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Binance-owned WazirX under investigation in India over alleged money laundering

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Binance-owned WazirX under investigation in India over alleged money laundering

Binance-owned WazirX under investigation in India over alleged money laundering Christian Nwobodo · 55 mins ago · 2 min read

The India-based exchange, which operates as an independent subsidiary of Binance, allegedly violated the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

2 min read

Updated: August 3, 2022 at 11:45 pm

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Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate

The Indian Directorate of Enforcement is investigating WazirX to determine whether it facilitated the laundering of 2,790 crore Indian rupees(over $350 million) through its platform, the country’s Finance Minister, Pankaj Chaudhary, told local media.

The exchange, which operates as an independent subsidiary of Binance, allegedly violated the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA), after investigations revealed that crypto assets worth roughly $350 million were remitted to unknown wallets.

The regulator is probing WazirX on two crypto-related cases. In one of the cases, WazirX is said to have used the walled infrastructure of Binance to make transactions that were not “recorded on the blockchains and were thus cloaked in mystery.”

Chaudhary went on to reiterate the call for global collaboration in regulating cryptocurrencies. He said:

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“Any policy framework on cryptocurrency can be effective only after significant international collaboration on evaluation of the risks and benefits and evolution of common taxonomy and standards.”

In continuation of the probe, the ED has issued a Show Cause Notice (SCN) to WazirX to have its executives appear before it, for further interrogation.

WazirX and Indian regulators

WazirX was acquired by Binance in 2019 but has in many instances been callout by Indian regulators for non-compliance with foreign exchange and money laundering guidelines.

In June 2021, WazirX was under investigation by the ED for allegedly facilitating illegal cross-border transactions worth 27.90 billion rupees ($381.93 million). According to the investigation, Chinese nationals laundered criminal proceeds by routing them through WazirX after converting them into USDT.

WazirX co-founders Nischal Shetty and Siddharth Menon on occasions of defending the exchange claimed it was in compliance with all applicable laws.

Business Today earlier reported that the co-founders have relocated to Dubai as crypto regulation in India tightens.

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India becoming unfriendly to Crypto

India’s first attempt to ban crypto was in April 2018, on the grounds of risks associated with “consumer protection, market integrity, and money laundering. The decision was, however, overruled by a Supreme Court judgment in March 2020.

But in July, the government went wild on crypto by implementing a 30% tax on income gains and an additional 1% Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) rate. Trading volumes on exchanges fell significantly with WazirX reporting a year-on-year decrease of 74% as of June 30.

A follow-up survey by WaxirX and Zebpay revealed that 83% of crypto traders reduced their trading frequency due to the harsh tax measures.

Despite calls for tax reductions, Finance Minister Pankaj Chaudhary maintained that the taxation policy will remain as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seeks to use it as a measure to discourage users from participating in “risky” transactions.

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Coinbase reports $1.10B loss in Q2 as assets on exchange slump

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Coinbase reports $1.10B loss in Q2 as assets on exchange slump

Coinbase reports $1.10B loss in Q2 as assets on exchange slump Liam ‘Akiba’ Wright · 2 hours ago · 3 min read

Coinbase reported the biggest loss ever in Q2, losing more than $1B over the past 3 months. Assets held on the exchange also fell to just $96 million.

3 min read

Updated: August 9, 2022 at 11:14 pm

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Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate

Coinbase Global’s second-quarter results show that the crypto exchange recorded a net loss of $1.10 billion during the period. This compares to a loss of $430 million in the first quarter and a net income of $1.61 billion in the second quarter of 2021.

Net revenue for Q2 came in at $803 million, down from $1.17 billion in Q1 and $2.03 billion in Q2 2021, according to the Aug.  9 shareholder letter.

The value of crypto assets on the exchange fell to just $96 billion in Q2 from $256 billion in Q1. A year ago, in Q2 2021, the assets on the exchange totaled $180 billion.

Source: SEC filing

Coinbase also pointed to four major crypto asset price cycles the space has seen since 2010, noting in the below graph that from the most recent peak in November 2021 to the lows in June 2022, Bitcoin market capitalization has declined 74%.

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Source: SEC Filing

The company said:

Each prior cycle has lasted anywhere from two to four years and resulted in the crypto market capitalization significantly increasing compared to the preceding cycle. Each prior cycle brought in new market participants, developers, and products that further advanced the cryptoeconomy. These cycles are evident by viewing Bitcoin prices over time on a logarithmic scale. Prior peak-to-trough declines have been 84%, 85%, and 94% historically, although these prior declines did not coincide with a broader macro downturn.

In the shareholder letter, the company compared recent data to 2020, as it believes “the best way to evaluate Coinbase through these early years of this nascent industry, is through the same lens we evaluate crypto — over a price cycle.”

From 2020 to 2022, verified users have tripled, monthly volume is up 6x, and assets on the platform have increased 4x.

Coinbase stated that “down markets are not as bad as they may seem.” It continued, “it can feel scary and near-term financials can be heavily impacted,” but it will “emerge stronger than ever before.”

While the figures may appear bearish for the US-based exchange, many in the crypto industry would agree with Coinbase’s sentiment that “crypto markets are cyclical.” While several exchanges such as Celsius and Voyager have filed for Bankruptcy this quarter, Coinbase remains bullish on its future outlook.

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The company’s monthly transacting users (MTU) only dropped 2% versus Q1.

“Despite continued market softness, we were pleased to serve 9.0 million MTUs in Q2, a decrease of 0.2 million or 2% compared to Q1.”

Coinbase noted that Bitcoin trading volume and transactional revenue both rose 7% and 6%, respectively, in Q2 vs Q1. The total volume of retail transactions fell to $46 billion from $74 billion in Q1. Institutional trading volume also fell to $171 billion in Q2 from $235 in Q1.

Further, regarding institutional engagement, Coinbase notes,

“On the institutional side, with all of the market volatility it can be easy to lose sight that both new and existing clients continued to use our platform as they embrace crypto as a new asset class.”

Coinbase states that three themes underpin its decline in trading volume;

  1. Core U.S. retail customers were less active but have not left the platform
  2. A “large amount of trading volume” took place on off-shore exchanges that can list crypto derivatives with which Coinbase does not have “product parity with.”
  3. Coinbase did not have “exposure to the significant trading volumes related to the liquidation events of $LUNA.”

While Coinbase claimed it did not have significant exposure to $LUNA and that it was an “unsupported asset,” it did list the wrapped version of the token, wLUNA; something omitted from the Shareholder letter.

The exchange also noted that it did not have any counterparty exposure to Three Arrows Capital, Celsius, and Voyager.

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Adjusting to market conditions

Coinbase also said it taking steps to cut costs in the face of “challenging crypto market conditions.”

These steps include limiting its hiring for backfills and certain positions and cutting back on paid media and incentives. The company already reduced its workforce by 18% in June.

The company is also optimizing infrastructure and professional services expenses as well as investing in teams in lower-cost regions.

The company added:

“On the expense side, we are rigorously managing our expense levels and will continue to do so. On the product side, we are executing a ‘pause, maintain, and prioritize’ approach to ensure we are focused on the highest priority opportunities”

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Circle to ‘fully and solely support Ethereum PoS’

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Circle to ‘fully and solely support Ethereum PoS’

Circle to ‘fully and solely support Ethereum PoS’ Oluwapelumi Adejumo · 8 hours ago · 1 min read

Circle said it would not have any problem with the Merge, and USDC will function efficiently on a PoS blockchain.

1 min read

Updated: August 9, 2022 at 5:42 pm

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Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate

USD Coin (USDC) issuer Circle has revealed that it would fully support the Ethereum (ETH) proof-of-stake (PoS) chain post-merge.

According to an Aug. 9 blog post, the stablecoin issuer was looking forward to “the future scaling opportunities (the Merge) unlocks as well as the reduced energy consumption profile of the network.”

While we don’t speculate on the possibility of forks post Ethereum Mainnet merge, USDC as an Ethereum asset can only exist as a single valid “version,” and as stated previously, our sole plan is to fully support the upgraded Ethereum PoS chain.

Additionally, the issuer clarified it would not have any problem with the Merge, and USDC will function efficiently on a PoS blockchain.

Circle’s testing environment is connected to the Goerli Ethereum testnet, and we will monitor closely as it merges with Prater in the coming days.

It means the two largest stablecoins in the crypto space, USDT, and USDC, will not support any potential hard forks of ETH.

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Circle’s USDC is not only the largest fiat-backed stablecoin on Ethereum but also the biggest ERC-20 asset within the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, crypto exchanges like Huobi, OKX, Poloniex, BitMEX, and others have revealed that they would support ETH hard forks if there is enough demand in the market.

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Dozen Crypto Companies Await Portugal License Despite Bank Account Closures

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Dozen Crypto Companies Await Portugal License Despite Bank Account Closures

The central bank of Portugal is now reviewing 12 requests from businesses that want to provide crypto-related services in the country. The applications are pending decision amid recent reports that some commercial banks are closing accounts of already approved operators.

Binance Among Cryptocurrency Platforms Seeking Authorization in Portugal

Portugal’s monetary authority is currently evaluating requests submitted by 12 entities that intend to offer Portuguese clients services for virtual assets, Dinheiro Vivo unveiled. The crypto firms need a license from Banco de Portugal (BdP) to work in the country, still considered one of Europe’s most crypto-friendly jurisdictions.

Final decisions on the applications are expected by the end of the year. That’s unless the regulator asks the companies to provide additional information, in which case the deadline could be moved to 2023, the Portugal News English-language portal reported, quoting the business news outlet.

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Among the applicants to enter the Portuguese crypto market is Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trade volume. The digital currency trading platform has started to recruit talent in the country, having posted six vacancies on its Portuguese page, even though it’s still waiting for a green light from the BdP.

Criptoloja, Mind the Coin, Digital Luso, Utrust, and Bison Digital Assets are the five crypto brokers that are already operating in Portugal. The new requests are an indication that the nation’s crypto industry is developing and is likely to soon grow to a total of 17 registered exchanges.

At the same time, crypto companies are also facing certain challenges. A report recently revealed that major Portuguese banks are closing their accounts or refusing to open new ones, which is hindering normal business activities in the sector.

According to an article published by Jornal de Negócios and quoted by Bloomberg, the banks Caixa Geral de Depósitos, BCP, Santander, Abanca, and BiG are shutting down the accounts of four of the five digital asset managers.

In a statement, the Bank of Portugal said it’s monitoring the problem but also pointed out that its competences, when it comes to crypto assets, do not extend to “areas that go beyond the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.” The financial authority elaborated:

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The decision to open or maintain bank accounts depends, in these cases, on the risk management policies that each banking institution intends to undertake.

The situation may bring bad publicity to Portugal which had established itself as a crypto-friendly jurisdiction in the past few years. The EU member state attracted many crypto enthusiasts with its zero-percent tax on crypto gains, affordable living costs, and mild Mediterranean climate, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tags in this story

accounts, authorization, Banco de Portugal, Bank of Portugal, banks, BdP, Binance, Brokers, Central Bank, Crypto, Cryptocurrencies, Cryptocurrency, Exchanges, License, Portugal, Portuguese

Do you think Portuguese banks will change their attitude towards crypto businesses if Banco de Portugal approves more operators in the sector? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Lubomir Tassev

Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.

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Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons

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