a business loan be lacking, or the lack of contacts or skills needed to secure capital from institutional investors.

Through the examination of recent studies from both academics and journalists, it can be observed that the biggest threat to the industry is posed by irresponsible startups that are either reluctant to keep investors fully informed, or purposefully misleading them. If the ICO market can be regulated in a way that avoids stifling innovation, it is suggested that the token model can become the most dominant form of venture capital financing.

Transparency, Truth, and What ICOs Need to Survive

One theory presented by Jiri Chod and Evgeny Lyandres suggests that investors have as much to gain as do the entrepreneurs holding the ICO – as long as there is no disparity of information available to the investors, however. And that would seem to be one of the most predominant issues cited against startups holding ICOs; offering false or exaggerated promises of returns, or whitepapers full of fraud and plagiarism.

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal investigated the details of 3,291 whitepapers pertaining to ICOs, finding that over 2,000 of them included terms “nothing to lose, guaranteed profit, return on investment, highest return, high return, funds profit, no risk, and little risk,” language that has previously led US state and Federal regulators to issue cease and desist orders or file charges. Some 16% of the whitepapers were found to show evidence of either plagiarism, identify theft or the promise of ”implausible returns.”

Many see government regulation of the sector as an appropriate way to manage the risks posed to investors and hold startups accountable to their claims. Chod and Lyandres theorize that if this is the case, ICOs have the chance to ”dominate traditional venture capital (VC) financing.” Others, however, argue that too much intervention would likely stifle innovation in the sector. US-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken has said that the cost of handling subpoenas is becoming a ‘‘barrier to entry” for new exchanges. 

Chod and Lyandres concludes: ”An implication is that while regulating ICOs is desirable, banning them outright is not.”

The Role of Tokenomics

Another academic paper that delves into tokenomics is authored by Lin William Cong, Ye Li, and Neng Wang entitled Tokenomics: Dynamic Adoption and Valuation. It outlines a model that can be used to predict the future growth of tokens that act as a means of payment on their native blockchain platforms, with the premise of an argument centered around the notion that the expected popularity and technological progress of the project renders the token as an ”attractive store of value,” .promoting further adoption.

Again, during the ICO stage, a parity between investor and startup in terms of the project’s realistic roadmap is required in order for this model to successfully play out.

The paper also outlines some of the benefits blockchain platforms can enjoy by using a token economy: ”Tokens… can accelerate adoption, reduce user-base volatility, and improve welfare.”

The US SEC Crackdown: Warranted or Not?

While the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has received criticism for its actions against ICOs last year, examining several of the public cases individually shows that perhaps the actions of the government agency were necessary in order to keep investors fully informed on their decisions, as the research shows that it is required to promote a healthy ICO market.

In the case of AriseBank, the SEC halted the ICO after proving that the startup had falsely claimed to be FDIC-insured bank which would have allowed the decentralized bank to offer customers FDIC-insured accounts. The SEC cited that AriseBank had ”used social media, a celebrity endorsement, and other wide dissemination tactics” to raise a claimed USD 600 million of its USD 1 billion goal in two months.

One of the benefits of ICOs cited by Chod and Lyandres is the unique ability of tokens to allow entrepreneurs to shift some of the venture risks onto investors without compromising their own control rights. This could be the biggest benefit of token offerings for startups, but for it to revolutionize venture capital financing in a way it is capable of, investors need to be made aware of the risks by entrepreneurs.

2019: What to expect

The future of ICOs in 2019 depends on three major factors: US regulation, transparency from startups, and the market performance of major cryptocurrencies.

Chairman of the US SEC Jay Clayton himself has said ”ICOs can be effective ways for entrepreneurs and others to raise capital,” so long as you adhere to the regulations set by his agency at least.

Tokenomics is a cutting-edge theory with the potential to revolutionize the structure of business development and entrepreneurship, but for it to live out these prospects, right now, startups would be advised to professionalize their whitepapers and start playing by the rules at least until the industry can prove it has matured.

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SEC Cites Cryptocurrency as Top Priority for 2019

SEC Cite Cryptocurrencies Top Priority for 2019

The US Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) has suggested that 2019 will be a year of great activity on the cryptocurrency front for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The latest report released by the OCIE says that the SEC will prioritize what it sees as risky crypto products and services, and monitor digital currency markets with more vigilance. Any product classified by the SEC as security will be prone to the usual regulatory compliance. The OCIE further stated that:

“For firms actively engaged in the digital asset market, OCIE will conduct examinations focused on, among other things, portfolio management of digital assets, trading, the safety of client funds and assets, pricing of client portfolios, compliance, and internal controls.”

The SEC has cited the protection of customer rights and the integrity of US capital markets as the main aims of the additional scrutiny being applied to cryptocurrency dealings.

Any tightening of control in the cryptocurrency space by the US regulators will not be favorably greeted by investors who are already unhappy with what most regard as SEC crypto overregulation. The regulator’s anti crypto chairman Jay Clayton has confirmed the aims of the OCIE report, suggesting that digital assets, ICOs, and distributed ledger technologies are an “area where the Commission and staff have spent a significant amount of time” and that this would continue into 2019.

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Beijing to Enforce New Blockchain Laws to Monitor Internet Content

Beijing to Enforce New Blockchain Laws to Monitor Internet Content

Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the state body for internet censorship, has announced new guidelines for controlling the blockchain space in the country. The plan for tighter control over blockchain service providers was introduced in October of last year.

Beijing’s Blockchain Information Service Management Regulations will take effect from 15 February, showing how urgently the government wants to curb content which it feels might be detrimental to the state.

The new regulation has singled out blockchain providers, despite published comments over the past year coming from Beijing that blockchain has huge potential to streamline business. These regulations state that providers cannot “produce, duplicate, publish, [or] disseminate” banned content under state law.

More specifically, the new rules have defined blockchain providers as “entities or nodes” providing public information through desktop or mobile sites. Any companies providing these services will need to register with the CAC within ten days providing their names, server addresses, service types, and server addresses. No compliance with the CAC will face fines between USD 737 to USD 4,420.

The new regulations have a broad range, also incorporating news reporting, publishing, education, and pharmaceutical services, which would all be required to obtain licenses before registering with the CAC.

China has strict internet laws and the space is highly monitored by the state. It is thought that the tightening of control by the CAC is a response to those who have used blockchain tech in the past in order to circumvent Beijing’s control over the country’s internet content.

The most recent violation of China’s strict internet laws occurred in July 2018 when pharmaceutical company Changsheng Biotechnology was put in the spotlight online by bloggers who listed the firm’s transgressions on the Ethereum blockchain.

 

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7 South Korean Exchanges Pass Security Inspection Checklist

7 South Korean Exchanges Pass Security Inspection Checklist

The South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT reported yesterday that only seven cryptocurrency exchanges including Upbit, Bithumb, Gopax, Korbit, Coinone, Hanbitco, and Huobi Korea have passed the security inspection checklist.

A survey was conducted by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Korea Internet & Security Agency and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, during the period of September to December of 2018 to evaluate the security performance of cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.

The inspection covered the following areas: administrative security, operational environment security, network and account security, database & backup security, and wallet security.

Out of 21 cryptocurrency exchanges that were inspected earlier last year for security compliance, only seven passed the improvement recommendation, leaving the remaining 14 labeled as “vulnerable” to one or more of the 85 security checkpoints. “The 14 exchanges are vulnerable to hacking attacks at all times because of poor security,” the ministry said. Moreover, 17 new exchanges that were inspected for the first time, did not meet the cutoff either. This brings the total of exchanges scrutinized to 38.

South Korea is home to over 100 cryptocurrency exchanges and due to the number of security breaches that have led to the loss of millions of dollars of user assets on exchanges, the Korean government decided to carry out a survey to determine the fitness level of these exchanges.

It would seem the agency expects more of this hacks to occur this year, and are prepared to mitigate the severity of the damage if not completely averted through these security inspections. Director of information security policy at the Ministry of Information and Communication Oh Yong-soo said: “This year, cyber attacks targeting encrypted money are expected to continue”. Yet, most of the inspected exchanges “are still vulnerable”, and there a lot more exchanges are out there whose security status is currently unknown.

The South Korean nation has been pulling resources to ensure the standardization of the industry, a part of that effort includes setting up a representative committee to oversee legislation for the industry and suggest possible adaptive measures to national laws. Though leaning on the side of caution, so far, the nation appears to be a friendlier territory for the industry than some other Asian countries.

Last month in Japan, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) reported having received 190 cryptocurrency license applications from exchanges as 2019 approached. Regulation and standardization seem to be the way forward in the industry.

 

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Canada Debates Crypto Campaign Donations as Elections Loom

Canada Debates Crypto Campaign Donations as Elections Loom

With the Canadian General Election scheduled for later this year, Elections Canada, the body responsible for overseeing federal political fundraising, is polling the relevant parties on the question of whether campaign contributions could be allowed in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

Elections Canada have posted online that “with interest in cryptocurrency on the rise, political entities have requested guidance on accepting contributions and conducting other transactions in Bitcoin or altcoins”. This indicates that a change in the way donations are normally conducted may well be on the agenda, given the rise in Bitcoin’s popularity in the country.

With the relevant political parties being asked to forward their view before 21 January, there is time left. Elections Canada terms cryptocurrency donations as non-monetary, in-kind contributions, claiming:

“Like money, they can be used to make purchases from businesses that choose to accept them. But unlike money, they cannot be placed directly into a bank account. Instead, cryptocurrencies can be sold for traditional currencies that can be placed into a bank account.”

This, according to Elections Canada, puts cryptocurrencies more on a par with stocks and bonds which the body regards as “a form of property”, thereby making them a non-monetary contribution.

For its part, the draft note provided by the body takes the position that cryptocurrency donations are non-monetary, in-kind contributions. It points out this correlation to other authorities such as Elections BC (British Columbia) and the US Federal Election Commission, as well as the Canada Revenue Agency.

This would mean that such offerings would be acceptable providing that cryptocurrency donations follow the same guidelines as set for other non-monetary contributions, exempting them from tax receipts.

Currently, none of Canada‘s major political parties currently offers the option for crypto donations and to date, no party has responded to the Elections Canada request.

 

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Venezuela Calls for Crypto as Tax Payment

Venezuela Calls for Crypto as Tax Payment

The Venezuela state government now requires operators with crypto business in the country and overseas operators dealing in foreign countries to pay relevant taxes using cryptocurrency to boost the economy.

The move further illustrates the move towards digital currencies, as the value of the bolivar continues to fall. Given the economic crisis, Bitcoin has fast become a financial refuge for many nationals, with President Nicolás Maduro struggling to save the economy from going under from highly unsustainable inflationary situations and an ineffective and largely invisible introduction of the oil-backed Petro, Venezuela’s national digital currency.

The new decree states: “The Venezuelan people are currently facing a fierce war waged by internal and external factors that pursue the deterioration of the economy, which is why it is necessary to adopt sufficient measures to ensure the strengthening of the current fiscal regime.”

The Ministry of Popular Power of Economy and Finance is already putting the new legislation in place which will attempt to enforce the Petro as the only tax payment system for this particular group. The only exemptions to the new rule, according to the decree, will be transactions of securities traded on a stock exchange and “the export of goods and services, carried out by public bodies or entities”.

It appears that those “who carry out operations” in foreign currencies or cryptocurrencies as authorized by the law can also pay their taxes in foreign currency as well as digital currency. Normal taxpayers won’t be billed in Petro, as some believed would happen after an announcement by one state region declaring that cryptocurrency would be the new mode of payment for taxes. Tax refunds will be repaid in bolivar, the nation’s fiat currency.

Jean Carlos Martínez, representing the Service Desconcentrado de Administración Tributaria (Sedemat), clarified that “taxpayers will not be charged taxes in Petros”. He explainted that Petro would only be used as a reference unit to determine minimum tax, as “the ordinance of the current economic unit is still stipulated in percentages of gross income”.

He explained that those conducting transactions in Petro, Bitcoin or other currency, should declare their income according to the currency that they use. Als,o he clarified that the Petro has two uses, one as a cryptocurrency and the other “as a unit of account that translates into 9,000 sovereign bolivars, which will be used in passport procedures or current salaries”.

 

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Colorado Considers Bill for Looser Securities Laws on Crypto Activities

Colorado Considers Bill for Looser Securities Laws on Crypto Activities

The State of Colorado is considering a bipartisan bill which seeks to relieve cryptocurrencies of some securities laws, as per documents released by the Colorado Senate.

Embrace

The bill titled the Colorado Digital Token Act is aiming to establish “limited exemptions from securities registration and securities broker-dealer and salesperson licensing requirements for persons dealing in digital tokens”.

The intention is to further Colorado as an attractive location for blockchain businesses and entrepreneurs. The bill describes the potential of blockchain as a means to create Web 3.0 platforms as well as applications, which are said to have advantages over present Web 2.0 models.

Article 51

The bill goes on to write: “Companies that seek to utilize cryptoeconomic systems face regulatory uncertainty that the issuance, sale, and purchase of digital tokens that have a primarily consumptive purpose may be prohibited under this article 51.”

Article 51 pertains to the requirement for registration of securities as well as exemptions, stating that it is “unlawful” to sell or offer the sale of any security in the state unless registered under Article 51, or falls under the exemption of four nuanced sections of the article.

Toward the end of 2018, the Colorado Securities Division brought the hammer down on four initial coin offerings (ICOs) for failing to comply with the present securities laws. The proposed Digital Token Act could see such events become a thing of the past.

 

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New Irish AML Bill Could Impact Crypto Adoption

New Irish AML Bill Could Impact Crypto Adoption

The Irish government has approved a bill which targets money laundering in the Irish Republic and makes reference to cryptocurrency as a source of terrorist funding.

The European Union’s (EU) directive on money laundering effectively gives Ireland the rights as one of its 28 members to enact amendments to existing Irish Law to counter money laundering and terrorist activity.
Despite extensive research demonstrating that cash is the major source of funding for terrorist activity, the Irish government bill proposes the EU addition to its AML laws.

The law will restrict any use of “virtual currencies for terrorist financing and limiting the use of prepaid cards” and also give the Irish police (Garda) the right to access personal bank records during any money laundering investigations. Minister of Justice, Charlie Flanagan, referred to the EU add-on but made no reference to cryptocurrency being used for illegal activity:

“The reality is that money laundering is a crime that helps serious criminals and terrorists to function, destroying lives in the process… Criminals seek to exploit the EU’s open borders and EU-wide measures are vital for that reason. Ireland strongly supports the provisions in the fifth EU money laundering directive.”

If the bill goes through there may be an impact on new cryptocurrency adopters in the Republic due to banks’ tighter KYC controls. The amended legislation is a reflection of the EU’s new stance on money laundering which gives member states rights to tighten controls and include cryptocurrency exchanges in AML regulations.

 

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