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Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, and Fintech News Headlines Update on May 10, 2022

De Beers’ diamond provenance blockchain Tracr launched at scale

De Beers has rolled out its diamond provenance blockchain platform Tracr at scale, enabling diamonds to be tracked from the mines through to consumer purchase, and ensuring they are ethically and sustainably mined. Read More: De Beers’ diamond provenance blockchain Tracr launched at scale

NEAR Foundation launches Kenyan blockchain hub

Swiss non-profit NEAR Foundation, the Swiss non-profit that oversees the governance and development of the NEAR protocol, has partnered with the local Kenyan blockchain community, Sankore, to launch a regional hub. The hub aims to develop blockchain innovation, education and talent development throughout Africa and has already made connections with local universities. Read More: NEAR Foundation launches Kenyan blockchain hub

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency Prices Plummet To Lowest Point In 2022

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have had a treacherous weekend seeing over a 20% loss since the Fed meeting last week, which has taken the price of Bitcoin to its lowest point all year. The sell off has also been attributed to Asian markets which are responding to movements in China. Liquidations have been in the hundreds of millions, suggesting that traders were caught by surprise by the market.

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Cryptocurrencies Won’t Save Russia From Dodging Sanctions, Moody’s Says

Many have worried that Russia may be able to avoid Western sanctions for invading Ukraine by using cryptocurrencies. However, a new report by credit rating agency Moody’s has said that the relatively small scale of the cryptocurrency market, and especially the low liquidity of the ruble-to-cryptocurrency market plus the difficulty of being able to convert meaningful sums of crypto into fiat mean it is unlikely that Russia will be able to benefit from crypto to avoid sanctions. It doesn’t think it will be possible to replace the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been frozen. It seems also that so far Russian oligarchs have ‘largely refrained from trading in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies since the implementation of sanctions, indicating either that they have decided to wait until the sanctions do the most damage or that they view the cryptocurrency industry with heightened suspicion.’ It seems that other sanctioned countries, such as North Korea and Iran, have been able to get around sanctions using crypto far more extensively than Russia will be able to. Read More: Cryptocurrencies Won’t Save Russia From Dodging Sanctions, Moody’s Says

How Big Is Crypto Crime, Really?

Estimates of the extent of crypto crime have ranged from an optimistic 0.15% (Chainalysis) to almost half of all crypto payments at 46% of transaction volume, which is possibly rather far fetched. Those in the crypto industry seem to be the ones quoting the more optimistic figures, saying that crypto is involved in less crime than fiat. Given how much easier it is now to trace crypto, this may well be true. Around $2 trillion a year is laundered through fiat, more than the current total market cap of all cryptocurrencies combined. A 2019 paper “Sex, Drugs, and Bitcoin” estimates that a quarter of bitcoin users are involved in illegal activity. One can’t quite imagine this to be the case. The differentiator is what is classed as crime. Some studies dismiss anything other than pure proven fact, others consider anything with any trace of ambiguity to be crime-related. Read More: How Big Is Crypto Crime, Really?

90% of Central Banks Reportedly Working on CBDCs

A survey by the Bank for International Settlements has found that 90% of central banks are exploring the creation a central bank digital currency (CBDC), and around two-thirds of the 81 banks surveyed, representing 90% of the world’s economy, said they are developing or actively experimenting on CBDCs. A study released last month by PwC also found 80% were at least considering a CBDC and that 26% are actively developing or piloting digital versions of their currencies. These figures are pretty scary. Read More: 90% of Central Banks Working on CBDCs, BIS Reports

Copy-Paste Error Sends $36M In Crypto To Wrong Wallet

A copy-paste error, where programmers from Juno incorrectly pasted the wrong destination address, accidentally sent $36 million worth of JUNO crypto tokens to the wrong wallet. The action was meant to revoke the tokens from a “Juno whale” who is accused of gaming the Juno airdrop for $120 million, and send them to a Unity wallet that was controlled by the community. Over 120 validators failed to notice the mistake, which means that neither the whale or the community can now access those tokens. The developers hope to rewrite Juno’s code so the funds can be reassigned to the Unity address, an upgrade which would first need to be approved by the community. Read More: Copy-Paste Error Sends $36M In Crypto To Wrong Wallet

New licensing requirements in Estonia could see its crypto community slashed by 90%

Estonia, known for having been a digital assets- friendly regime and claiming to host 55% of the world’s registered virtual asset providers is bringing in a tough new crypto law. This new legislation will make crypto firms such as wallet providers and exchanges keep large capital reserves, be properly governed and check customer identities. It is thought to be onerously tough and that it could cause up to 90% of crypto firms to leave the country, and up to half to not survive. The new law took effect in March but existing companies have until mid-June to renew their authorisation, for which they must submit business plans and financial data. The effect is clear. ‘As of May 3, no company had yet sent in any new application and some have even sought to surrender their license’ Matis Mäeker, director of Estonia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) said. He says companies will have to “start early and be prepared, because we are going to ask many, many questions”. Read More: In Estonia, the Party’s Over for ‘Hippie’ Crypto Firms

Portugal Allowing Real Estate Buyers to Pay With Bitcoin

Portugal is now accepting – and even promoting- payments with crypto tokens including real estate purchases, since relaxing its laws relating to crypto. A buyer has now completed the purchase of a two-bedroom apartment in Braga, Portugal for 3 bitcoins (then about $116,000). Read More: Portugal Allows Real Estate Buyers to Pay With Bitcoin

Crypto mixer Blender.io hit with United States Treasury sanctions

US crypto users will no longer be able to use Blender.io Cryptocurrency mixing service. It has been hit with a crackdown by the United States Department of the Treasury, after having been sanctioned after having allegedly assisted cybercriminals linked to North Korea who stole nearly $620m in the March attack on play-to-earn game Axie Infinity’s sidechain Ronin Bridge. This means US users will no longer be able to use the mixer, which had added an additional layer of anonymity to their cryptocurrency transactions by “mixing” tokens. It is thought the blender helped to launder around $500 million in funds since 2017 and helped facilitate transactions with various Russia-linked ransomware groups and comes amid broader crackdowns on Russia-related crypto crime. This is apparently the first time a virtual currency mixer has been sanctioned. Read More: Crypto mixer Blender.io hit with United States Treasury sanctions

Gucci To Accept Cryptos in Select Flagship U.S. Stores

Italian luxury brand Gucci will soon be the latest chain to start accepting payments in crypto. Gucci will accept cryptocurrencies including memecoins Shiba Inu and Dogecoin at some of its flagship stores in the U.S. To pay in crypto in store, customers customers will be sent an email with a QR code to use with a digital wallet. Read More: Gucci To Accept Cryptos in Select U.S. Stores

HSBC and DBS banks trial blockchain trade platform GSBN for trade finance

The Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) has launched proofs of concept to integrate its blockchain network with trade finance platforms in trials in which Bank of China (Hong Kong), DBS Bank and HSBC are participating. They see this as part of the solution to closing the gap in trade finance. Read More: HSBC, DBS trial blockchain trade platform GSBN for trade finance

Samsung Asset Management to launch blockchain ETF

The Hong Kong arm of Samsung Asset Management (SAM) will launch a blockchain ETF. At the end of March SAM also agreed to buy a 20% equity stake in Chicago-based Amplify blockchain and crypto ETF, which has $800 million in assets under management, for $30 million. This gives SAM exclusive rights to provide Amplify products in Asia as part of the equity deal. Read More: Samsung Asset Management to launch blockchain ETF

Following the money: Russian sanctions leads to cashing out at OTC desks instead

Sanctions placed against Russia have limited individual users to EUR 10,000 in crypto assets. The limited liquid of cryptocurrencies and decentralised finance means that it will be almost impossible for Russia to entirely circumvent SWIFT-based systems by using crypto. However, Russians could still hold up to $200 Billion USD in crypto assets. The country also runs the world’s third-largest crypto mining industry giving it a lot of new crypto. It is thought that the prevalence of OTC (over-the-counter) crypto exchange desks in Russia – where users can meet in person to exchange crypto for physical cash- means that people and companies will still be able to cash easily out of their crypto. Read More: Sanctioning Russia On The Blockchain: Following The Money To A Network Of OTC Providers

100,000 Cubans Are Using Bitcoin In Response To U.S. Sanctions

A new report has found that over 100,000 Cubans are using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to escape harsh conditions created by international sanctions, which mean that payment services such as PayPal or international banking aren’t available to citizens. The adoption of crypto has been largely driven by mobile internet access which was only provided to Cubans three years ago. It seems that now Cubans are able to take monetary policy into their own hands with crypto. Read More: 100,000 CUBANS ARE USING BITCOIN IN RESPONSE TO U.S. SANCTIONS

More than $1.6 billion exploited from DeFi so far in 2022

Decentralised finance (DeFi) has seen a record number of hacks and exploits with over $1.6 billion in crypto stolen from users already in 2022, surpassing the total amount stolen in 2020 and 2021 combined. March 2022 alone saw the most value stolen at $719.2 million, over $200 million more than what was stolen in all of 2020, largely due to the Ronin Bridge exploit where alleged North Korean attackers stole over $600 million worth of crypto. Read More: More than $1.6 billion exploited from DeFi so far in 2022

NFT Sales Drop 92% Since September’s High

The NFT market has dropped from an average of 225,000 daily sales in September to a daily average of 19,000 this week – a drop of 92%. The number of active wallets for NFTs also dropped around 88% from a high of 119,000 in November to 14,000 last week. Suspected reasons for this drop include rising interest rates, which have put a squeeze on riskier bets in the financial markets, in which NFTs are some of the riskiest, as well as many NFT owners seeing the value of their NFTs end up as much lower than they expected and than when they bought them. Read More: NFT Sales Drop 92% Since September’s High

Craig Wright’s latest lawsuit: Coinbase And Kraken Promote “Fake Bitcoin”

Craig Wright, who claims to have invented Bitcoin, has filed yet another lawsuit. This time, he is asking for £500 million in compensation from Coinbase and Kraken crypto exchanges, saying that they have misled investors by marketing alternative cryptocurrency under the Bitcoin name. This comes as Wright alleges that his own brand of Bitcoin, a fork of Bitcoin known as BSV, is the only real Bitcoin…. He claims that the other Bitcoin that has been promoted as Bitcoin, is actually ‘Bitcoin Core’. The lawsuit document adds: ‘The Claimants contend that this misrepresentation by Coinbase and Kraken has led to confusion among digital currency asset holders as to the authenticity of the assets many have purchased and traded in.’ ‘Wright and his legal representation seek an “injunction” that could prevent major exchange platforms to offer BTC to their clients, depending on the court’s verdict. The claimants believe that their case is “likely to be worth several hundred billions of pounds”. ‘ There are no words……… Read More: Coinbase And Kraken Promote “Fake Bitcoin”, Craig Wright Lawsuit Says So

Binance Invests $500 Million In Elon Musk’s Twitter Acquisition

Crypto exchange Binance is reportedly the fifth biggest contributor to Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover bid, having reportedly put in $500 million. Binance CEO CZ tweeted that it was ‘A small contribution to the cause’. Read More: Binance Invests $500 Million In Elon Musk’s Twitter Acquisition.

BitMEX Co-Founders Slapped with $30 Million Fine for operating without a license

The three co-founders of crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX have been each been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $10 million, totalling $30 million. They are now awaiting sentencing on criminal charges, for having operated in the US and offered trading services to US residents without a license. The exchange ‘also operated as a Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) without registration and failed to implement customer information program (CIP) and know-your-customer (KYC ) procedures, along with anti-money laundering (AML Anti-Money Laundering (AML)’ . BitMEX already settled with the US regulator earlier, paying a monetary penalty of $100 million. Read More: BitMEX Co-Founders Slapped with $30 Million Fine

Crypto suspicious activity reports are climbing. Here’s some reasons why.

The number of suspicious activity reports involving cryptocurrency has gone from 10,377 in 2017 to 42,782 in 2020 to roughly 92,000 in 2021, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or Fincen. This comes as the Biden administration is looking for better ways to regulate and scrutinize digital assets and the extent to which they’re being used for money laundering and fraud. Fincen is constrained by budget, in its ability to hire analysts to ‘do the type of analytics that’s required to understand how cryptocurrencies are flowing and contributing to illicit finance” acting Director Himamauli Das said. It seems that licensed crypto exchanges are themselves finding and flagging unlicensed entities, due to stronger 2019 Fincen requirements to do so. Read More: Crypto suspicious activity reports are climbing. Here’s why.

Institutional Investors Exit Market As Crypto Declines, New Report Reveals

The recent slight slump in the crypto market has seen an outflow of institutional cash in recent weeks. Coinshares’ latest figures show over $339 million leaving the crypto market owing to institutional investor withdrawals in a month, seemingly mostly made up of Bitcoin withdrawals. Read More: Institutional Investors Exit Market As Crypto Declines, New Report Reveals

Rhode Island Dangles Crypto Rewards For Home Builders With Low Carbon Emission

Rhode Island’s House of Representatives has introduced a bill that hopes to reward home builders with a cryptocurrency for lowering the project’s carbon footprint as a remedy to the state’s housing crisis. The Green Housing Public-Private Partnership Act of Rhode Island was enacted to encourage the development of more LEED-certified buildings and homes by crediting developers for any carbon reductions they achieve. The bill says: “Any reduction in utility expenses owing to any housing building project undertaken pursuant to this chapter shall be credited in the form of a green coin to be provided by the department to the property owner.” The effort will be funded through a pool of contributed monies totalling $625 million from bank donations and the government. Read More: Rhode Island Dangles Crypto Rewards For Home Builders With Low Carbon Emission

Nym Technologies raises $300M to advance internet privacy

Swiss privacy startup Nym Technologies has secured $300 million in commitments from venture capital partners to support its NYM Innovation Fund which intends to issue grants to developers and incentivize them to build on top of its decentralized infrastructure. Nym hosts a system of network protocols that aims to protect its users’ against mass surveillance by obscuring individuals’ metadata footprints and protecting the privacy of applications, as well as their coins and wallets. ‘Applications built on Nym work to improve upon third-party privacy services offered on virtual private networks (VPNs) and Tor.’ Read More: Nym Technologies raises $300M to advance internet privacy, sending token price up

Half of investors would miss signs of screen sharing scam with 86% increase

New research from the UK’s FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) has shown a new and fast growing trend in screen sharing scams which it found that 47% of investors would fail to identify. The FCA has seen an increase of 86% in cases in one year. These scams use ‘platforms including Teams, TeamViewer and Zoom and not only involve consumers sharing their financial data – but scammers have also been able to embed themselves in victims’ digital devices to access online banking and investment details.’ These scams also target crypto users with fake bitcoin and other advertisements, claiming to be financial advisors. Read More: “Sharing my screen cost me £48,000” – half of investors would miss signs of screen sharing scam as FCA warns of 86% increase

Crypto in Romance Scams: Tinder Crypto Scammers

Crypto romance scams are flourishing on Tinder and other dating apps. Features used to scam victims include verifying profiles, where scammers send links that appear to be Tinder verification but instead forward victims to a third-party website to enter personal information such as name, email, birth date, and credit card number which they then use to gain access to crypto accounts. Other cryptorom (crypto romance) scams ‘catfish’ users, creating fake profiles and trick users such as by establishing emotional connections and offering to give nude photos or videos in exchange for access to or information on their crypto wallets. Read More: Tinder Crypto Scammers: On Emotional Manipulation And Taking The Love Bait

Hundreds of NFTs listed on OpenSea from Shanghai residents during COVID lockdown

An enforced lockdown holding 25 million citizens in Shanghai stuck in their homes – increasingly worried about food and their pets taken and killed by authorities- has left citizens unsurprisingly frustrated. Government authorities have reportedly been censoring videos that have surfaced showing people’s confinement, leading citizens to use the immutable ledger of blockchain to protest. In rebellion, citizens have left NFTs showing videos of their experiences on the blockchain, where they are harder for the government to take down. One example: a video called Voices of April was published on YouTube with voiceovers of experiences from Shanghai residents during the lockdown, which was shortly after was minted into an NFT and listed on NFT marketplace OpenSea. Read More: Hundreds of NFTs listed on OpenSea from Shanghai residents during COVID lockdown

Starbucks latest to jump on NFT bandwagon as marketing ploy

Starbucks has announced its plans to enter the web3 space with the launch of its own NFT collection later this year, planning to give NFT access to exclusive content experiences and other benefits. Starbuck aims for its NFTs to help the brand extend its concept of the “third place” between home and work. Another NFT marketing ploy. Read More: Starbucks to launch NFTs this year, offering access to ‘unique experiences and benefits’

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