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Cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today announced a settlement with BitPay, Inc., a private company based in Atlanta, Georgia, that offers a payment processing solution for merchants to accept digital currency as payment for goods and services. BitPay agreed to remit USD507,375 to settle its potential civil liability for 2,102 apparent breaches of multiple sanctions requirements. We have edited the relevant media material and commented on it.

The case provides fascinating background as US PoTUS Biden undertakes a wide-ranging review of Trump-era regulations including sanctions. Much will turn on whether such sanctions are "revoked" or "repealed" or, even, just "cancelled." It also draws attention to "know your customer's customer."

This press release from the USA's Securities and Investment Commission is about an old-fashioned (alleged) fund management fraud in which crypto-assets were the hook by which investors were encouraged to put money into a scheme which was not, says the SEC, what the promoters said it was.

You'd have thought that you'd heard the last of US lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the self-styled lobbyist, film producer, writer and businessman when he was awarded the coveted additional position, without which no American businessman's career is, seemingly, complete: that of convicted felon. After all, when you've been jailed for fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion you'd keep your head down, wouldn't you.

But then again, when your entire career has been working with dodgy businesses and doing dodgy political deals, perhaps there's nothing left to do but be dodgy over cryptoassets. A crypto-coin especially designed to be resistant to money laundering: AML Bitcoin was tailor-made for Abramoff. Now he's awaiting sentence and the company behind it is in disarray - and spending investors' money on litigation.

But what lies behind it is even more fascinating and takes us on a global trek from Las Vegas via Texas to London, Singapore and Melbourne - then across the Pacific to...

Dogs, palm trees, a rather individual way of life in the tropics - John McAfee - the chap who, effectively, created the software anti-virus industry - has long been a thorn in the side of the US authorities but exactly why he gets so much attention when so many other slide by is a mystery. Yes, there was something about a gun but now he's in trouble for making comments on Twitter. They say he "fraudulently touted" Initial Coin Offerings. Er.. isn't that tautology?

Arthur Yuen, Deputy Chief Executive, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, today set out Hong Kong's stall. Is today's statement an indication of success or a note being of not-quite competitive?

An article published by CNBC ("Here’s why regulators are so worried about Facebook’s digital currency") says in its teaser "Facebook’s argument is that it won’t be minting new money with its digital currency."

That is absolutely untrue. This is why.

On 13 March, the Bank for International Settlements Basel Committee issued a statement regarding "crypto-assets." Some of its basic assumptions are wrong and fundamentally misleading.

This ultra-simplified explanation clarifies the absolute basics of a subject that has become shrouded in myth and mystery.

The blockchain, crypto-currencies (or cryptocurrencies) like bitcoin, distributed ledgers and smart contracts are, actually, stuff you already know..

It's almost impossible to open a website or blog with even a peripheral interest in financial matters and not see a headline saying something like "The Death of Bitcoin." Total tosh. So are the click-bait headlines in the style of "is blockchain dead?"

This is why.

ASIC has taken action to stop several proposed initial coin offerings or token-generation events (together, "ICO"s), targeting retail investors.

It takes something of a cheek to solicit investment in a fraudulent scheme and to publish a website with comments falsely attributed to the Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore who also happens to be the country's deputy prime minister. But as MAS has warned, that's exactly what someone is doing...

This morning, I received, in one of my corporate mailboxes, a spam which is disturbing on several levels, none of which are relevant to the core arguments in this piece so I've added the text in a footnote for readers' information.

What is relevant, and not disturbing, is that it demands payment to a specific bitcoin account.

This is it: 1JXuMq6sbL95XnrcDEsrZTCvvRjB52RCAD.

Governments and others are focussed on the person behind the account. There is another way, says Nigel Morris-Cotterill

If the domain name used to send a spam and the subject line are inconsistent, that's often a guide to the probability that a the spam is also a scam. If the subject matter of the content is unrelated to a domain name that indicates a connection to a specific subject, that is also an indicator. So digital@myrountrips.net writing about "Multiple revenue streams" and "The Most Profitable Digital Currency System in the World" ticks more than enough boxes. Then we are promised no-lose crypto-currency trading.

On 19th March, the USA's Office of Foreign Assets Control, a division of the US Treasury, which publishes lists of persons sanctioned under trade and economic policies, under policies that are political including but not limited to national security plus those under the USA PATRIOT Act announced that it was to include, where it has it, cryptocurrency data relating to subjects. Just what are they planning and what will it mean for crypto-currency holders and exchanges and businesses such as online auctions and advertising platforms?

AUSTRAC statement

Are you a digital currency exchange provider?
16 January 2018 (updated 18 January)

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