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Bank of Italy to Release Comprehensive Guidelines for Implementing EU Crypto Regulations

On 9 July, 2024, Bank of Italy Governor Fabio Panetta announced that the central bank will soon release guidelines to facilitate the implementation of the European Union's Markets in Crypto-Assets Regulation (MiCA). These guidelines aim to ensure the effective application of MiCA and protect cryptocurrency holders, according to Panetta's address to the Italian Banking Association. Panetta detailed that MiCA categorizes tokens into two primary types suitable for payments: electronic money tokens (EMTs) and asset-referenced tokens (ARTs). However, the Bank of Italy's assessment found that only EMTs can fully function as a means of payment while maintaining public trust. EMTs are linked to a single official currency, such as a US dollar-backed stablecoin, whereas ARTs are pegged to various assets like the gold-backed token PAX Gold (PAXG). In his speech, Panetta emphasized the risks associated with unbacked crypto-assets, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, which he described as having no...

TON Network Integrates EVM Functionality in Collaboration with Polygon Labs

The TON Application Chain (TAC) and Polygon Labs have announced a strategic partnership to integrate Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) functionality into the TON ecosystem, significantly enhancing its capacity to support decentralized applications (DApps) across various sectors, including decentralized finance (DeFi), gaming, and identity solutions. This announcement was made on July 9, 2024, and is poised to revolutionize the user experience within the TON network. The integration involves the TON Layer 2 integrating Polygon CDK and the interoperability protocol Agglayer, facilitating EVM-compatible DApps on TAC. This move will enable a broader range of applications for TON users, including DeFi platforms, gaming applications, and advanced identity solutions. TAC CEO Pavel Altukhov highlighted that EVM compatibility will eliminate existing barriers, attracting significant interest in DeFi and GameFi applications on the network. Currently, EVM applications are not available on the TON...

Ethereum ETFs Near Approval as SEC Discussions Progress

The long-anticipated approval of spot Ethereum exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the United States appears imminent, with several recent developments indicating that these investment products could launch as early as this month. On 8 July, 2024, Katherine Dowling, chief compliance officer at Bitwise, told Bloomberg that Ethereum ETFs are “close to the finish line,” underscoring significant progress in discussions between issuers and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Bloomberg ETF analyst Eric Balchunas has suggested 18  July, 2024 as a potential launch date for Ethereum ETFs, although he cautioned that the SEC’s plans remain uncertain. This follows the successful introduction of spot Bitcoin ETFs earlier this year, which attracted approximately $15 billion in inflows over six months, highlighting substantial investor interest in cryptocurrency-based investment products. Several major asset managers, including BlackRock, Fidelity, Grayscale, 21Shares, Franklin Templeton, and...

Paxful Co-Founder Artur Schaback Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Conspiracy

On 8 July, 2024, Artur Schaback, co-founder and former chief technology officer of Paxful Inc., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate a crypto exchange platform without effective anti-money laundering (AML) policies. Schaback, 36, from Tallinn, Estonia, admitted to the charges in a California federal court and faces up to five years in prison. His sentencing is set for November 4, 2024. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Schaback managed Paxful between July 2015 and June 2019, during which he allowed customers to open accounts and trade on Paxful without proper identification checks. He marketed the platform as not requiring Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols, presented fake AML policies, and ignored suspicious activities by users. This lax oversight turned Paxful into a haven for money laundering, sanctions violations, and other criminal activities, including fraud, romance scams, extortion, and prostitution. Schaback's plea acknowledges his conspiracy to willfully...

DigitalX Receives Regulatory Approval to Launch Bitcoin ETF on ASX, Trading starts July 12

According to Bloomberg, Blockchain-focused asset manager DigitalX has secured regulatory approval to launch its spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), making it the second Bitcoin ETF to trade on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The DigitalX Bitcoin ETF, listed under the ticker BTXX, will commence trading on July 12, 2024, at 10 am local time, as announced on July 8. DigitalX CEO Lisa Wade described the approval as a “watershed moment,” emphasizing that the DigitalX Bitcoin ETF is a spot ETF product providing ASX customers with direct access to Bitcoin through a regulated and liquid fund structure. “It is exciting to see the growth and development of the digital assets markets reflected in this approval,” added DigitalX’s Chair Toby Hicks. In partnership with investment management firm K2 Asset Management, which will act as the responsible entity and issuer, and cryptocurrency-focused investment firm 3iQ for promotion and distribution, DigitalX is poised to expand its...

Dubai Customs launches Blockchain Platform for Efficiency and Transparency in Trade

In a move aimed at enhancing efficiency and transparency in commercial operations, Dubai Customs has announced the launch of its blockchain platform. This secure and efficient digital network is set to revolutionize trade processes within Dubai and across international borders, marking a significant milestone in the emirate’s digital transformation journey. The initiative underscores Dubai Customs’ dedication to innovation and aims to solidify Dubai’s status as a premier global trade hub. His Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman of the Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation, highlighted that this launch is part of Dubai's broader blockchain strategy for digital transactions, initiated by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai. The goal is to leverage the latest technological innovations to provide secure, efficient, and effective services, thereby enhancing Dubai's position as a...

Governor Cooper Vetoes North Carolina Bill Banning Federal Digital Currency (CBDCs)

On 5 June, 2024, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the state from implementing a US Federal Reserve-issued central bank digital currency (CBDC). Despite receiving near-unanimous support in the state's House of Representatives and Senate, Cooper deemed House Bill 690 as "premature, vague, and reactionary." In a statement on June 5, Cooper explained his decision, emphasizing that ongoing federal efforts aim to ensure appropriate standards and safeguards for consumers, investors, and businesses using digital assets. "North Carolina should wait to see how they work before taking action," he added. The bill, which passed the House with a 109-4 vote and the Senate with a 39-5 vote in late June, aimed to ban the state from receiving payments in CBDC and participating in any Federal Reserve CBDC testing. Given the overwhelming legislative support, North Carolina lawmakers could potentially override Cooper’s veto with a three-fifths majority in both...

Russia Expands Digital Ruble Project for International Payments Starting September 1

In a recent development, the Russian Central Bank announced on Thursday that it will accelerate and expand its digital ruble project, with the next phase set to commence on September 1, 2024. First Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova revealed that a substantial number of applicants have requested broader inclusion, leading to the expansion of the digital ruble pilot to encompass real transactions involving real clients. The digital ruble testing process, which began in 2023, is poised to enter a new phase, significantly increasing its reach. "We are expanding our pilot to encompass real transactions from September 1. Currently, 12 banks are taking part in the pilot, and 19 more are in the process of joining. We aim to significantly increase the number of individuals and companies that can participate," Skorobogatova stated at the Russian Financial Congress. Since its launch, the pilot has involved approximately 600 selected individuals in 11 Russian cities. Initially, the expansion...

Taurus Partners with UAE’s Zand Bank to Revolutionize Digital Banking and Crypto Services

Swiss cryptocurrency infrastructure platform Taurus has announced a strategic partnership with Zand Bank in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This collaboration aims to significantly enhance Zand’s capabilities in custody, tokenization, and blockchain connectivity. Taurus will provide infrastructure solutions that allow Zand to issue tokenized financial and real-world assets across both permissioned and permissionless blockchains. This integration, compliant with UAE regulations, will also extend Zand’s custody solutions to embrace cryptocurrencies, digital currencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Zand, headquartered in Dubai and pioneering as the first digitally native bank licensed by the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), has no physical branches, marking a significant shift in the digital banking landscape. Bashir Kazour, Taurus' managing director, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, "It’s a privilege to assist Zand, a leader in digital banking, in launching their...

Russia Advocates Crypto Solutions for International Payments Amid Sanctions

Amid escalating Western sanctions, Russia’s central bank is advocating the use of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets to facilitate international payments. Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of the Bank of Russia, underscored the significance of innovative financial solutions at a financial conference in St. Petersburg on June 26, 2024. The Russian central bank's shift towards embracing cryptocurrencies reflects a broader strategy to mitigate the impact of sanctions and sustain its trade relationships, especially with countries like China, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, which have not imposed sanctions. Nabiullina highlighted the resilience and ingenuity of Russian businesses in adapting to these challenges, noting that many have already started exploring alternative payment methods without waiting for official guidance. This strategic pivot comes as Western sanctions have severely affected major Russian financial institutions, targeting entities like the Moscow...

EU-U.S. Financial Regulatory Forum: A Milestone in Transatlantic Cooperation

On 25-26 June, 2024, the EU–U.S. Joint Financial Regulatory Forum concluded a productive meeting hosted by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This forum brought together top financial regulators from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss and align on critical issues, with a special focus on cryptocurrency regulation and anti-money laundering (AML) efforts. Representatives from the European Commission, European Banking Authority (EBA), European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), European Central Bank (ECB), and the Single Resolution Board (SRB) joined their U.S. counterparts from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve Board (FRB), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The forum...

CFTC Wins Landmark Case Against Crypto Fraudsters: Over $120 Million Ordered in Penalties

In a recent victory for market integrity, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced on 3 July, 2024, that Judge Mary Rowland of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment in favor of the CFTC on all counts of its complaint against Sam Ikkurty of Oregon and several associated entities. The court ordered more than $83.7 million in restitution and $36.9 million in disgorgement, jointly and severally, against Ikkurty and his companies, including Jafia, LLC, Ikkurty Capital, LLC (d/b/a Rose City Income Fund I and II), and Seneca Ventures, LLC. The court found that Ikkurty and his affiliates committed multiple violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations, including fraud and operating without proper registration. Judge Rowland characterized the defendants' activities as "a classic Ponzi scheme," particularly highlighting their fraudulent carbon offset program. The summary judgment reveals that Ikkurty lured...

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