‘Large-Scale’ Crypto Exit Scams Detected in Estonia’s E-Residency Program

Estonia had granted foreigners remote access to its digital infrastructure through its e-residency program, which is now linked to cryptocurrency frauds abroad.

Amidst Europe working on improving its anti-money laundering rules, with EU banking watchdog calling for a single set of regulations after going through several related scandals, companies headed by Estonian e-residents have been involved in “a few large-scale exit scams,” where clients are unable to withdraw their assets.

The police’s Finance Intelligence Unit form last week said these companies that are registered overseas are also linked to organizing “suspicious initial coin offerings and the misappropriation of large sums within them.”

The Baltic nation’s reputation recently got a hit after seeing Europe’s biggest scandal with Danske Bank accused of funneling $230 billion in illicit funds through the Estonian branch.

Estonia, which has a 1.2 million population, has also been seeing the issuance of digital IDs, a program that started in 2014, to e-residents down from the 2018 peak, having already issued 70,000 from 174 countries.

In June this year, the nation also canceled the licenses of 500 crypto firms, 30% of the total, as part of the clampdown on illicit financial flows.

Still, a new set of frauds have been detected. Officials had warned earlier that the e-residency program, allowing non-residents to run businesses from abroad, needed changes to avoid criminal abuse and improve its security.

Police have also moved to curb down on companies that exchange and help clients hold digital currencies.

The e-residency team is currently working “hand in hand” with the police and the FIU. “The survey doesn’t show that all fraudsters have been e-residents, but that there have also been e-residents among fraudsters,” said its head Ott Vatter.

According to the police, a “considerable connection” with e-residents is raising the risk of reputational damage in the crypto sector of Estonia, where about a third of companies, 554, providing crypto services have at least one e-resident as a related party.

Compared to 1,234 companies with cryptocurrency licenses at the end of last year in the country, as of August, there were only 353.

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Author: AnTy

RockX to Provide $500K Funding to Projects Building on Polkadot; $20 Million in Total

RockX, a digital asset development company, has announced a $20 million investment program for the Polkadot ecosystem over the next five years. The $20 million investment boost will be capped at $500,000 worth of native DOT token per project. In return, the RockX company would receive equity in the project or tokens worth the same value.

Alex Lam, the co-founder of RockX, who also runs a Bitcoin mining farm by the name of RockMiner, revealed that the funding for the Polkadot project was launched after receiving financial aid from several investors who like to remain anonymous. Lam revealed that most of these investors are big-time DOT token holders and Ethereum proponents. Lam said,

“They are guys who have been in the Ethereum community since 2015, and have supported the Ethereum ecosystem in the past via investments and building projects.”

The co-founder of RockX also said that his company would also offer technical support to the Polkadot ecosystem. RockX is currently running a node for Polkadot, Cosmos, Solana, Oasis, and Terra.

Investors Won’t Influence Any Projects

RockX co-founder revealed that despite the investment that these anonymous investors are making, they would have no say in which projects get the grant and how much they would receive. The RockX team would solely make the decision.

Apart from the $500k maximum cap for each project, RockX could also grant a ‘no-string-attached’ kind of funding to independent projects as well.

The $20 million investment grant also comes just weeks after Polkadot established its treasury. Although the investment grant has nothing to do with the treasury, both of them share a similar goal of boosting and expanding the Polkadot ecosystem while helping projects to grow and build decentralized useful products for mass consumption.

Signum Capital, one of the largest crypto funds in South East Asia and an investor in the RockX project, was all praises for RockX and its latest initiative. John Ng Pangilinan, the Managing Partner for Signum Capital, said,

“RockX is taking a step further to help blockchains grow by leveraging its technical capabilities and investor networks. This will set up a new collaborative model for the industry.”

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Author: Silvia A

Visa’s Fast Track Program On Boards New Bitcoin Lightning Payment Startup, LastBit

The Visa fast track program has onboarded a new Bitcoin Lightning crypto payment startup, LastBit, which recently launched its beta app. This addition comes barely a month since Strike also joined the Visa initiative to scale crypto adoption through Lightning BTC payment solutions.

Lastbit will enable merchants to accept BTC payments regardless of their preference since the underlying tech converts such transactions to fiat upon settlement. Currently, this BTC lightning-based innovation only allows merchants to receive their payments in U.S dollars. However, they are set to release an app that is Euro compatible in a few weeks, according to the company’s founder, Prashanth Balasubramanian.

LastBit’s BTC Lightning for Micropayments

Despite the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, mainstream adoption is still one of the most significant uncertain factors. Well, BTC lightning solutions, which came up as a result of network congestion, seem to be finding a niche in micropayment fiat-crypto on-ramps, given the convenience in rates and transaction time.

LastBit’s lighting payment, for instance, allows users to load BTC on their applications, after which they can access a digital debit card. With this card, they can then initiate BTC payments, which are received by vendors in dollars and soon Euros.  Balasubramanian has since noted that their goal is to facilitate the mass adoption of Bitcoin as a standard means of payment,

“We simply want to see the masses using bitcoin on a day-to-day basis. To do this, we have engineered arguably the most seamless interoperability between bitcoin and fiat, on top of the Lightning Network, that caters to the needs of both new and experienced users alike,”

Prospect Markets!

As the world continues to move towards digital ecosystems, crypto startups like Stripe and LastBit are looking to capitalize on the growing opportunities in various markets. On this front, LastBit is set to expand into Europe following approval from the EU. Balasubramanian confirmed this prospectus move with Coindesk, highlighting that;

“With a solid product, partnerships and notable investors […] behind us, we’re going to roll out our Bitcoin, Lightning, and EUR interoperable payments layer in the EU to prove that this works and that a small company without millions can pull off a complex payments product to push for Bitcoin adoption,”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Coinbase Launches Dai Rewards Program, Sets APY at 2%; Is That The Best Rate Available?

Coinbase crypto exchange has launched a Dai rewards program that will see its clients earn a 2% APY for holding this stablecoin in their accounts.

According to the blog post on July 29, this product will be available in six countries, which include:

  • the U.S.
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
  • Australia
  • France

The move comes as another boost to Maker, which is Dai’s parent and currently the leading DeFi with a total value locked (TVL) of $1 billion, 27% of the total DeFi market value.

Back in 2019, Coinbase rolled out a similar initiative for the USDC stablecoin with rates as high as .125%; this was, however, slashed by 90% this year. The U.S. based crypto exchange has since noted that stablecoins have quite a role to play in the crypto ecosystem when it comes to volatility elimination.

These digital assets have grown significantly, comprising $12 billion of the crypto market, it’s no wonder Coinbase has such faith in them:

“This is one reason stablecoins have grown to a market cap of more than $12 billion, as people use them to hold funds without volatility, transfer funds quickly and cheaply, and gain exposure to the U.S. dollar.” reads the blog.

Notably, the new Dai Rewards by Coinbase will be issued to accounts with as low as $1, with the initial rewards set to be distributed within five days. With the current market lows in savings rates, they might just be another asset class with a better deal than wall street bankers at the moment. But that isn’t to say that traders aren’t already voicing their displeasure for such a low rate. Comparing the rate at which Coinbase offers vs many other exchanges and DeFi apps, it is quite low. For example, Nexo offers 8%, Compound does 7.28%, or Celsius sitting at 5.93%.

Also, crypto investors get to control their digital assets at any time based on the aspect of decentralization. Dai holders can withdraw their rewards as well as funds at any time. The downside, however, is that crypto exchanges are risky than traditional banks.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Crypto Exchange CoinMetro Launches New Affiliate Program

The CoinMetro crypto exchange recently unveiled a new and expanded affiliate program that aims to pay out the highest affiliate rates of any cryptocurrency exchange. In addition to collecting 40% of what their referrals generate in revenue, affiliates can also earn 10% of what traders referred by their referrals accumulate. Since CoinMetro’s revenue sharing program lasts for a lifetime, this puts the potential earnings of an affiliate far beyond what they could be for most other crypto exchange referral programs—making CoinMetro’s affiliate program one of the best crypto affiliate programs out there.

Under the new program, affiliates have a choice of participating in different income models: seasonal promos with a CPA model (set bonuses for signup/deposit), and a Revenue Share Model (receive a cut from revenue brought in from referrals). Because it offers a great deal of flexibility, this affiliate program is perfect for traders, affiliate marketers, crypto enthusiasts, and bloggers looking to monetize through their crypto content.

CoinMetro’s June affiliate bonus, in which both the affiliate and their referral received a 5€ bonus upon verification, managed to attract 7,000 new users in the first week of the month, with a significant portion of the signups directed by US traffic. Through its introduction to an expanded audience of traders, the exchange is gaining more visibility at a time when crypto is poised to enter a new bull market, making the potential for referral-based profits a highly lucrative endeavor.

CoinMetro is an innovative way to buy and sell the world’s top cryptocurrencies, designed for use by traders of any level of experience. The exchange places a heavy emphasis on the education of its traders, equipping them with the knowledge they need to best maximize their success while trading and investing. CoinMetro currently features 13 different cryptocurrencies for trading and several different fiat pairing options.

Though based in the EU, the CoinMetro crypto exchange receives a lot of US traffic and from those looking to trade relatively rare pairings, such as BTC/GBP and ETH/GBP. The affiliate program is, therefore, great for customers in the US who are looking to add some extra funds into their CoinMetro account. Some of the other coins traded on the exchange include Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Chainlink (LINK), Quant (QNT), Ripple (XRP), and the exchange’s utility token, CoinMetro Token (XCM).

A fully EU-licensed exchange, CoinMetro is owned and operated by CoinMetro OÜ, which is incorporated in Estonia under company number 14448371. The CoinMetro Platform is an exchange-based order book for various pairings of cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies, such as euros and British pounds. For more information about CoinMetro and its new affiliate program, please contact Liina Laas (email: [email protected]). Additionally, more information about the referral program can be found here.

Disclaimer: This is a paid press release from CoinMetro. BitcoinExchangeGuide does not endorse, nor are we responsible for the content included in this paid release. We encourage all of our readers to do their research before interacting with the company.

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Author: Bitcoin Exchange Guide News Team

Algorand Foundation Opens 250M ALGO ($50M) Grant Program to Drive Its Blockchain Dev.

The Algorand Foundation has announced a generous 250 million ALGO grants program to fuel its blockchain development.

According to a Press Release shared on April 14, the foundation will allocate $50 million USD to further enhance its role in building participation within the Algorand blockchain network.

Currently, three stakeholders operating on this network have already been allocated 6M ALGO tokens as part of the Grants initiative. The announcement also notes that the program will take place over years, with four target categories that leverage Algorand’s blockchain.

These categories include:

  • Education & community initiatives,
  • DApps
  • Development tools
  • Innovative research based on the Algorand blockchain.

The foundation’s Head of Operations, Fangfang Chen, has since said they are optimistic on this milestone:

“We are thrilled to announce the 250M ALGO Grants Program, which is designed to support innovation that helps to grow the Algorand ecosystem,”

Chen added that Algorand believes that a public, permissionless and wholly Proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain is instrumental in the creation of a borderless or open economy.

It, therefore, follows that the foundation is committed to developing an ecosystem through the Algorand blockchain, hence its support for projects in these specific categories.

The ALGO Grant Allocation Criteria

As you’d expect, this initiative’s going to get a lot of interest and applications from teams looking to capitalize on the opportunities of this grant by Algorand blockchain.

The foundation has since outlined two specific selection criteria that will be used to identify potential projects. One of these is a project’s projected positive impact on the Algorand community.

The other catch is its quality in terms of growth opportunity. As well as the academic or technical strength of a proposal and the team’s commitment towards their Algorand based solution. However, there are plans to build an open ecosystem in future that will allow the Algorand community to vote for their preferred projects.

As mentioned earlier, three projects have already qualified for Algorand’s grant program; these being Blog, Reach and PureStake AlgoSigner. Each of these are working on different solutions to make Algorand’s blockchain network a better platform for integration for modern-day industries.

For example, Blog focuses on nodes and API performance. Reach specializes in the DeFi space, while PureStake Algosigner breaks down the barriers between Algorand network participants.

Notably, the founder of Reach, Chris Swenor, praised the ALGO Grant program for its significance,

“The grant program from the Algorand Foundation is one of the most focused programs out there, and we believe it will be instrumental in accelerating the adoption of Algorand’s platform.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Microsoft Joins Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition Initiative For Virtual Earth Day Hackathon

  • Microsoft is set to support the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition (BSIC) program whose winners will be rewarded during the Global Virtual Earth Day on April 22.
  • This initiative involved a six-week hackathon geared towards practical solutions in sustainable cities and green energy.

The BSIC incubator project was originally under Ethereum’s enterprise-grade solutions provider, ConsenSys. Apart from Microsoft and ConsenSys, this project has been sponsored by other notable industry stakeholders from different sectors. They include UNDP, KPMG, Gitcoin, Celo, Pepo and the city of Austin, Texas. Given this support, the upcoming rewards set for the BSIC incubation winners total to $30,000 and is set to be allocated as per the outlined criteria.

According to Microsoft’s blockchain unit co-founder, Yorke Rhodes, the whole idea is to solve challenges in excess carbon credits, pollution, affordable housing and identity projects. Yorke who is also a BSIC board member highlighted that;

“It’s run like a typical incubator where we have weekly deliverables for all of the teams.

We also have subject-matter experts in these categories from around the world that we invited in to do seminars twice a week,”

During its launch, the BSIC incubator attracted more than 300 participants and narrowed down gradually to be left with about 30 teams. As mentioned earlier, they were tasked with creating solutions to make the world more climate and environmentally friendly through blockchain technology.

Currently, energy and sustainability are among the hot topics within global governing bodies. In this regard, Yorke noted that Microsoft is working with Brazil’s, Itau Unibanco, to bring to life long-term ideas tailored to the space.

As we approach 2020’s Earth Day, the whole world is uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vanessa Grellet, the Executive Director of ConsenSys has since noted they will hold the event live as opposed to prior plans,

“We made the decision to pivot our Earth Day 2020 event from an in-person event for people in New York City, to one that is 100 percent digital this year and available worldwide.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Banking Giant Santander to Bring One Pay FX Payment System to Mexico Utilizing RippleNet

In 2020, the major Spain-based bank Santander is planning to roll out the One Pay FX program, its Ripple powered system for international payments, in Mexico.

Santander filed a Form 20-F with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on March 6. It hopes to offer its Ripple-powered services in Mexico as soon as possible. One Pay FX is based on the RippleNet technology from Ripple. It’s independent from XRP, so it doesn’t require any digital currency in order to function, mentioned a spokesperson from Santander.

A Multi-Corridor International Blockchain Solution

The Form 20-F filing is a report that has to be annually submitted to the SEC. Foreign private issuers that have equity shares listed on US exchanges have to send it to the regulator every year. Santander describes One Pay FX program as being a:

“Multi-corridor international blockchain solution […] for individuals and SMEs [small-to-medium enterprises].”

The payments solution launched for the first time in the UK, Poland, Spain and Brazil banks 2 years ago, in 2018, being followed in 2019 by Santander Chile and Portugal.

The System Has Many Benefits

Santander claims its blockchain system’s benefits are transparency, speed, better costs and predictability in an environment in which customers have a sub-optimal experience that’s prone to stickiness. It was reported that Santander and Ripple have been working on One Pay FX for a few years, performing different trials so that their solutions can improve traditional transfers ever since 2016. Before that, back in 2015, InnoVentures, which is the capital arm of Santander, invested $4 million in a $32 million Ripple series A funding.

RippleNet Is Continuing to Develop

RippleNet was created back in 2012. Ever since then, it’s continuing to go through many technical developments in which core consensus improvements are included. David Schwartz, the chief technology officer at Ripple, said the company is interested in convincing third parties to launch their own XRP ledger cryptocurrencies and stablecoins. In the meantime, Brad Garlinghouse, Ripple’s CEO, is being sued for violating the US Securities Act with an XRP token initial coin offering from 2013.

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Author: Oana Ularu

Hawaii Opens Up Regulatory Sandbox For Crypto Payment Companies Till 2021

Hawaii launches a regulatory sandbox, “Digital Currency Innovation Lab”, a pilot program to boost the understanding of digital currencies. The program will run for two years offering crypto startups and companies an opportunity to do business in the country “without obtaining a state money transmitter license.”

Hawaii launches the Digital Currency Innovation Lab

In a joint partnership among three financial authorities in Hawaii, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Division of Financial Institutions (DFI) and Hawaii Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), cryptocurrency payment services will now be able to carry out business in the state under the new sandbox program. The new program is set to assist the authorities shape up regulations for the industry while understanding it deeper.

Furthermore, this looks set to relax the arduous rules that crypto companies have had to deal with over the past few years in the state. One particular rule that is set to be eased is the “double-reserve” requirement that states companies can only hold as much fiat currency as their customers hold crypto.

Those companies that will be selected in the program will have total autonomy to carry out business activities that would previously been considered unlicensed money transfer activity. This means none of the financial authorities will take action for companies registered in the program. Iris Ikeda, Commissioner of Financial Institutions says,

“DFI is leveraging its statutory authority to provide an innovative way to introduce digital currency issuers into the State of Hawaii, while ensuring the safety of our consumers.”

“Financial authorities to benefit from program”

The digital currency pilot program is specifically set to help in regulating the crypto payments industry in the state better according to Len Higashi, acting executive director of HTDC. Len believes Hawaii will lead in the digital currency payments race by being an early adopter. He remarked,

“By spearheading the Digital Currency Innovation Lab, Hawaii can position itself on the forefront of financial technology and potentially, reap the economic benefits that accompany the leadership stance taken.”

Iris also believes that the project will help in understanding and appreciating the overall advantages that cryptocurrency offers. He said,

“By acknowledging digital currencies as a transmission vehicle of the future, we will be able to craft legislation that is conducive to its development in Hawaii.”

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Author: Lujan Odera

Binance Adjusts Its Fee Structure To Entice Market Makers To Increase Futures Liquidity

The largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world in terms of volume, Binance, has revised its fee program in efforts to reward market makers for increasing futures liquidity CoinDesk reports.

In an official press statement released on Monday, Binance revealed that market makers for the Futures program will be awarded a negative fee for various trading pairs. The statement describes a market maker as a user who increases liquidity through purchasing and selling limit orders where the limit prices being either higher or lower than the prevailing market price. In other words, a market maker is a user who removes liquidity from the market via filling a previously placed.

Crypto exchanges in most instances, come up with different techniques to increase liquidity within their platforms by providing makers reduced fees in comparison to the ones given to takers when they are filling an order.

Binance did not reveal the details of the negative fee program. However, for a user to be part of the program, they must have more than 1,000 BTC trading volume for the last 30 days on the Binance platform. The announcement also indicates that one must have ‘quality market maker strategies’. In addition, Binance says it will approve proposals that are backed with proof of such trading volumes in different exchange platforms.

The exchange also stated that a performance review will be enforced routinely and will be based on various aspects like market making time, order duration, bid/offer spread as well as the total order size.

The new strategy by Binance can be seen as a plan to deal with intense competition in the derivatives market. In the recent past, both Intercontinental Exchange’s Bakkt as well as Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) rolled out Bitcoin options having offered futures contracts.

Since its introduction in September 2019, Binance Futures has witnessed a rapid growth with January’s futures volume increasing by 85% after $56 billion was traded on the platform’s perpetual contract markets.

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Author: Joseph Kibe