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OFAC Escalates Enforcement Efforts, Tightens Grip on Russian Entities

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has intensified its enforcement actions by targeting individuals and entities in Russia's financial services and technology sectors, particularly those involved in virtual assets, to prevent evasion of US sanctions. Thirteen entities and two individuals have been sanctioned for facilitating transactions or providing services aimed at aiding other designated entities in circumventing US sanctions. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson, emphasized the importance of disrupting entities that assist sanctioned Russian financial institutions in bypassing global financial system restrictions. OFAC's sanctions list includes fintech firms based in Moscow and Cyprus, such as B-Crypto, Masterchain, Atomaiz, Veb3 Tekhnologii, Veb3 Integrator, and Tokentrust. Chainalysis shed light on the activities of Netex24 and Bitpapa, revealing their involvement in facilitating transactions with sanctioned Russian...

Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple Dismissed by U.S. District Judge

United States District Judge Vince Chhabria has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit brought against Apple by Venmo and Cash App customers over allegations of anti-competitive practices related to the California company's Apple Cash product. The lawsuit, filed in November 2023 in San Jose, accused Apple of monopolistic practices within the Apple iOS App Store, making it challenging for competitors to introduce features such as decentralized cryptocurrency payments. However, Judge Chhabria granted Apple's motion for dismissal on March 26, citing several fatal issues with the complaint. The plaintiffs failed to establish specific antitrust actions or include other competitors like Zelle in the initial complaint. Additionally, the judge deemed the lawsuit speculative and dismissed the premise that Apple's terms of service constituted an unlawful agreement. While the plaintiffs have 21 days to submit amendments to the case, the judge's final remarks suggest skepticism regarding the lawsuit's...

Central Bank of Nigeria Shifts Stance, Defers Cryptocurrency Regulation to Securities and Exchange Commission

In a surprising turn of events, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Yemi Cardoso, has stated that cryptocurrency regulation falls under the purview of the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), not the CBN. This marks a significant departure from the CBN's previous stance of actively seeking to oversee the Nigerian cryptocurrency industry. Cardoso's remarks came amidst ongoing issues surrounding the detention of a Binance executive by the Nigerian government, who subsequently escaped custody and left the country. The governor's statement signals a change in approach, indicating that the CBN is now willing to collaborate with law enforcement agencies and other regulators overseeing the Nigerian crypto sector. Previously, under the leadership of now-incarcerated Godwin Emefiele, the CBN had taken a more assertive role in cryptocurrency regulation, issuing directives barring financial institutions from servicing crypto entities. However, this move contradicted...

Three Major AI Protocols Merge to Form “Artificial Superintelligence Alliance”

In a groundbreaking move for the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry, three prominent AI protocols – Fetch.ai, Ocean Protocol, and SingularityNET – have joined forces to create the Artificial Superintelligence Alliance (ASA). This merger involves merging their utility tokens to establish the largest open-source, independent entity in AI research and development. The formation of ASA aims to democratize AI development and challenge the dominance of Big Tech by fostering a more decentralized approach. With a combined token value of $7.5 billion, the alliance seeks to accelerate progress toward Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) while ensuring accessibility and ethical considerations in AI innovation. Under the unified token economy, the tokens of the three organizations will merge to create the Artificial Superintelligence ($ASI) token. Token holders from Fetch.ai, SingularityNET, and Ocean Protocol will receive $ASI tokens based on specified conversion ratios. A token migration...

HCCH Launches Project to Bring Legal Clarity to Digital Asset Tokenization

The Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) has embarked on a project aimed at providing legal clarity to cross-border businesses dealing with digital assets. This initiative seeks to address various types of digital tokens, including real estate tokens, utility tokens, payment tokens, NFTs, and stablecoins, excluding securities and central bank digital currencies already under consideration in separate projects. The project, conducted alongside specialists and external observers, will explore preliminary legal questions surrounding digital securities and blockchain-based digital asset management. It also aims to identify which laws apply to cross-border businesses and how legal rulings are enforced internationally. Additionally, a proposal suggests commissioning a study on the private international law implications of digital tokens, with a report and recommendations expected by 2025. This joint effort by the HCCH and UNIDROIT reflects the growing interest and...

Court Rules Against Coinbase’s Motion to Dismiss SEC Charges, Case to Proceed

In a significant development, US District Judge Katherine Polk Failla largely denied Coinbase's motion to dismiss charges filed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding its operation as an unregistered securities exchange. The ruling means that the case will continue, marking a blow to Coinbase's legal defense strategy. While Coinbase argued that the SEC failed to provide fair notice that crypto assets traded on digital platforms could be considered securities, Judge Polk disagreed, stating that the SEC had provided sufficient notice through various means. However, Coinbase did secure some victories, including the dismissal of charges against its Coinbase Wallet product, which was not mentioned as a revenue source in its shareholder letter. The ruling demonstrates a notable split among lower courts on how to treat crypto assets and shows the ongoing regulatory scrutiny faced by major players in the crypto industry. Coinbase and the SEC have until April 19 to...

Katena Wins Legal Battle Against Coinmint Over $150 Million Purchase Agreement

Katena Computing has emerged victorious in a legal battle against Coinmint regarding a $150 million purchase agreement. Coinmint had accused Katena of deceptive practices in the sale of Bitcoin mining machines. However, an arbitration panel ruled in favor of Katena, awarding them over $14 million. The panel found no evidence to support Coinmint's allegations of deception, noting that Coinmint inflated the price without Katena's influence. During the arbitration process, Katena provided extensive evidence, including technical plans and due diligence reports, to refute Coinmint's claims. This ruling underscores the importance of thorough due diligence and clear communication in business agreements, particularly in high-value transactions like the one between Katena and Coinmint. The panel's decision not only absolves Katena of wrongdoing but also sets a precedent for fair dispute resolution in the crypto industry. It further shows the complexities and challenges involved in...

House Republicans Urge SEC Clarity on Prometheum’s ETH Custody Plans

House Republicans have penned a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seeking clarity on Prometheum's intention to offer custody services for Ethereum's token, Ether (ETH). Amid speculation that the SEC may classify ETH as a security, the letter highlights concerns regarding the lack of transparency in the SEC's Special Purpose Broker-Dealer (SPBD) regime and its implications for non-security digital assets like ETH. The letter underscores the need for the SEC to address Prometheum's custody plans and provide clarity on SPBDs' ability to custody non-securities, as well as the regulatory classification of ETH. While some in the crypto community speculate about the possibility of ETH being deemed a security, industry experts argue that such a classification is highly unlikely. The approval of ETH futures trading on regulated exchanges by the SEC in 2023 suggests a recognition of Ethereum as a commodity rather than a security. Despite ongoing regulatory scrutiny,...

Russian Central Bank Considers Testing Digital Ruble for Budget Payments

The Central Bank of Russia and the Russian treasury are exploring the possibility of testing the use of the digital ruble, the country's central bank digital currency (CBDC), for budget-related payments. This move aims to enhance the efficiency of budget settlements by introducing the digital ruble for payments from and to businesses and citizens. Governor Elvira Nabiullina highlighted the potential benefits of utilizing the digital ruble for targeted payments, such as social aid and subsidy disbursements, which aligns with earlier statements made by Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. The discussions signal a potential expansion of the ongoing digital ruble pilot, which has seen approximately 25,000 operations completed to date. While initially focusing on transactions between consumers and retail businesses, the pilot may now encompass budget-related payments as well. Notably, Russian authorities have clarified that pensions and benefits are not planned to be paid in digital rubles,...

HSBC Launches Gold Token for Retail Customers in Hong Kong

HSBC has unveiled its HSBC Gold Token, marking its entry into the real-world asset tokenization market for retail customers in Hong Kong. This move underscores the bank's commitment to embracing digital assets and leveraging blockchain technology to offer innovative investment opportunities. The HSBC Gold Token, operating on the HSBC Orion digital assets platform, allows investors to access tokenized gold while complying with regulations set forth by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). The introduction of the HSBC Gold Token reflects a broader trend toward real-world asset digitization, providing investors with a new avenue to engage in traditional investments through digital means. This initiative aligns with Hong Kong's efforts to position itself as a leading hub for digital assets, amidst ongoing developments in regulatory frameworks and the exploration of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and stablecoins by financial institutions. HSBC's move underscores the...

Russia’s Finance Minister Discusses Cryptocurrency Mining Rules Amidst Gray Areas

Anton Siluanov, Russia's finance minister, has signaled readiness to address uncertainties surrounding cryptocurrency mining and the utilization of its proceeds. In a recent lecture, Siluanov emphasized the need for clarity on what activities related to cryptocurrency are permissible within the country, acknowledging that discussions on this matter have been ongoing for years. Despite his opposition to the circulation of mined cryptocurrencies domestically, Siluanov highlighted the necessity of defining rules governing these assets. Siluanov's stance aligns with the Central Bank of Russia's historical resistance to the legalization of cryptocurrencies, citing concerns over loss of control over monetary flows. However, there appears to be openness towards exploring the potential use of mined cryptocurrency for international payments, an idea previously supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Recent legislation signed by Putin regulates the use of digital currencies for...

CFTC Takes Legal Action Against KuCoin for Alleged Violations

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has filed a lawsuit against KuCoin, a prominent digital asset exchange, citing violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations. The lawsuit targets multiple entities operating under the KuCoin name, alleging a range of offenses including illegal commodity transactions and failure to adhere to registration requirements. The legal battle highlights the challenges of regulating the cryptocurrency industry and underscores the CFTC's commitment to enforcing U.S. laws within the sector. KuCoin has denied the allegations, asserting compliance with regulations and ongoing internal investment efforts. As the legal proceedings unfold, the CFTC seeks significant penalties, including disgorgement of profits, monetary fines, trading and registration bans, and injunctive relief against further violations. The case also involves parallel criminal charges related to the Bank Secrecy Act and operating an unlicensed money transmitter...

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