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Line’s Crypto Exchange Nears Japan Approval

Line's Crypto Exchange Nears Japan Approval

Japan’s most popular communication app, Line, is heading towards the country’s approval to roll out its crypto exchange in the home nation. As reported by Bloomberg on 20 June 2019, the license is expected to be issued by Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) within this month. If so, the operations are lined up to kick off a few weeks post the regulatory authorization.

The platform, dubbed as BitMax, will extend trading facilities to about 80 million users in Japan. This will enable trading of major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin including Line’s own token, Link, the report claimed. Line’s shares spiked up by 4.6% post the report.

About a year ago, Line launched the crypto exchange, BitBox. The platform, however, was denied approval by Japan and the US which rendered its services unavailable to the countries. BitMax has been designed to use the same back-end technology as BitBox.

The report stated that Line has another banking license on halt in Japan which is unlikely to be issued anytime until next year. The issuance of the above said license will bring forth a tight amalgamation between cryptocurrencies and services such as online shopping.

In March 2019, the FSA granted a license to tech giant Rakuten’s crypto exchange, which replaced Everybody’s Bitcoin Inc, acquired by the company for USD 2.4 million. Yahoo Japan’s crypto exchange Taotao was launched on 30 May 2019 after receiving approval from the FSA.

However, the FSA has been tightening its anti-money laundering regime to inspect crypto exchanges in accordance with the FATF inspection in a bid to up its financial security framework. This has been Japan’s top priority to avoid criticism from the intergovernmental watchdog as the country chairs this year’s G-20 summit to be held on 28 and 29 June. This is clearly reflected in the fact that as of March 2019, only 19 crypto exchanges had received a license from the FSA as opposed to the 190 applications received by the agency in 2018.

 

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Japanese Agency Claims 170% Increase in Crypto-related Inquiries in 2018

Japanese Agency Claims 170% Increase in Crypto-related Inquiries in 2018

Japanese premier citizen complaint agency Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) has reported that 2018 saw a sizeable 170% increase in queries relating to cryptocurrencies. The uptick is one of the highest in the industry in recent years signals increasing trend towards cryptocurrency investment among the general public.

The CAA while working under the Japanese Cabinet Office is responsible for feedback and daily affairs of the government. The CAA provides credible data to the parliament on consumer protection and the general sector for analysis and policymaking. Data from last year shows that over 3657 inquiries were made by customers throughout the calendar year. The data shows a 1.7 times increase from 2017 which is half the increase witnessed from 2016 to 2017 (3.5 times).

Consistent growth has been witnessed in the sector since 2014 according to data records from CAA. The most common queries relate to crypto exchanges and their credibility, refunds and withdrawal requests and complaints, security-related matters, login issues and difficulties with vendors accepting cryptocurrencies that are not responding to buyers. The data from the Financial Services Agency (FSA) shows that crypto related inquiries decreased in the last quarter of 2018 which shows a relationship with the healthiness of the Bitcoin price index, considering BTC touched lowest levels at that time.

Japan continues to be one of the most progressive countries when it comes to adopting cryptocurrencies and there is a lot of awareness among the public regarding the sector. There is also a perception of open-mindedness when it comes to the Japanese public.

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Financial Stability Board Assesses Crypto Regulations Pre-Osaka G20

crypto, regulations, G20,

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) and other international financial standard setters are currently working on a variety of crypto-assets issues and risks with the next G20 just around the corner.

The Swiss-based FSB released their own take on what direction to take prior to the G20 named “Crypto-assets Work underway, regulatory approaches and potential gaps.” This report highlighted some of the problems going forward, urging the G20 to keep the question of more coordination between international financial standard setters under review; one issue which most other groups tasked with cryptocurrency regulation are coming across is members holding quite different views about how to move forward.

Although the breakdown in trade talks between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping is sure to dominate the Osaka G20, all international financial standard agencies are sure to want to break new ground and push cryptocurrency legislation further towards some kind of agreeable fait accompli between all G20 members. The FSB report also indicated another “potential gap” as that of definition, something that the SEC is still struggling to conclude on:

“Certain crypto-assets may not perform the economic functions of traditional securities and may be used primarily as a means of payment or exchange. In some jurisdictions, these assets may not legally qualify as securities or derivatives or be covered by market regulation. Issues such as market transparency, client asset custody or segregation, and fundraising documents (among others) may therefore not always be subject to detailed regulation.”

As a precursor to the summit in Osaka, Japan on 28 June, the 36 member countries of another body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which includes the powerful European Commission, held its annual Private Sector Consultative Forum in Austria earlier this month in order to also find some common ground on cryptocurrency.

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Markets: Could Monacoin Become Japan’s Own Litecoin

Japanese home-grown cryptocurrency Monacoin, tagged as being the country’s first digital currency, has rocketed more than 80% in just 24 hrs, gaining plenty of market attention.

With the equivalent of USD 140 million changing hands just on @bitbank_inc,  Japanese crypto traders are enthusiastic, particularly as this recent activity marks a second major spike in the cryptocurrency after a 40% leap last month.

Analysts believe that the surge in price is connected to the news that Monacoin will soon be trading on Japan’s Coincheck exchange although it is still not listed on some of the world’s major exchanges. If exchanges such Binance begin to take an interest, then it is thought this will further leverage the currency.

Buyers are always looking for an opportunity to find an altcoin which can deliver, particularly as the market is beginning to show signs of recovery. Coins like Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Monacoin, and others have the perception of being cheaper and, therefore, less risky, hence attracting plenty of attention when they start to move. Litecoin recorded an increase of 13% on Friday whereas Bitcoin recorded only a 1.5% increase on the same day.

With a 24-trade pump such as this, it is only a question of time before more Japanese traders take notice, which could eventually lead to a more widespread trading opportunity for Monacoin across more exchanges, following in the recent footsteps of Litecoin as it eclipsed Bitcoin.

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Yahoo! Japan’s crypto exchange platform scheduled to launch on 30th May, 2019

Japanese backed cryptocurrency exchange company Taotao (formerly known as BitARG) is all set to take off on 30 May 2019 after almost a year of being under development. About 40% of the stake is owned by Yahoo! Japan, a joint venture between the American internet company Yahoo! and the Japanese company SoftBank.

The announcement was made via the company’s official Twitter account, which disclosed that the virtual currency trading would begin on May 30 from noon at local time.

Taotao launch announcement via tweet

Apart from the online platform, the provision of a mobile app is made available by the company for convenience.

Initially, transactions will be offered in Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereuem (ETH). However, margin trading will be provided in three additional preferences: XRP, Litecoin (LTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

Yahoo Japan purchased the shares in Taotao through its subsidiary YJFX, a forex transaction platform. It is believed that the minority stake cost the firm around JPY 2B (USD 19M). Taotao is licensed by Japan’s Financial Service Agency (FSA), which makes Yahoo Japan’s investments seem economically viable. Being one of the most popular websites used in the country, it will perhaps play a substantial role in the adoption prospects of cryptocurrency bolstering the idea of taking to modern technology.

Although Japan has seen emerging popularity among traders amid the Bull market, several strict regulations are imposed on the market owing to the anti-money laundering policies as part of FSA’s drive against non-compliant cryptocurrency exchanges. This is also done in view to put out a better outlook before the FATF in this year’s G20 meeting which will be chaired by Japan.

 

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Hana Financial Partners with Sumitomo Mitsui for Blockchain Partnership

Hana Financial Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Group have recently renewed their partnership and announced a joint blockchain based project to develop new digital business. The project is aimed to expand the ties in asset and trust management, according to the Seoul-based holding company, and was announced last Friday at the time of the fifth anniversary of their partnership at the Hana Global Campus in Incheon’s Cheongna International City.

The executives of both organizations revealed the collaboration plans for the development of the infrastructure, global aviation financing, and human resource exchange. Hana group’s subsidiary, KEB Hana Bank, forged a strategic alliance with the Dutch company Arena Aviation Capital to facilitate commercial aircraft leasing and financing using blockchain, where the companies are now looking to launch these services in Japan.

In addition, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust will collaborate with Hana Financial to launch the Global Loyalty Network (GLN) digital platform in Japan by the end of this year, which will allow customers to perform digital transactions from anywhere around the globe by leveraging the decentralized blockchain system.

The system forms a global alliance of GLN across industries and allows access to robust local networks and infrastructure through blockchain based GLN. The users share benefits such as instant access to locally offered deals and discount offers worldwide while the system also enables the payment, transfer, exchange, redemption, and earnings of digital assets across borders.

Along with KEB Hana Bank, Hana Financial Investment has also pitched in the Hana-Sumitomo Mitsui alliance, with the Hana Financial Chairman Kim Jung-tai stating, “We will further use each other’s strength to expand our global reach.”

The partnership between the two financial groups began in December 2014 after their first agreement in investment banking. In February 2018, the conglomerates further strengthened the ties by creating a partnership to collaborate in financial technology and real estate investment management.

 

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Japan’s Prime Minister Commissions Cryptocurrency Handbook

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has commissioned a cryptocurrency governance manual which will be ready for the upcoming 28 – 29 June Japan G20 Summit.

The G20 summit has been selected as an ideal launchpad for the cryptocurrency handbook given the clear need to accelerate cryptocurrency regulation amongst the contributing nations in the absence of a set international plan for crypto to-date. Reports indicate that the manual includes guidance in a number of regulatory areas, including protections against cyber attacks, customer asset safeguards, and also standards for ensuring that customers receive all the information required.

On a domestic level, however, member nations have been far more proactive in the past than the international forum with countries such as Australia taking a progressive stance, such as its INFO 225 which addresses how existing Australian regulations will apply to the emerging technology. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an organization supported by the G20, has recommended that “all [G20] countries should provide international cooperation in relation to virtual assets and virtual asset service providers”.

It was almost a year ago the Japanese announced that the FATF would begin its cryptocurrency discussions and a rule-making session on 24 June 2018, but to date, no set plans at G20 level are in place in order to reduce money laundering and terrorism financing associated with cryptocurrency use.

Again, a year on, the Japanese are hoping that some progress can finally be made, even if it means Australia adapting some of their own successes and formulating an internationally accepted standard, once the G20 has decided what that might look like.

Another participating G20 nation, the UK, under the governance of its Cryptoassets Taskforce recently proposed amendments to its own cryptocurrency regulations, in addition to categorizing and defining different variations of crypto assets.

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Japan’s Financial Services Agency Hits Exchanges with Unexpected Inspections

Amidst a sudden drop in cryptocurrency prices at mid-week, Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) reported that they had carried out a surprise inspection of two Japanese exchanges.

Bitcoin dropped 2.25% to USD 5,409.4 by 12:46 PM ET (04:46 GMT), after rising to a one-month high at USD 5,586.3 in the mid-week. The drop-in prices pushed the crypto market cap down to $176.7 billion after some notable gains over the past week.

The two cryptocurrency exchanges receiving an unscheduled visit from the official regulator, Huobi Japan, and Fisco Digital Asset Group, had no warning and provoked shock waves through Japan’s crypto community. Reuters claimed that the reason cited for the spot checks was related to both exchanges alleged inadequate customer protection and anti-money laundering (AML) safeguards. The news agency reported:

“The FSA conducted detailed checks with a view to administrative setup, considering that there are insufficient points in the management systems of the two companies and their efforts to protect customers.”

Prior to the end of 2018, the FSA received a wave of cryptocurrency license applications from exchanges granting the newly formed Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) the power to oversee self-regulation within the cryptocurrency industry. The country’s top financial regulator Toshihide Endo has suggested that the industry needs to grow under “appropriate regulation” and as such won’t need government intervention to further enforce curbs on how exchanges operate within the country.

The FSA has kept a close eye on crypto-related businesses and firms since the collapse of the Mt Gox exchange back in 2014. The agency regulated crypto exchanges by introducing a licensing scheme and conducting inspections of the exchanges for their security and compliance with anti-money laundering laws.

 

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Japan Regulator Urges Improved Security for Offline Crypto Custody

Japan Regulator Urges Improved Security for Offline Crypto Custody (1)

Cryptocurrency exchanges in Japan will be required to fortify their cold wallet storages, according to a Reuters report.

Citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter told, the report states that Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), is uneased by the current security levels of some exchanges as it perceives risks of internal thefts that threaten cold wallets.

To this end, the undisclosed source told the outlet that a preferred measure would be to have more than one person be in charge of the cold wallet and be placed on rotational shifts.

As Japan embraces the fintech industry to further economic growth, the watchdog will, therefore, urge cryptocurrency exchanges with security lapses to ensure they adopt the best offline security practices, given that the previous year had seen as much as USD 530 million stolen from a single exchange in Tokyo alone.

In the fall of 2017, Japan began issuing a license to cryptocurrency exchanges under its new regulation, with the second exchange announced in March to debut its services in April. With its steady oversight over the industry, Japan continues to drive interest that balances innovation and investor protection.

Cryptocurrency custody remains a crucial subject in the industry; notably one of the major concerns shared by many regulators as well as investors, which in effect has created a competitive market for custody-related solution platforms. As for crypto exchanges, the situation is direr.

Case in point, Bakkt recently experienced hiccups with its launch as the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) stated that Bakkt’s custody protocol would need to take further steps in protecting the cryptocurrency in order to be compliant the commission’s rules.

On the subject of cold wallets, it appears security breach may not be the only threat to funds stored offline. A recent case of trapped customer funds worth over USD 190 million in a cold wallet of major Canadian cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX after the death of the CEO Gerald Cotton – who was solely in charge of the cold wallet – leaves a bitter experience.

 

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Chinese Miners Struggle for Easy Ride in Iran

Things aren’t turning out to be smooth for Chinese Bitcoin miners heading into Iran to profit from cheaper electricity rates.

Long before China hinted it may consider halting Bitcoin mining projects, the exodus began and Iran recently became a hotspot for miners along with parts of South East Asia such as Vietnam and Cambodia. China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is now looking to siphon off a number of industries which include cryptocurrency mining as part of a state cleanup.

The Iranian venture for many of those Chinese miners deciding to make the move has gone sour, and reports coming back from Iran highlight some of the issues which have made the Middle East less attractive than was at first perceived.

One issue has been getting the equipment across the Iranian border. One miner Liu Feng reported that the chance of losing equipment at the border has become common, with Iranian customs confiscating at least 40,000 crypto mining rigs to date. Some rigs can be sneaked through if presented as non-mining processors for those lucky enough to be able to strike up a deal with customs officials. Feng explains the reason for the confiscations:

“Because of [Iran’s] huge electricity subsidy, the government has added this energy-hungry device (bitcoin miner) to the list of 2,000 banned shipments to come in.”

The same mining enthusiast, Lui Feng also had problems pricing his electricity supply with a local supplier after his supply tariff was doubled just two months into operation. A subsequent set up resulted in angry locals complaining about the noise emitted from his rigs, resulting in miners being confiscated.

Despite these hurdles, Chinese Bitcoin miners are still optimistic that it can get better for them in Iran. With the Iranian government now accepting crypto mining as a legal activity, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is behind a new cloud computing industrial park. Also, there are rumors that Tehran may get behind the import of Bitcoin mining hardware.

Currently, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are still detaining or confiscating machines at border points with tough import rules still in place.

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