The U.S. SEC charged three individuals that allegedly conducted insider trading related to the Long Blockchain company back in 2017. One of the individuals allegedly traded stocks ahead of the name change that gave the company a price boost. The other two individuals were tipped and took advantage of the data to trade accordingly, the U.S. regulator says. Long Blockchain, formerly Long Island Iced Tea, made big gains just from rebranding, taking advantage of blockchain’s growing popularity.
SEC Sues Three on Long Blockchain Insider Trading
The Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) is charging three individuals that allegedly profited from Long Blockchain’s name change back in 2017. The lawsuit claims the three individuals profited from inside information and traded stocks before the famous rebranding happened. Among these is Eric Watson, who according to the complaint, was responsible for the rebranding scheme. Watson allegedly tipped off Oliver Barret-Lindsay, a friend and broker about the rebrand changes.
Barret-Lindsay also gave the information to another friend, Gannon Giguiere, about the rebranding event. Giguiere put his hands to work and bought 35,000 stocks, making more than $160,000 in profits. Barret-Lindsay and Giguiere are already facing litigation for allegedly staging a stock manipulation scheme related to a medical company.
Richard Best, Director of the SEC’s New York Office, stressed:
The SEC remains committed to preventing all types of fraudulent conduct in connection with purported ‘crypto’ companies, including profiting from trading on material non-public information.
A Pivot From Iced Tea to Crypto
Long Blockchain is one of a select group of companies that took advantage of the blockchain craze that happened back in 2017. Lots of sports, apparel, and other companies changed their names to be more appealing to the public. Long Island Iced Tea (LIIT) announced it would pivot its business model to blockchain-related activities. However, it didn’t make any agreements or release a blockchain-related product since the rebrand.
Company shares rose 289% in just one day, giving Long Blockchain (LB) investors a good profit. Eric Watson was the biggest stockholder of the company, owning 13% of the shares. The happiness didn’t last long though. The SEC delisted its shares from stock markets last February. According to the regulator, Long Blockchain failed to file financial reports for several years. The last LB report filed with the SEC was dated back in 2018.
This is the first action the SEC has taken against companies that rebranded during that time. Other actions might be exerted on other companies that staged similar pivots and rebranding moves.
What do you think about the SEC’s actions against Long Blockchain? tell us in the comments section below.
At the end of 2020, darknet markets (DNM) set new records as marketplaces like White House and the Russian-language DNM Hydra led the pack. A report published on May 25, shows Hydra saw a 624% year-over-year growth rate in three years, and researchers estimate roughly 75% of illicit DNM transactions stem from the Russian marketplace. Moreover, the privacy coin monero is seeing a lot more vendor acceptance on DNMs these days. On June 29, monero captured 84% of vendor acceptance on three of the top marketplaces.
The Complex Russian Darknet Market Hydra Eclipses 26 Marketplaces
While cryptocurrency markets are down in value, the use of darknet markets has continued to rise. DNMs have managed to stay lucrative throughout Covid-19 and stats indicated that while the world was locked down, DNM use was flourishing.
Many DNMs are operational today as reports and data show that the two largest darknet markets are Hydra and White House Market. Other notable DNMs in the second half of 2021, include Cannazon, Cannahome, Torrez Market, Dark0de Reborn Market, Vice City, Aurora, and the Majestic Garden.
At the end of May, blockchain forensics firms Chainalysis and Flashpoint threat intelligence published a report that does a deep dive into the rise to prominence of Hydra. The report called “Hydra: Where Cryptocurrency Roads All Lead to Russia and Go Dark,” explains how Hydra administrators impose strict rules for sellers using the DNM.
Despite Hydra’s strict rules, the report highlights that Hydra remains continuously profitable. Furthermore, vendor withdrawals are funneled through Russian exchanges and service operators, the report details. The Flashpoint and Chainalysis report adds:
Hydra market activity has skyrocketed since its inception, with annual transaction volumes growing from a total of $9.40 million in 2016 to north of $1.37 billion by the end of 2020. Observed through blockchain analysis, we see a staggering 624% year-over-year growth rate for Hydra in its three most recent years 2018 to 2020.
Monero Acceptance on DNMs Continues to Rise
Darknet tracker data provided by the blockchain analytics provider 1000x Group indicates there are around 27 DNMs in operation today. Nine of the markets accept BTC only, five markets accept BTC and a variety of coins, eleven markets accept BTC and monero (XMR), and two markets accept XMR only. Bitcoin only markets include Darkfox, Hydra, Vice City, Aurora, Majestic Garden, Neptune, Mega, Global Dreams, and Flugsvamp 3.0. Meanwhile, marketplaces dedicated to monero only include White House Market and Archetyp Market.
Being one of the top markets like Hydra, White House Market (WHM) also has strict rules and monero (XMR) only acceptance is one of them. WHM also requires 2FA, the use of PGP, and the site is often down from DDOS attacks over the years. The DNM has thousands of vendors and claims to have more than a million users in 2021. WHM picked up a huge amount of customers and vendors after the fall of Dream Market and there’s more than 50,000 products listed today. The DNM White House Market also makes a 4% commission on everything sold on the deep web portal.
Statistics show that monero (XMR) has seen a significant uptick in vendor acceptance on three specific fully operational DNMs. While BTC still dominates on DNMs, XMR commands an appreciable amount of acceptance on these markets. DNM tracker data shows during the last two weeks of May, XMR vendor acceptance was above 50%.
During the first two weeks of June, monero saw a dip under the 50% handle and hit a low of 37.60% on June 8. However, monero vendor acceptance climbed to 84% on June 29 and has been above the 50% region ever since. When monero saw a low in mid-June, there was a higher percentage of litecoin (LTC) vendor acceptance at the time. The vendor acceptance rate tracks vendor acceptance through Versus Market, Cannahome, and Cannazon.
Does Hydra Have a Semi-Official Sanction from Russian Leaders?
Meanwhile, as Hydra has become one of the largest DNMs worldwide, after surpassing the older Russian DNM Ramp, Joe Biden’s administration is focused on Russia’s involvement with these types of actors. Biden has been talking about Russia to the press and he wants Russia to crack down on cyber threats like ransomware.
Following the Colonial Pipeline attack and the Kaseya breach, Biden told the press that he spoke with Russian president Vladmir Putin on Friday. Biden said he told Putin he must “take action” against these cyber actors.
“I made it very clear to [Vladmir Putin] that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden stressed this week.
Now the ransomware is one thing, but Bloomberg contributor Leonid Bershidsky thinks there’s a possibility that Hydra has some kind of “semi-official sanction” from Russian leaders. Bershidsky notes in a recent article that Russia’s “Hydra, its krysha, or protection, is the elephant in the room.” The author explains that Putin doesn’t really have any incentive to crack down on DNMs and he also believes that “retaliatory action from the U.S. isn’t compelling enough.” Bershidsky’s opinion editorial concludes:
As things stand, Putin can let the likes of Hydra worry about that prospect. And if they are crushed, others can take their place. The dark web is nothing if not resilient.
What do you think about the increased usage of darknet markets and the growth of Hydra? What do you think about monero vendor acceptance increasing on DNMs as well? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
The U.S. has sentenced a creator of video streaming and downloading websites to prison for 12 months and one day. The feds also seized $3.9 million from him, including more than $1 million in cryptocurrency.
Man Sentenced to Jail for Copyright Infringement and Tax Evasion, His Cryptocurrency Seized
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday that Talon White from Newport, Oregon, has been “sentenced to federal prison for creating illegal video streaming and downloading websites.”
The DOJ further described that the 31-year-old built the websites to “illegally distribute thousands of copyright-protected movies and television shows and evading taxes on the profits of his illicit endeavor.”
The case started when investigators received information in October 2013 regarding numerous illegal websites linked to White allowing paid subscribers to stream and download copyright-protected content. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) subsequently demanded White cease and desist his illegal activity in 2014 but he ignored the demand.
White then migrated his operations from one website to another over the next four years to avoid detection, the Justice Department noted, adding that he had amassed millions of dollars in subscription fees from his websites by 2018.
The DOJ detailed that after investigators served search and seizure warrants on his house in Newport and several bank accounts in November 2018:
Agents seized $3.9 million from his accounts, $35,000 in cash, and more than $1 million in cryptocurrency.
Furthermore, the Justice Department noted that White “filed false personal income tax returns, underreporting his income by more than $4.4 million and causing a tax loss to the IRS of more than $1.7 million.”
White was sentenced to “12 months and one day in federal prison and three years’ supervised release,” the announcement states. He was charged on Nov. 1, 2019, with copyright infringement and tax evasion; he pleaded guilty to both charges on Nov. 25, 2019.
The DOJ further detailed:
U.S. District Court Judge Ann L. Aiken ordered White to pay more than $4.3 million in restitution to the MPAA and IRS. White must also forfeit all U.S. currency and cryptocurrency seized from his bank accounts, in addition to his Newport house that was purchased with proceeds of his scheme.
Do you think White should be sent to prison and forfeit his cryptocurrency? Let us know in the comments section below.
China, which has arguably the most advanced digital currency project among leading nations, has so far handed out more than $40 million in red envelopes with digital yuan. The promotional campaign for the CBDC is currently focused on five major cities, taking into account their regional development priorities.
Beijing Gives Away 269 Million Yuan in Digital Currency
Chinese Authorities are rapidly moving forward with the pilot implementation of the digital yuan, the central bank digital currency (CBDC) issued by the People’s Bank of China. Since the announcement of the concept in 2014, the project has entered its seventh year of development, with large-scale trials across the mainland and cross-border tests with Hong Kong.
The ‘red envelope’ campaign, which was launched to put the digital yuan into the hands of Chinese consumers, has been expanding. The amount of funds distributed to Chinese citizens in digital RMB red envelopes has exceeded 269 million yuan, or around $41.5 million, according to a report by the Tuoluo Research Institute.
In Chinese tradition, the red envelopes are small packets with money usually given to children, family members, friends, or employees, and intended as a good luck wish. The red color in China is perceived as a symbol of energy and happiness.
Published by the Chinese crypto news outlet 8btc, the article reveals that the government efforts are currently focused on five major cities – Shenzhen, Suzhou, Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai. Authorities there have issued red envelopes with digital RMB for a total of 230 million Chinese yuan, approximately $35 million.
China Accelerates and Expands Digital Yuan Promotion
The report notes that the central government is “taking into account regional development strategies, and the frequency and scope of the promotion are accelerating outward.” For example, in Beijing, where local financial authorities recently announced a lottery to disperse 40 million worth of digital yuan ($6.3 million), the digital RMB program is mainly focused on the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.
Two pilots have progressed significantly in the Chinese capital. As part of the first one, selected merchants in the Wangfujing business district and the online marketplace JD.com started accepting digital yuan payments. Then, the second pilot project will focus more on the food, housing, transportation, travel, shopping, entertainment, and information scenes of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, the economic and financial hub Shenzhen has already distributed 60 million yuan in digital RMB red envelopes (over $9 million). Application scenarios for the CBDC have gradually covered government affairs such as medical care, education, and transportation as well as consumption. More than 30,000 merchants in the city are now working to introduce support for digital yuan payments.
Chengdu has until now handed out 40 million of digital yuan (over $6 million). At least 11,000 merchants are participating in the pilot. They come from various sectors including catering, retail, and entertainment. Chengdu also launched a digital yuan trial in the public transportation system in the city’s administrative area. Tuoluo remarks that Chengdu’s red envelope program “highlights the characteristics of digital currency – small-value, high-frequency trading and inclusive finance.”
What do you think about China’s red envelope campaign to promote the adoption of the digital yuan? Let us know in the comments section below.
Following the infamous meme that shows one of the Bogdanoff twins on the phone telling whales to initiate a crypto-market dump, the Bogdanoff brothers now claim they took part in inventing the leading cryptocurrency bitcoin with Satoshi Nakamoto. During an interview hosted on L’Heure des Pros, the Bogdanoff twins said as mathematicians the two were able to “participate in the elaboration of some of the source code.”
Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff Claim to Have Helped Satoshi Elaborate on Bitcoin’s ‘Predictive Code’
There’s been a long-running joke that the Bogdanoff twins have the power to manipulate crypto markets after a meme started a few years ago showing one of the twins ordering a substantial dump on the market.
The meme has been seen by the twins, according to a recent interview on L’Heure des Pros and a recent appearance on the French television show “Non Stop People.” Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff said they have seen the meme, and explained that Satoshi Nakamoto probably has something to do with its online virality.
“It is probably Nakamoto who made [the Grichka Bogdanoff meme] circulate,” Igor Bogdanoff said. Igor further added:
[The image] was in all blockchains between 2010-2012 [and] downloaded more than 1.3 billion times.
Satoshi’s Alleged Acquaintance ‘Soïtchiro Shimoda’ and the Two ‘Ancient Bitcoins’
The Bogdanoff twins are well known for their science-based television show called “Time X.” Since the 1970s, the twins have been scientific essayists and while Igor has a doctorate in theoretical physics, his brother has a doctorate in mathematics.
During the recent interview with the Bogdanoff twins, the two explained how they had worked with the touchscreen inventor François Mizzi and an interesting Japanese scientist dubbed “Soïtchiro Shimoda.”
The twins claim that back in the early days, they would discuss blockchain and crypto asset ideas with Shimoda regularly. The Bogdanoffs wholeheartedly believe Shimoda was associated with the “mythical person or a group of people” who invented bitcoin. In fact, the Bogdanoff brothers further claim that two “ancient bitcoins” were bestowed upon the twins back in 2008.
“Igor and I, as mathematicians, were able to participate in the elaboration of some of the [Bitcoin] source code, especially the ‘predictive code’,” Grichka Bogdanoff told his interviewer.
During the two interviews, the Bogdanoff twins further revealed they owned ethereum (ETH) as well. In the near future, the infamous twins who are well known in memes and conspiracies, said that they will be launching a new crypto asset called “Exo Coin.”
What do you think about the Bogdanoff twins’ claims? Do you think they are telling the truth or attempting to gather attention? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
A survey conducted among financial professionals has indicated that the industry wants Ukraine’s future digital currency to be used as a tool in the crypto space. The financial sector also favors a blockchain design for the e-hryvnia that would allow peer-to-peer transfers and fuel e-commerce.
Financial Experts Define Potential Uses of Ukraine’s Digital Currency
The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has published the results of a survey aimed to establish the potential demand for a central bank digital currency (CBDC). The regulator sent out a set of 30 questions to 100 financial experts with various backgrounds – financial markets, corporate and retail business, public sector, and crypto business.
The poll also had to identify possible use cases for the e-hryvnia. NBU was among the first central banks to start exploring options to issue its own digital currency. It launched a study back in 2016 and then tested a CBDC in retail payments two years later. “We already have practical experience in implementing a pilot project to issue e-hryvnia in 2018,” the Chairman of the NBU Kyrylo Shevchenko noted, elaborating:
To find the really popular options and niches for the e-hryvnia and to determine the potential effect of its implementation, we decided to hear the opinion of financial market experts and conducted a comprehensive survey.
The representatives of the financial sector were offered to choose between six potential areas where they feel the e-hryvnia can be employed. According to the majority of the respondents, the most promising use case would be in non-cash retail payments, primarily peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers between individuals and e-commerce transactions. Using the CBDC for cross-border payments, again as a P2P instrument, is the second most recommended application.
The other options included ‘targeted social benefits (G2P),’ ‘settlement of securities (B2B),’ ‘corporate payments (B2B),’ and ‘financial instruments.’ 77% of the polled supported the first of these use cases, provided its scope is expanded to include other specific government payments such as dedicated subsidies. The NBU said it’s going to take into account the opinions of the financial professionals.
Ukraine’s Financial Sector Says E-Hryvnia Should Be Used in the Crypto Space
Many of the participants in the survey also supported the use of the electronic hryvnia as a tool for conducting transactions in the field of virtual assets, the NBU emphasized. The financial sector representatives also insisted the CBDC should be a blockchain-based currency.
Given the size of the crypto asset market in the country and the availability of blockchain technologies, Ukraine’s central bank believes the use of its digital currency to facilitate the circulation of virtual assets in the country – for example, in exchange, issuance, and other crypto-related transactions – is worth further research.
Ukraine is considered a leader in cryptocurrency adoption as it was ranked first among over 150 nations in last year’s edition of the Global Crypto Adoption Index by blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis. However, the government in Kyiv is yet to adopt comprehensive regulations for the country’s expanding crypto space. A draft law on “On Virtual Assets,” which was recently updated, should be voted this year.
What’s your opinion about the possible uses of a central bank digital currency? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.
The digital asset trading platform Crypto.com has announced the firm has become the first global cryptocurrency exchange to obtain an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) license from the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). According to the announcement, Crypto.com’s EMI license will allow the firm to issue cards and bank transfers to consumers in the region.
Crypto.com Receives the First EMI License from Malta
Crypto.com details in its latest announcement that the digital asset exchange has been working closely with the MFSA. Two months ago, the exchange received a Class 3 Virtual Financial Assets (VFA) license from the MFSA. On Friday, the trading platform revealed the EMI license has been approved and the company believes it is a “watershed moment for the cryptocurrency industry.” Working with the MFSA, Crypto.com notes that it aims to provide a “compliant crypto trading environment.”
“We have been committed from day-one to building a fully regulated business,” Kris Marszalek, the cofounder and CEO of Crypto.com, explained in a statement. “Working with regulators is the best way to fulfill our mission of accelerating the world’s transition to cryptocurrency. Being the first global cryptocurrency platform to receive an EMI License from the MFSA is a major milestone for the industry as a whole.”
Blockchain Island’s Tumultuous Experience With Global Regulators
Malta has been considered a hotspot for crypto companies and has even been dubbed “Blockchain Island.” In April 2020, however, one report estimated roughly 70% of crypto companies had not sought licensure from the MFSA. At the time, no digital asset company received a license and only 26 companies had applied.
Just recently, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) held a confidential meeting and was critical of the island nation of Malta. Government sources said that more than $70 billion moved through the country over past years when regulations were lax. However, the same report noted crypto industry executives disagreed with FATF’s $70 billion estimate.
Within Crypto.com’s MFSA licensure announcement, the exchange also explained how it secured an Australian Financial Service License (AFSL) last year in December. Crypto.com also obtained a Principal Membership with Visa in March 2021. Following the AFSL licensure, the company also said it would be offering Crypto.com Visa Cards in the near future.
What do you think about Crypto.com obtaining an EMI License from the MFSA? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
The parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has joined the list of African organizations that have cautioned against the use of cryptocurrencies. In its warning to West Africa crypto users, the legislative body insists these digital assets are too volatile and as such “their use on the African continent is not without dangers.”
Refusing to Accept Crypto Not a Violation of Legal Provisions
According to a report, this parliamentary warning came after the joint committee meeting that was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The meeting, according to the report, had been convened to explore “the prospects of cryptocurrencies as a facilitator for investment.”
However, following the meeting that was also attended by “cryptocurrency experts and resource persons,” the joint committee reminded crypto users in the sub-region of the digital currency’s many shortcomings. According to the report, one of the shortcomings of cryptocurrencies is that while they may be used as a medium of exchange, users can still refuse to accept them as payment. Such refusal is currently not seen as a violation or contravention of the relevant laws.
Meanwhile, the joint committee also claimed that cryptocurrencies cannot be likened to e-cash due to their volatile nature. According to the committee, this crypto volatility stems from their “restrictive issuance mechanism that encourages speculation.” Consequently, the ECOWAS Parliament is now urging “crypto enthusiasts to guard against the risk of theft.”
The report also lists other supposed risk factors faced by users of crypto assets. These include the irreversible nature of some crypto transactions, the lack of a central authority that monitors or controls transactions, and the concentration of assets in a few hands.
What are your thoughts on ECOWAS’ warning about the risks of using cryptocurrencies? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
An eco-friendly toilet that pays people in digital currency for using it has been installed at a university in South Korea. The toilet is connected to a laboratory that uses excrement to produce biogas, which is used as a source of energy at the university.
Get Paid in Digital Currency to Use a Toilet
There is now a toilet that pays you in digital currency for using it. It was designed by a South Korean professor of environmental engineering at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and is already in use, Reuters reported Friday. The institute is one of the four public universities in South Korea dedicated to research in science and technology.
The toilet is called Beevi, a portmanteau of the words bee and vision. It is connected to a laboratory that uses excrement to produce biogas and manure.
When in use, a vacuum pump sends feces into an underground tank, reducing water use, and the excrement is broken down to methane by microorganisms. This turns into a source of energy, which is being used in a building at the university to power “a gas stove, hot-water boiler and solid oxide fuel cell,” the publication conveyed.
Professor Cho Jae-weon, who designed the toilet, was quoted as saying:
If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure. I have put this value into ecological circulation.
He explained that an average person defecates about 500 grams a day, which can be converted to 50 liters of methane gas. He noted that this gas can generate 0.5kWh of electricity or be used to drive a car for about 0.75 miles.
Users of the Beevi toilet get paid in a digital currency called Ggool, which means honey in Korean. Currently, each person using the toilet earns 10 Ggool a day.
The digital coins can then be used to purchase anything at a shop on campus, such as freshly brewed coffee, instant cup noodles, fruits, and books. Students scan a QR code to pay with the digital currency.
Heo Hui-jin, a postgraduate student at the university, was quoted as saying:
I had only ever thought that feces are dirty, but now it is a treasure of great value to me. I even talk about feces during mealtimes to think about buying any book I want.
The news of this toilet has drawn some attention on social media, with some calling it a “genius” creation. Many in the crypto community, however, made fun of the concept, calling the digital currency literally “the king of shitcoins.”
What do you think about this toilet paying people in digital currency? Let us know in the comments section below.
U.S. Senator Patrick Toomey has declared investments in Grayscale’s bitcoin and ethereum trusts. His declaration shortly followed one by fellow congressman, U.S. Representative Barry Moore, who declared that he had invested in dogecoin, ether, and cardano.
Senator Pat Toomey’s Cryptocurrency Investments
A growing number of U.S. lawmakers are investing in cryptocurrencies or crypto-related investments. According to a Periodic Transaction Report filed on July 7, U.S. Senator Patrick Toomey from Pennsylvania declared two personal cryptocurrency investments, each worth between $1,000 and $15,000. One was in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and the other in Grayscale Ethereum Trust (ETHE).
The senator’s investments have decreased in value since his purchases. He invested in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) on June 15 when the price was around $33.23. At the time of writing, it has fallen to $27.65. As for his investment in Grayscale Ethereum Trust, the price was $24.45 on June 14 when bought it but has since dropped to $20.41 at the time of writing.
Toomey has recently voiced concerns about crypto regulation. A few days before investing in Grayscale’s bitcoin and ethereum trusts, the senator wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging the Treasury Department to “make significant revisions” to the crypto proposals by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). He believes that if the current proposals are adopted, “they would have a detrimental impact on financial technology (fintech), the fundamental privacy of Americans, and efforts to combat illicit activity.” He also raised concerns about FATF’s guidance.
The lawmaker from Pennsylvania is not the only U.S. senator with a bitcoin-related investment. The outspoken pro-bitcoin U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming owns about five bitcoins. She encouraged “people to buy and hold” BTC. “I encourage them to save bitcoin for their retirement, for their future.”
Recently, U.S. Representative Barry Moore from Alabama also declared his cryptocurrency investments. He bought dogecoin (DOGE), ether (ETH), and cardano (ADA).
What do you think about Senator Pat Toomey investing in bitcoin and ether through Grayscale’s trusts? Let us know in the comments section below.