Chinese Crypto Giant Huobi Launches Billion-Dollar Blockchain Fund

Huobi Labs, a blockchain incubator that is part of the Huobi exchange, has signed an agreement with Tianya Community to build a “Global Cultural and Creative Blockchain Lab” in Hainan Province, China, alongside the launch of a billion-dollar industry fund that aims to back the blockchain industry globally.

Under the background of the “new era of Chinese socialism characteristics,” the government has given Hainan Special Economic Zone a new mission of economic reformation. President Xi Jiping, personally planned, deployed and promoted the national strategy.

Huobi To Support National Strategy

Huobi China will support the national-level strategy and will use its technology, resources, talents and capital in the global blockchain industry to contribute to Hainan Special Economic Zone development and explore the construction of an international free trade port, the company announced on its website.

This year, the Huobi Group will:

1. Move Huobi China headquarters (Not Huobi Global, Nor Huobi Pro) to Hainan in the Hainan Ecological Software Park.
2. Build 10 global blockchain labs in collaboration with top global industry companies.
3. Build a global blockchain research institute with the world’s top universities.
4. Build a 40,000-square-meter blockchain incubator.
5. Create a billion-dollar global blockchain industry fund.

Huobi Seeks Government Partnership

Huobi was among China’s biggest cryptocurrency trading platforms prior to crippling domestic regulations that effectively curtailed the industry. After closing its Chinese trading platform in October, Huobi founder Leon Li summed up China’s curtain call as a “watershed moment” for the industry before launching Huobi Pro, its international trading platform headquartered in Singapore.

Huobi’s recent announcement to offer its own token, dubbed “Huobi Token” (HT), is another step in the former Chinese exchange giant’s diversification strategy, which includes an expansion into major cryptocurrency markets in South Korea and Japan.

The utility token is based on the Ethereum blockchain’s ERC-20 standard and will be capped at 500 million tokens. ‘Huobi Token, short for “HT”, is a token system based on Blockchain launching and management,’ the firm explained in a post on its website.

UK Watchdog to Publish its Review on Cryptocurrencies Later this Year

Britain’s financial regulator and markets watchdog outline its policy thinking on cryptocurrencies with a review to be published later this year.

In revealing its business plan for the coming financial year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) underlined cryptocurrencies as ‘an area of increasing interest for markets and regulators globally’. While admitting that cryptocurrencies do not directly fall under its regulatory scope, the FCA stressed that certain models of their usage bring them under its purview in a ‘complex’ landscape.

Pointedly, the FCA confirmed it would reveal its own take on cryptocurrencies, policy-wise, later this year. The regulator said:

We will work with the Bank of England and the Treasury as part of a taskforce to develop thinking and publish a Discussion Paper later this year outlining our policy thinking on cryptocurrencies.

The FCA is notably a member of the ‘Cryptoassets Task Force’ established by the British government in March 2018, consisting of the regulator, Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Bank of England (the central bank). The working group will explore and study the benefits and risks of cryptocurrencies, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said last month, helping the UK’s fintech sector to ‘grow and flourish’ in a regulatory climate that has broadly been supportive of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies over the years.

On Friday, the FCA mandated firms offering cryptocurrency derivatives to comply with all applicable rules to be authorized, stating it would be a ‘criminal offence’ otherwise.

Earlier in February, the UK’s Treasury Select Committee, an influential group of cross-party members of parliament (MPs), launched an inquiry into cryptocurrencies in an effort to better understand them.

While the Treasury Committee confirmed it would look at risks and threats posed by cryptocurrencies to ‘consumers, businesses and governments’, committee chair Nicky Morgan stressed the group would “also examine the potential the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies and the technology underpinning them, how they can create innovative opportunities, and to what extent they could disrupt the economy and replace traditional means of payment.”

Committee member Alison McGovern added that the inquiry would help UK lawmakers and politicians to better educate themselves on cryptocurrencies before enforcing policies. “It is time that Whitehall and Westminster understood cryptocurrency better and thought more clearly about the policy environment for blockchain technology,” she stated.

Bitcoin Raise 7% to $8,460 Overnight as Cryptocurrency Market Rebounds

After dipping below $7,300 on most major cryptocurrency exchanges, the price of bitcoin has raised 7 percent overnight, increasing from $7,240 to $8,467, triggered by a variety of factors.

G20

Many analysts have attributed the recent increase in the price of bitcoin to the result of the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires summit, during which the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the global watchdog that oversees banks and financial networks as a representative of 20 major economies, stated that existing regulations on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will be held and no additional restriction or regulation shall be issued.

FSB’s official report referencing FSB Chair and Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney’s letter read:

“The FSB’s initial assessment is that crypto-assets do not pose risks to global financial stability at this time. The market continues to evolve rapidly, however, and this initial assessment could change if crypto-assets were to become significantly more widely used or interconnected with the core of the regulated financial system.”

Previously, up until this week, several analysts noted that the upcoming G20 meetup has contributed to the decline in the value of cryptocurrencies, as investors anticipated the G20 financial watchdog FSB to crackdown on cryptocurrencies and issue stricter regulations. Investors expected major economies to come together to regulate the global cryptocurrency market with harsher policies.

However, governments have decided to accommodate existing regulations on the global cryptocurrency market, which are already strict in regions like the US and Japan, and follow the regulatory roadmap of leading cryptocurrency markets to facilitate the rapidly growing demand for the emerging asset class.

It is highly unlikely that the G20 meetup was the sole factor behind the recent price surge of bitcoin and the entire cryptocurrency market. But, the cryptocurrency market was in need of an optimistic and positive development to secure an upward trend again, after being in a slump for over a week.

Consequently, the valuation of the cryptocurrency market recovered beyond $310 billion, subsequent to falling below $280 billion, and is eyeing to initiate a short-term rally.

In previous reports, CCN emphasized that the January correction would require several months to recover because many investors were hurt by the decline in the price of cryptocurrencies. In 2017, the cryptocurrency market was considered the path for short-term profits. In early 2018, investors have stated to view the market differently, and speculators or weak hands have left the market.

2018 saw significantly developments in bitcoin, Ethereum, and other major cryptocurrencies along with emerging blockchain technologies. Yet, the price has not represented the magnitude of developments that have happened in the space, most likely because speculators and weak hands were not interested in the technology, but rather in short-term profits.

Short-Term

In the short-term, given the continuous increase in the dominance index of bitcoin, it is highly likely that bitcoin will maintain its dominance over the market in a volatile period like this. Bitcoin’s dominance index is already at 44 percent, and has been increasing since February, as more investors have started to eye bitcoin as a safe investment over other cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency news: Will Litecoin ever overtake Bitcoin?

LITECOIN is currently ranked as the fifth cryptocurrency on the market, it has grown more than 3855.16 percent over the past year and has shot from $4.26 this time last year to a price of $168.49. So why has it experienced this remarkable growth and could it overtake the number one cryptocurrency bitcoin?

Litecoin was founded in 2011, two years after bitcoin was born.

The token is often referred to as the ‘silver to bitcoin’s gold’, as it was launched using the same code as bitcoin and its aim was to improve on the transaction speed of bitcoin.

Instead of using bitcoin’s SHA256 network, Litecoin used scrypt functions which helped to improve transaction speeds.

Bitcoin creates a block of information with data encrypted in 10 minutes, whereas Litecoin does it in two and half minutes per block.

As a cryptocurrency, it is favoured by traders as it is considered to be not as congested as bitcoin and is a lot cheaper as a result.

And experts claim Litecoin has asserted itself as a cryptocurrency which deserves to be in the top five, but does it have the potential to ever overtake bitcoin?

Will Litecoin ever overtake Bitcoin?

Litecoin has experienced remarkable growth this year, increasing in price by 3855.16 percent, compared to bitcoin’s 593.39 percent.

Bitcoin has been plagued by extended transaction speeds as users flood the network – many have said it has become a victim of its own success and has become too congested.

Despite this, experts do not predict Litecoin overtaking bitcoin any time soon.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency on the market so has first advantage and is recognised as a well-know cryptocurrency name, Nicholas Cawley, analyst at Daily FX explained to Express.co.uk.

The number one cryptocurrency managed to garner a critical mass and drew in investors and traders, and Mr Crawley said he does not envisage Litecoin ever outshining bitcoin.

However the analyst also predicts Litecoin will overtake another cryptocurrency this year, which is currently fourth on CoinMarketCap.com.

“I think Litecoin will overtake Bitcoin cash but in market capitalisation terms will struggle to overtake Bitcoin,” Mr Cawley said.

Bitcoin Cash has just under 17 million tokens in circulation against a maximum of 21 million, while Litecoin has 55.5 million of a maximum 84 million in supply, so if prices remain the same litecoin’s market cap will grow faster than Bitcoin Cash.

“I also like the Litepal payment system and when we eventually see the launch of the Litepay debit card, then I can see Litecoin overtaking Bitcoin Cash.”

Kristjan Dekleva, head of product development at Blocktrade was in agreement and did not forsee Litecoin taking the number one spot on the cryptocurrency market.

Mr Tekleva said: “I don’t believe that Litecoin will overtake bitcoin. Litecoin does its intended job well for certain intents and purposes and has somewhat wide market penetration.

“But one it lacks the name recognition that Bitcoin has, which helps it stay where it is despite its flaws, and two there are numerous other altcoins that do Litecoin’s intended job, quick and cheap transactions, much better.

“Ultimately, it functions ok, but not well enough to break out of mid-market in the long run.”

While Andrei Barysevich, Director of Advanced Collection at Record Future, believes Litecoin has the capability to overtake bitcoin at some point, but not in the current climate.

“Bitcoin is not going anyway, everybody knows about bitcoin, in my view, it is going to remain as a gold standard. People will continue to use and continue to store money in bitcoin,” he said.

“However in day to day operations, I think Litecoin is to become more dominant currency, as soon as we start to see established e-commerce websites accepting Litecoin, that’s the time when i think Litecoin is going to dominate bitcoin cash.”

Mr Barysevich added to say he believes Litecoin will continue to experience growth in 2018 and will add on the success it is already experienced.

 

Israel: Steps Toward Cryptocurrency Support

In terms of technological innovation, Israel has been labeled by some as “The Startup Nation”with Israeli ventures raising over $5 billion in capital in 2017. This is almost 10% of China’s yearly fundraising total. While there’s a number of popular applications, platforms, and products including USB flash drives, the Waze navigation app, SodaStream carbonation machines, the country has set its foot in the crypto industry as well.

Back in 2017, Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, partnered with Microsoft to create a Blockchain-powered platform to “make the process of signing up guarantors simple and quicker.” And in February 2018, the Israeli Tax Authority (ITA) stated that cryptocurrencies will be taxed by the capital gains as properties.

On February 26, 2018, the country took it even further, when the Israeli Supreme Court handed down a decision that would temporarily block Leumi Bank, limiting a local broker, Bits of Gold, from facilitating the sale of cryptocurrency.

Though many were quick to laud the temporary ruling as ‘precedent-setting,’ it still leaves ample room for further developments. The judge ruling the case, Anat Baron, said that her decision was “not intended to harm the bank’s rights to analyze with specificity every transaction that takes place with the bank account or to take any actions that are related to minimizing risks.” This likely means cryptocurrency brokers and exchanges putting transparency first will be regarded as lawful—for now

Founder and CEO of Bits of Gold Yuval Roash sees this decision as justified, saying,

“Regulation is one of the things that has been important to us since the beginning. From the very beginning, we saw the problem with Bitcoin in terms of its anonymous characteristics, and we wanted to receive a currency service certificate—and we received it in August 2013.”

This is significant progress from December of last year, when a Tel Aviv district court ruled in favor of Leumi Bank, who had refused service to Bits of Gold because of Bitcoin’s inability to meet anti-money laundering standards. Bank Leumi had also been piggybacking on the Bank of Israel’s June labeling of exchanges as “websites that facilitate gambling transactions”, which is a sore spot for Israel especially. The country proved to be careful about upsetting the balance within its borders, and even blocked popular ride-sharing application Uber from an Israeli debut.

After examining the last five years of Bits of Golds’ operations, Judge Baron determined Leumi’s previous assumption that violations of the law would occur if Bitcoin were left unchecked were false.

In relation to the ruling, Yair Geva, head of the Hi-Tech Department of Israeli law firm Herzog, Fox & Ne’eman, remarked:

“It should be emphasized that the Court did not rule on the fundamental question—which has not yet been decided—whether Bank Leumi is entitled to refuse banking services for cryptocurrency trading. Although the final decision is still pending, it seems that this recent verdict of the Supreme Court will continue to give tailwinds to the tremendous growth of the crypto industry in Israel particularly, and to hi-tech as well as the financial industry in general. One of the reasons for this is that the Supreme Court clarified that Bits of Gold operated transparently and did not violate any statutory provision. In other words, the Supreme Court determined that currently there is no direct legal prohibition on cryptocurrency trading in Israel. It remains to be seen how regulators in Israel will respond to this landmark decision.”

Regardless of how regulators will respond, it’s already clear that progress on Israeli blockchain innovations hasn’t slowed.

“As with any new and promising technology, jurisdictions that instate well-balanced policies to promote innovation and adoption, will find themselves attracting talent and business to their ecosystems on grand scales. The best frameworks will be the ones that take a learning approach, allowing entrepreneurs and institutions to deeply understand how these technologies affect all stakeholders and develop the policies which are beneficial to most while educating the public on tradeoffs and accountability. Israel has always seen the advancement of technology as a strength and opportunity, and is well positioned to lead in Blockchain development and applications,” said Galia Benartzi, Co-founder of Bancor.

Itay Nagler, Israeli citizen and CEO of blockchain-driven travel startup Cool Cousin, says that Israelis, as a default, undercut the perception that things can’t or shouldn’t change.

“We are almost raised to believe that there is always a better, more efficient way to do things. That is one of the main reasons such a small country is home to many great innovative companies and individuals. This is also an explanation to why Israelis were among the firsts to adopt blockchain technology and crypto. A lot of us see it as a wonderful solution to many problems and our mentality of “no fear” to change, and relatively easy access to quality human resources and funding allows us to act on it. This, I believe, helped us during the past decades to position ourselves as pioneers and experts in many industries.”

Even though there were no concrete regulations of the industry before, it didn’t stop entrepreneurs from launching blockchain projects of their own. Bancor was one of the first major ICOs, raising over $150 million in mere minutes, and has its origins in Israel. IOTA , an IoT-focused Blockchain solution, recently opened an office in Tel Aviv, noting that the city is “a well-established tech hub, always ranking in the top 10 of start-up reports.”

These positive changes, however, go contrary to the recent decision by the Israeli regulators of not including companies involved in the crypto industry in the TASE, Tel Aviv Stock Exchange indices, due to its ‘trading volatility.’

Israel appears to be setting itself in the Blockchain ecosystem, along with the rest of the world, but tries first guarantee that the market’s grey areas be limited while its most useful attributes allowed to flourish

Traditional Liechtenstein Bank Launches Cryptocurrency Investment Platform

Citizens of Liechtenstein, a country that has become rather famous for its cryptocurrency acceptance, will soon be able to purchase digital currencies directly from a bank. Given the royal family’s demonstrated interest in the asset class and the general willingness to embrace cryptocurrency development, the move is perhaps not too surprising.

According to a press release issued by Bank Frick on February 28, 2018, it will be offering a wide variety of cryptocurrencies on its trading platform effective immediately. The initial set of digital currencies available for purchase will include BitcoinEthereumLitecoin, Ripple and Bitcoin Cash.

The target audience of the bank likely comprises of high net worth individuals and institutional investors, or rather, the type of individuals that already have a sizeable amount of funds in various banking instruments.

For any cryptocurrency exchange or broker, especially those, security is an important consideration. As is traditional for any cryptocurrency exchange, Bank Frick has stated that it will store all of its customers’ cryptocurrency assets in cold wallets, or rather, on computers air-gapped from the internet for the most part. Other security features, however, were not detailed in the press release.

The financial institution in question is already a fully-regulated bank that complies with all know-your-customer related laws at the country and EU level. Thus, it is safe to conclude that the same identification requirements will be carried over for any investor looking to purchase any amount of cryptocurrency from Bank Frick.

The bank also confirms regulatory compliance in its statement,

“At Bank Frick, cryptocurrency investments are subject to the same strict statutory measures as traditional financial transactions,” and “Clients can only invest in cryptocurrencies once they have been fully identified and verified. The verification and identification process also involves checking the origin of the money used to invest in them.”

Even though Bank Frick is a financial institution that primarily caters to Liechtenstein citizens, it has announced that the platform will be available to any European entity interested in it. The Chief Client Officer, Huber Büchel, said,

“Our services are in demand from companies across the whole of Europe. This is because they know that we can offer them reliable support in implementing their business models with cryptocurrencies and blockchains in line with the existing regulatory framework.”

Furthermore, the bank has announced that it will be accepting foreign currencies in exchange for cryptocurrency assets. At this time, investors can transact in US Dollars, Euros or Swiss Francs.

Bank Frick joins a rather exclusive list of banks willing to not only adopt, but also facilitate the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies. With most financial institutions around the world heading in the exact opposite direction, it is clear that Liechtenstein’s banks have other intentions.

Could Ripple, Bitcoin and Ethereum return to previous high?

CRYPTOCURRENCIES such as Bitcoin, Ripple and Ethereum are all in the green today after a turbulent start to the year. But could all three top tokens return to their previous record highs? Here are the latest price predictions.

Bitcoin had a good weekend after a poor start to 2018, dropping to under $6,000 at the start of February.

As of Marsh 17, CryptoCoinHubs  highlights a peak up to $8,150  at the time of writing.

Ethereum is up at $600  with Ripple  at $0,66. While LiteCoin , a Litecoin is currently worth $160

The rises come after a damaging month for cryptocurrencies as a whole. After peaking at about $834billion on January 7, the market plunged an eye-watering 66 percent, wiping out some $553billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

But with Bitcoin, Ripple and Ethereum all back in the green today, many crypto experts are confident that the market can reach new heights this year.

Could Ripple, Bitcoin and Ethereum return to previous high?

Thomas Glucksmann of GateCoin told CNBC: “Increasing regulatory recognition of cryptocurrency exchanges, the entrance of institutional capital and major technology developments will contribute to the market’s rebound and push cryptocurrency prices to all new highs this year.”

He added bitcoin, the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, could be “pushing $50,000 by December”.

Jamie Burke, CEO at Outlier Ventures, is bullish about the cryptocurrency market, insisting it has the potential to reach $1trillion.

He told CNBC: “We believe after February the market will likely go on a bull run comparative if not greater than last year potentially reaching the trillion-dollar mark before a proper crypto winter sets in where the market becomes more focused on proper market fundamentals.”

And Panos Mourdoukoutas, writing for Forbes, suggested that after “ being in a deep correction for a few weeks, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin have been coming back nicely over the last week, gaining 19.87%, 10.48%, 30.57%, and 53.90% respectively”.

He added the crypto turnaround after the recent crash comes as equity markets rebounded from the sell-off early in the month.

And he also wrote the cryptocurrency “technicals” remain strong, saying “83 cryptocurrencies [are] advancing and only 17 declining among the top 100 listed currencies.”

Dennis de Jong, managing director of UFX, says he believes cryptocurrencies remain strong and will not plummet for good in 2018.

He told Express.co.uk: “It may not capture the headlines like the volatility of bitcoin has in recent months, but there have been considerable advances in the underlying technology of the blockchain.

“Many industries are already live with, or in the process of testing, blockchain use cases that have potentially huge knock-ons for data management and security advancements.

“The relationship between crypto usage and investment in the space underpins bitcoin’s value to an extent, and for this reason I can’t see it going anywhere soon.”

But as central banks attempt to kickstart regulation – Citibank India being the latest financial authority this week to ban cryptocurrency payments on debit or credit card – some investors believe the market slump could be an indicator of an overall crash in all financial markets.

Bleakley Financial Group CIO Peter Boockvar said: “If bitcoin resumes its decline here, I think that equity investors should pay attention.”

Ripple Could Be The Next Bitcoin

Bitcoin has made some investors very rich. Those who purchased the digital currency back in the old days when it was trading for a few dollars. And it could make more investors rich provided that it continues to rise to new highs.

But that’s unlikely, as large percentage gains are hard to come by at these price levels—north of $10,000.

Coin Price* Market Cap
Bitcoin (BTC) $10,751.90 $181,767,449,663
Ethereum (ETH) $788.19 77,266,069,902
Ripple (XRP) $0.91 35,513,987,185
*As of Wednesday, 11 a.m.

Still, there’s Ripple, trading below a $1. And there are experts who believe that it could be the next Bitcoin, one day.

Craig Cole of CryptoMaps is one of those experts.”Ripple just might be the catalyst in making cryptocurrency more mainstream,” says Cole.

Its faster transaction speeds and lower fees make it easier for financial systems to embrace the virtual currency, which is partly why Ripple’s value has increased dramatically just this year. Ripple is helping financial institutions save money and it is only expected to become even more prevalent in payment flows. The virtual currency is certainly on the rise and has the potential to be the first token to truly disrupt an industry, and if it does, expect XRP to reach Bitcoin-like levels of ubiquity in the near future.

John-Paul McCaffrey, Associate Director ITRC, Long Island University, agrees. “Although currently there isn’t a platform to exchange fiat currency for Ripple (XRP) this may change sooner than you think,” says McCaffrey. “There is speculation that Coinbase will be adding this to their list of cryptocurrencies they have available for fiat exchange. Providing easy liquidity through Coinbase alone will attract new interest in XRP.”

That will take some time says Roman Guelfi-GibbsCEO, Lead Systems Designer for Pinnacle Brilliance Systems Inc.

Ripple certainly has the potential to move up a notch in 2018, but I think it will be more likely in 2019. As the market observes more projects being coded in other algorithms such as XRP, ETH will likely take a backseat to the next big coin/token. It will take some time for the markets to digest this, so I am projecting 2019 to be the likely time for it to take place. Of course, with crypto, anything can happen, so watch closely.

Not everyone is that enthusiastic about the prospects of Ripple catching up with Bitcoin. Like Shidan Gouran, president of Global Block Chain Technologies.

Ripple is unlikely to go up by one or two notches in the cryptocurrency world in 2018, and this is the case for three reasons. The first reason is the sheer dollar volume that separates each of the three currencies in the top positions, in terms of their market cap. Bitcoin is at over $191 billion, Ethereum is at over $84 billion, and Ripple is at over $35 billion. To displace Ethereum would require a deficit of about $49 billion to be closed (which is more than double Iceland’s entire national GDP). The second reason is that the use cases for Ripple are mostly for the trade of assets, not for day-to-day spending. As consumer awareness of cryptocurrencies will rise significantly in 2018 and beyond, the interest of the masses will be on cryptocurrencies that can be used as currencies, not just for investment transactions. Finally, the third reason is that because Ripple cannot be bought with fiat currencies, one must purchase existing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum to purchase XRP. This goes on to feed demand for Bitcoin and Ethereum, and will only solidify their positions as the top two cryptocurrencies on the market.

Actually, the last point is no longer true. Recently, the French exchange bitit.io added Ripple and Litecoin to its coin offerings. This means that Ripple can now be purchased directly. At least that’s what the site claims, though I couldn’t verify how easy the process is and what are the relevant fees.

Still, Ripple investors have to wait for quite some time before they replicate the success of early Bitcoin investors, provided that it gains traction by users—and that big governments, big banks or hackers do not crush cryptocurrencies across the board.

[Ed. note: Investing in cryptocoins or tokens is highly speculative and the market is largely unregulated. Anyone considering it should be prepared to lose their entire investment. Disclosure: I don’t own any Bitcoin.]

Vladivostok as Russia’s New ”Crypto Hub”

Bankers and government officials have discussed the possible creation of a crypto valley on Russia’s Pacific coast. Representatives of the Central Bank and the executive power in Moscow have taken part in the consultations initiated by the Fund for Development of the Far East. The city of Vladivostok, where local authorities want to allow cryptocurrency trade, may become a crypto hub.  

Test Site for Crypto Regulations

The Fund for Development of the Far East has proposed the creation of a crypto valley, centered on the Russian city of Vladivostok, its general director Alexei Chekunov told RNS. The FDFE, along with the digital platform “Voshod” [sunrise], are currently discussing the idea with representatives of the Central Bank of Russia and government officials. The necessary regulatory framework and the risks associated with the project are under examination, as well.

“From around $2 billion dollars raised though crypto assets offerings, Russian projects account for about 5%, or approximately $100 million. It is obvious that the potential of our country in this new and perspective field has not been fully realized”, Chekunov said. He noted that the FDFE had been tasked by President Putin to explore the possibility of setting up a financial center in Vladivostok. “We have proposed to combine these two initiatives”, he added.

Chekunov called the experiment a “Russian Crypto Valley” and described it as a “test site for technical and regulatory approaches”. This week a local representative of the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain told lawmakers in the Duma that Crimea’s jurisdiction can also be used to test the crypto “phenomenon”. A couple of days ago the head of the Russian republic of Udmurtia urged deputies to quickly adopt regulations and offered its territory for pilot projects. Other regions want to set up large mining facilities.

FDFE has also announced intentions to turn Vladivostok into Russia’s first crypto hub, taking advantage of the special economic ecosphere in its Free Port. The Deputy Finance Minister of Russia recently said that authorities in the administrative center of Primorsky Krai were interested in hosting cryptocurrency trade. The nearby Russky Island has been mentioned as a zone of free crypto interactions.

“At the moment we are focused on finalizing the regulatory rules and analyzing the possible risks. The Voshod platform is ready to start operations with crypto assets. We are working with all interested parties to begin trading after the adoption of the legal framework in mid-2018”, FDFE director Alexei Chekunov said. The Fund for Development of the Far East was created by Vnesheconombank, the government owned Russian development bank.

Do you think Moscow authorities will create a crypto valley in the Far East to experiment with crypto technologies and regulations? Tell us in the comments section below.

Belarus Wants to Run a Global Crypto Hub

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who’s labored for years under the title of Europe’s last dictator, is making a bid for a shiny new image as the continent’s freewheeling cryptocurrency king.

 Lukashenko, who’s ruled the former communist republic that’s wedged between Poland and Russia since 1994, signed a decree on Friday offering tax breaks and legal incentives for dealing in digital currencies in an effort to turn Belarus into an international tech haven.
 “Belarus will become the first government in the world that opens wide opportunities for the use of blockchain technology,” Lukashenko said in a statement in his website. “We have every chance of becoming a regional center in this area.”
 The decree legalizes business based on blockchain — the technology underlying cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin — and all digital “tokens,” as Belarus seeks to become a global crypto coin hub for raising funds via so-called initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Revenue and profit from all operations using digital tokens will be exempt from taxes until 2023, while there’ll be measures to simplify the flow of venture capital between Belarus and other countries, according to a summary of the decree published by Viktor Prokopenya, one of the businessmen lobbying for the legislation

Belarus is seeking to capitalize on a thriving tech industry that’s grown up there in recent years as young programmers have created products that appeal far beyond the borders of the former Soviet republic. The phone messaging application Viber was developed in Belarus as were the NYSE-listed offshore programming company EPAM Systems Inc. and the popular online gaming service World of Tanks, which made founder Victor Kislyi the country’s first billionaire.

Sandbox Haven

Even as Alphabet Inc., owner of Google, and Facebook Inc. snapped up Belarus-made startups, the country’s restrictive business environment made it all but impossible for venture capital to flow freely into promising ideas. Lukashenko’s new law may change that.

Belarus plans to cloak its repressive reputation with a “sandbox” — the creation of a legal tech enclave where companies working with digital currencies will pay no taxes and rely on some elements of English law in commercial matters, a radical innovation for a country whose security service is still called the KGB.

The sandbox would be set up within the so-called Hi-Tech Park, which the authorities opened in 2005 near the capital, Minsk, to try to spur innovation. Today, most of the park’s  residents are offshore software companies taking advantage of cheap and skilled local programmers as well as reduced taxes to serve foreign clients.

’Tech Nation’

Lukashenko said this month that his goal in signing the decree is to make Belarus a “tech nation.” The country’s major technology companies lobbied for the legal changes, which also gained support among government officials and in the central bank.

The novelty of the proposed law is that Belarus would provide legal clarity for dealing in digital currencies which is yet unseen in other countries, said Denis Aleinikov, whose law firm Aleinikov and Partners helped to draft the decree. It also establishes a direct legal link between issuers of tokens and their obligations toward the holders.

To protect against fraudsters, the regulation would set capital requirements for operators of cryptocurrency exchanges. It would also introduce “smart contracts” in Belarus — self-executable computer-coded applications that serve as an alternative to traditional paper agreements.

“The decree has been written exactly the way our tech community wanted it,” Vsevolod Yanchevsky, head of Hi-Tech Park, said in an interview in Minsk. “Belarus will be one of the best jurisdictions in the world for cryptocurrencies and blockchain.”