Dubai Government-Owned Licensing Firm Starts Accepting BTC, ETH, & USDT as Payments

Dubai Government-Owned Licensing Firm Starts Accepting BTC, ETH, & USDT as Payments

“Cryptocurrencies are the payment method of the future,” said Tasawar Ulhaq, CEO of Kiklabb.

Dubai government-owned licensing solutions, Kiklabb, has started accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment option for the trade licenses and visa fees.

The supported digital currencies include Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and the stablecoin Tether (USDT), reported a local publication.

Besides paying with a digital asset, the firm allows its customers to register for Dubai trade licenses remotely just using their smartphone. Tasawar Ulhaq, CEO of Kiklabb said,

“We’ve seen growing interest in cryptocurrency, with several customers in the blockchain and fintech sectors part of the Kiklabb community. So it really was just a matter of time before we recognised Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tether. Cryptocurrencies are the payment method of the future.”

Ulhaq further shared that they are the first government-owned licensing entity in the UAE to accept cryptocurrency payments. Still, it expected this trend to only continue as the technology rapidly gains traction across the Middle East.

“I’m eager to see how it changes the way we do business in the near future,” he added. “We’re in talks with high-profile players in the cryptocurrency sector who are exploring entry into Dubai.”

The region has a robust community of local and international companies working in the cryptocurrency sector in the fields of education, healthcare, and food technology.

Cryptocurrency adoption took over the starting 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic made digital payments a necessity. This year, this is continuing even at a faster pace, with big giants also joining in.

Besides companies, even cities and municipalities are taking an increased interest. Miami has already voted to start using Bitcoin for city government transactions and even add it to their Treasury to attract tech companies to the area.

While Mayor Francis Suarez is looking to turn Miami into a tech hub as he said, “It’s wonderful to be a very ‘crypto-forward’ city in the city of Miami,” Commissioner Joe Carollo, who voted against the plan, said, “I can’t drink the Kool-Aid on this one.”

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Author: AnTy

Blockchain Payment Firm, Wyre, Gets A $5M Investment From Stellar Development Foundation

Blockchain Payment Firm, Wyre, Gets A $5M Investment From Stellar Development Foundation

In a press statement shared with BitcoinExchangeGuide, the foundation stated that it is investing $5 million worth of Enterprise Funds that will help introduce various payment application programming interfaces, commonly known as APIs, which can integrate with different apps within the Stellar ecosystem.

The foundation also explained that on/off ramps for Stellar USDC will also be rolled on for the existing fiat pairs consisting of USD, GBP, CAD, AUS, and EUR.

Founded in 2013, Wyre has executed transfers of more than $5 billion and provides advanced services to both businesses and individuals such as crypto to fiat ramps, crypto wallet infrastructure, savings account, and foreign exchange others.

The foundation stated that the addition of Wyre to the Stellar network would help create crucial payment infrastructure and allow for relationships that will connect to the international financial system.

“Growing the network of Stellar anchors— stablecoin issuers and on/off ramps — is fundamental to how Stellar connects global financial systems with blockchain technology. Bringing Wyre’s industry-leading payment APIs to the Stellar ecosystem will empower businesses, especially anchors, to expand existing payment corridors and develop new ones.”

Denelle Dixon Stellar Development Foundation CEO

Dixon is also set to become a member of Wyre’s board of directors to represent Stellar Foundation.

With Stellar USDC set to go live in Q1, Wyre will help in different ways. Wyre is set to offer a compliant and safe way for apps within the Stellar ecosystem to use the dollar-pegged stablecoin without the developers’ need to create additional tools, the statement elaborated.

Stellar’s Enterprise Fund was launched last year, and Wyre’s investment is the first one for this year. Cumulatively the fund has pumped more than $14 million in different companies and projects so far, including Abra, Settle Network, SatoshiPay, and DSTOQ.

Stellar Foundation’s chief operating officer, Jason Chilpala, explained that the Enterprise Fund was started to offer support to businesses with goals in tandem with Stellar’s, such as enabling cheap and reliable cross-border payments.

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Author: Joseph Kibe

$7.8T AUM Firm, BlackRock Gears Up For Bitcoin Exposure; Approves 2 Funds to Invest In BTC

$7.8T AUM Firm, BlackRock Gears Up For Bitcoin Exposure; Approves 2 Funds to Invest In BTC

With more than $7.8 trillion in assets behind it, BlackRock represents one of the largest asset managers in the world and has recently indicated a turn towards cryptocurrencies. This turn is according to filings it recently approved from two of its funds. Specifically, BlackRock approved BlackRock Global Allocation Fund Inc. and BlackRock Funds V, according to prospectus documents filed and submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

For the moment, BlackRock has yet to specify which commodities exchanges would be used in order to complete the purchase of Bitcoin Futures. But, according to the asset manager, the approved funds will only be allowed to invest in cash-settled futures, to mitigate risk, and there are still some that BlackRock observes:

“A Fund’s investment in bitcoin futures may involve illiquidity risk, as bitcoin futures are not as heavily traded as other futures given that the bitcoin futures market is relatively new.”

BlackRock’s Steady Walk to Bitcoin

BlackRock’s move towards investing in Bitcoin comes as a profound surprise for many. Up until recently, the investment management company had done little to allude to such a move. However, any filings under the SEC have proven to serve as a pretext for diving into new investments.

During a panel discussion in December, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink hinted at the growing legitimacy of digital assets as their asset class, but expressed caution to those expressing impetuosity, stating that “we have to go through many markets to see if it’s going to be permanently real.”

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Author: James Fox

Top Argentinian Crypto Firm Purchases Second Largest Bitcoin Exchange In Brazil

Top Argentinian Crypto Firm Purchases Second Largest Bitcoin Exchange In Brazil

  • Argentina’s crypto firm, Ripio, is set to purchase Brazil’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, BitcoinTrade. Ripio aims to expand its market presence and the prevalence of digital assets across Latin American countries.

According to a local Argentinian newspaper Ambito, Ripio, one of the leading crypto firms in the country has purchased BitcoinTrade, reportedly the second-largest exchange in Brazil. The purchase aims to increase Ripio’s market presence and strengthen its operations across Latin America as the leading digital assets service firm.

Ripio, the largest digital asset exchange in Argentina, announced at the end of 2020 that it had reached close to 1 million active users on its platform. Having entered the Brazil market in 2019, Ripio boasts as one of the fastest-growing crypto companies in the country – a clear indication of why the purchase of BitcoinTrade is important. Sebastián Serrano, CEO at Ripio said,

“We have been following the growth of Bitcoin Trade for a long time and we are convinced that we will overcome greater challenges by working now towards the same goal.”

Launched in 2013, Ripio is one of the oldest, and heavily resourced crypto companies in the Latin American region with over 150 employees across the region. The company will expand its digital assets services to the region to increase the adoption of crypto, Serrano further said;

“We seek to expand access to the world of digital assets, building simple tools and enabling reliable information for decision making.”

BitcoinTrade, launched in 2017, grew to become the second-largest crypto exchange in Brazil in volumes and user activity. As of today, the company joins the Ripio family working to expand digital asset services to Brazilian and Latin American people.

The purchase is set to open up new horizons in the crypto ecosystem in Latin America, Carlos Andre Montenegro, founder of BitcoinTrade said,

“We are convinced that Ripio is the best company to extend the path we have built with BitcoinTrade in Brazil.”

Ripio joins Bitso, a Mexico-based crypto exchange, in the push to capture the hugely underdeveloped Brazilian crypto market. Bitso recently announced a $62 million funding round to expand its services across the Latin American region – with a keen eye on Brazil. Ripio also raised $44 million through VC investment including a $37 million initial coin offering (ICO).

Serrano believes the two companies have enough market to share in Brazil, given the largely underdeveloped crypto industry in the country. He further said,

“Bitso and ourselves are the two really well-funded companies with access to venture capital. There are no companies in that position in Brazil. But, really I think the opportunity is about growing the entire Latin America market.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

VanEck Files for a Bitcoin ETF Again; This Time It Will Physically Hold BTC

The $49 billion investment firm says the Bitcoin market has matured, pointing to better infrastructure, regulated exchanges, and support from OCC.

So, it has started!

After no new proposal in 2020 following the rejection of all the Bitcoin ETF proposals by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the past couple of years, the market is back to try again.

Now that institutions are pouring in amidst the strong bull market, VanEck is yet again making an attempt at a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). The market feels that this time, we could finally get approval.

The big difference in VanEck’s proposal is that unlike the last time when they filed for a Bitcoin futures ETF, this one would physically hold the world’s largest digital asset.

The $49 billion investment firm has already successfully launched a Bitcoin ETN in Europe and is now ready to bring in another herd. Gabor Gurbacs, digital asset strategist at VanEck tweeted,

“Bringing to market a physical Bitcoin ETF in the U.S. is a top priority for @vaneck_us. We are committed to support bitcoin-focused innovation & continue to work with regulators & market participants to achieve that goal.”

In its SEC filing, VanEck argues that the Bitcoin market has matured and is “operating at a level of efficiency and scale similar in material respects to established global equity, fixed income and commodity markets.”

Here, it points to the launch of BTC futures contracts on major and regulated exchanges, growth of trading volume, arrival of major, established market makers, development of a robust bitcoin lending market, and expansion in the availability of institutional-quality custody services.

Moreover, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has confirmed that national banks may provide custody services for bitcoin and other virtual currencies, it said.

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Author: AnTy

Centra Tech Co-Founder Sentenced One-Year in Prison Over $25 Million ICO Scam

Robert Farkas, 34, the co-founder of the cryptocurrency firm Centra Tech was sentenced to a year in prison on Tuesday by US District Judge Lorna G. Schofield in Manhattan.

Farkas pleaded guilty to tricking investors of over $25 million in an investment scam that was promoted by the likes of Floyd Mayweather and musician DJ Khaled, who settled their own charges with the SEC for failing to disclose that they had been paid to promote the project.

The other two co-founders have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the scam.

The guilty parties solicited investors in 2018 to commit frauds to an initial coin offering (ICO) for its “Centra Tokens” by falsely claiming that they have developed a debit card that will allow the users to make purchases with digital currency at businesses accepting Mastercard and Visa, said prosecutors.

In other news, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Argentine city of Córdoba indicted 12 people in connection with the Onecoin Ponzi scheme last week.

One of the biggest scams in crypto history, this Bulgaria-based project netted about $4 billion.

The local police carried out multiple raids and arrested eight people over the years in different countries. Onecoin founder Ruja Ignatova, who was also indicated, is still at large.

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Author: AnTy

Avalanche Blockchain Taps into the $10 Billion Market With An Initial Litigation Offering Token

In collaboration with Republic Advisory services and U.S-based law firm Roche Cyrulnik Freedman LLP, Ava Labs has announced the debut of Initial Litigation offering (ILO) using the Avalanche blockchain. This initiative will tap into the $10 billion litigation financing asset class to open up the market to more retail investors. Notably, the token is the first of its kind to be hosted within a blockchain ecosystem.

The initial ILO to be hosted on Avalanche blockchain will be a litigation financing towards an ongoing matter where the plaintiff Apothio LLC is accusing Kern County, California of unlawfully destroying 500 acres of Hemp; an estimated $1 billion according to market value. Apothio LLC, which specializes in the industrial research, development, and commercialization of cannabidiol oil (CBD), is expected to raise its ILO in Q1 2021.

Decentralized Litigation Funding

Litigation funding, which is also dubbed ‘legal financing,’ is an avenue for plaintiffs to raise resources to sustain their court matters to the end. Before the ILO token launch on Avalanche, this process was generally centralized and mainly attracted institutional players such as LexShares, a leading litigation fund.

Well, the field has now been leveled by Avalanche’s ILO; each token will represent a legal claim to a portion of the potential financial recovery. However, the funders will have to bear the full risk of capital erasure if claims that they choose to back are unsuccessful. Ava Labs’ Kevin Sekniqi commented on the value proposition of decentralizing litigation funding,

“ILOs are a breakthrough for both individuals lacking the resources to seek remediation, and for retail investors who are often locked out of the most highly-performant asset classes.”

“They are fundamentally unique from any other investments, and the creation of the ILO marks the first time blockchain technology will be used to democratize financial products at a multi-billion-dollar scale.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Elliptic Report: Crypto Criminals Turn to Privacy Wallets to Launder Bitcoin

Privacy has been one of the hot buttons in the crypto space. In a new report, leading blockchain analytics firm Elliptic reviews the industry’s illegal activity levels this year.

On Wednesday, the firm released a study showing that criminals are now laundering Bitcoin using private wallets like Wasabi.

The Hunt for Privacy

Private wallets are known for their privacy features. They obfuscate funds and hide their origins from tracking mechanisms, through a process called coin mixing.

Mixing works by swapping coins between users. It creates a complex network of transactions designed to create a maze that throws trackers off a transfer over time.

Elliptic explained that 13 percent of Bitcoin crime proceeds are now being laundered through these services. The number is up from the 2 percent reported in 2019.

Tom Robinson, Elliptic’s Chief Scientist, explained that the use of privacy wallets had grown primarily due to the increased identity verification standards operated by exchanges and traditional wallet providers.

While the general use of these privacy wallets has increased, there is a noticeable uptick in criminal applications.

Blame the Government and Analysis Firms

Mixers have also grown in prominence thanks to increased tracking technologies and procedures from firms like Elliptic.

Chainalysis and CipherTrace, two of the foremost analytics firms in the blockchain space, have worked extensively with regulators to crack down on illegal activity this year. Seeing nowhere else to turn to, criminals are now being inventive and using mixers.

CipherTrace has been incredibly effective in cracking down on privacy-related activities in the crypto space.

In August, the firm announced a new tool to track Monero transactions, the most popular privacy coin. It has even filed two patents to improve tracking for Monero.

In a blog post, CipherTrace stated that the patents would include forensic tools to explore transaction flows in Monero and assist financial investigations. They will also have probabilistic and statistical methods to score transactions and cluster possible wallet owners, as well as visualization tools and techniques to track stolen or illegally used assets.

“CipherTrace’s Monero tracing capabilities will allow [Virtual Asset Service Providers] to identify when inbound XMR may have criminal origins, allowing them to adequately risk rate customer transactions per any required regulations.”

CipherTrace added that it aimed to improve criminal users’ detection and improve the safety and sustainability of privacy coins.

The development follows an earlier $625,000 bounty program set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for anyone who can develop Monero tracking tools. As privacy becomes more of a luxury in the crypto space, it is understandable that criminals would want to get inventive and use privacy wallets.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Bitbond And Germany’s Oldest Bank to Issue A Euro Stablecoin On Stellar’s Blockchain

Bitbond, a Germany-based tokenization firm, has finally completed the launch of its first stablecoin after securing a partnership with Bankhaus von der Heydt (BVDH), the country’s oldest running bank, an official statement confirmed on December 9. Earlier in February this year, BEG had reported the partnership between the two to develop the first Euro-backed stablecoin on the Stellar blockchain, which has now come to life.

In a press statement, Radoslav Albrecht, founder and CEO of Bitbond said,

“Bitbond has been working with Stellar since 2019 when we issued the first-ever tokenized security recognized by the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), [the financial regulatory authority for Germany].”

Bitbond utilizes blockchain technology to enhance the issuance, settlement, and custody of bonds through tokenization. Following the completion and launch of the Euro stablecoin issuance, Bitbond “has completed our digital assets tech suite which, up to now, included digital asset custody and tokenization technology,” Albrecht further said.

The statement claims the Euro stablecoin is the first-of-its-kind issued in Europe or across any banking institution. It is fully regulated by BaFin and fully backed at a 1:1 ratio, which gives institutional investors and third party banks confidence in using the token. However, given the strict regulations, KYC/AML compliance, and other regulatory requirements, Bitbond’s EUR stablecoin will not be traded on open exchanges.

BVDH customers and other third-party developers of financial applications dealing with digital assets’ online settlements can use the stablecoin – reducing their costs and transaction times – albeit in a more regulated way. Bitbond also integrated the tokenization of bond securities allowing the system to directly mint and destroy tokens according to the demand/supply mechanisms.

This opens up a gateway for Stellar blockchain to dominate the Euro stablecoin market in a similar manner that Ethereum does for Tether – the dollar-backed stablecoin. Partnering with one of the largest banks across Europe shows the digital space’s potential to work with traditional banks to create better innovative solutions in the finance space. Denelle Dixon, the CEO and Executive Director of the Stellar Development Foundation stated,

“This is a testament to the ways that traditional banking and blockchain can work together, bringing together one of the oldest banks in Europe with a FinTech start-up to deliver exciting innovation in the digital currency space.”

The 266-year old bank is finally taking its role in digitizing securitization, fund administration, and mergers & acquisitions to complement the traditional methods already employed in the bank. The bank has looked at stablecoins and digital assets in the past few years, according to Lukas Weniger, BVDH business development.

However, institutions and big corporations are still wary of using current stablecoins such as Tether and Circle’s USDC due to the third party risk and a lack of a fully licensed bank to back them, Weniger said.

Bitbond will also offer regulated tokenized bonds on the Stellar blockchain as the company works with real estate developers who wish to issue tokenized securities, he further confirmed.

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Author: Lujan Odera

German Conglomerate, Bertelsmann, Invests In BaFin Regulated Crypto Fund for Web 3.0

German private multinational conglomerate and publishing firm Bertelsmann announced an investment in a Berlin-based regulated crypto fund, Greenfield One.

Reports from Berlin confirm that Greenfield One, an institutional-focused crypto fund, has successfully completed its second crypto fund, including an investment from Bertelsmann, a Germany-based conglomerate owning top publishing firm Penguin Random House LLC., RTL Group, Arvato, and music publishers BMG Rights Management.

The crypto fund is regulated under the country’s top financial regulator, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), allowing institutional investors to take positions in the crypto market. According to a statement from Sebastian Blum, one of Greenfield’s founders, having a regulated digital asset fund provides “regulatory clarity and a safe haven” for institutions investing in it. Blum said,

“We have deliberately decided to structure all of our funds as an on-shore product to provide a high level of clarity and comfort for investors with no exposure to crypto yet.”

“This caused additional scrutiny and complexity in fund formation on our end, but we believe that this turns out to be helpful in the long-run.”

The company is yet to disclose the value of the crypto fund and the value of investment made by Bertelsmann and other investors participating in the fund, including a major European family office known as Lennertz & Co.

The company used the first crypto fund to invest in promising blockchain solutions, including Multis, Dapper Labs, Vega Protocol, Near Protocol, Celo, and Spacemash. The second fund is yet to be invested with no comment or reply from Greenfield One on how they plan to spend the funds.

However, according to a circular distributed earlier in the year, the crypto fund will be invested in assorted blockchain projects with no specific market mentioned.

“The fund focuses on crypto networks and developer teams that use blockchain-based technology to create the infrastructure for Web 3.0 as a fundamental asset layer on the internet,” the circular read.

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Author: Lujan Odera