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Home Affairs and Austrac think blockchain can reduce compliance costs

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The Department of Home Affairs, alongside the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac), has highlighted blockchain as a means to help reporting entities comply with their compliance and regulation requirements.

The comments were made in a joint submission [PDF] to the Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology and its probe into the opportunities the two vectors present to Australia.

See also: Blockchain: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

“The portfolio is of the view that blockchain technologies have the potential to significantly reduce the costs of compliance and regulation imposed on reporting entities,” they wrote.

“This technology can ensure that sensitive financial data used for intelligence purposes remains secure, transparent, and protected through the use and application of encryption.”

Standards Australia, the country’s non-government standards body, was charged with managing the secretariat of an international technical committee for the development of blockchain standards by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in September 2016, with 16 ISO member bodies including Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Estonia, Japan, and South Korea also participating in the development of ISO/TC 307 Blockchain and electronic distributed ledger technologies.

“Austrac participates in Standards Australia’s Technical Working Committee on Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers, and actively engages with members of that committee including Blockchain Australia on issues related to blockchain technologies and digital currencies,” the submission from Home Affairs and Austrac continued.

The submission also said both government entities have “actively participated” in the development of international standards that relate to Virtual Asset Service Providers — which are similar to digital currency exchange providers in the Australian context — through its membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

As explained in their submission, the FATF is an intergovernmental organisation that sets international standards to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation.

See also: Home Affairs considers blockchain for Australia’s trade supply chain visibility

Australia is a founding member of the FATF.

“Following the new international standards being adopted, the portfolio is also part of a FATF sub-group that is working hand-in-hand with industry to ensure that the new obligations can be effectively implemented,” they wrote.

“Since 2016, the FATF has engaged in constructive dialogue with the fintech and regtech sectors, with the overall objective of supporting innovation in financial services, whilst addressing the regulatory and supervisory challenges posed by emerging technologies.”

According to Home Affairs and Austrac, one of the FATF’s current products being developed in the fintech space is guidance that they expect will help governments, financial institutions, and other relevant entities apply a “risk-based approach to the use of digital identity for CDD purposes”.

The Australian government last week launched a Blockchain Roadmap which focuses on the opportunities across the economy that can be seized and enabled by the use of blockchain technology.

The roadmap was pursued despite the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) giving advice over a year ago to those getting lost in the buzz of blockchain that they should turn their attention elsewhere.

DTA chief digital officer Peter Alexander also dunked on its use, adding to the above that “for every use of blockchain you would consider today, there is a better technology — alternate databases, secure connections, standardised API engagement”.

“Blockchain: Interesting technology but early on in its development, it’s kind of at the top of a hype cycle,” he said.

The government entity has even published a questionnaire for organisations to self-evaluate before bothering with something that can just be stored in a secure database.

SEE ALSO

310 digital currency exchanges registered with Austrac

They occurred after the watchdog got the green light in December 2017 to extend anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulation to digital currency exchanges.

Austrac trialling blockchain to automate funds transfer instructions

The proof of concept is testing the feasibility of using blockchain to help entities such as banks, remitters, and casinos, automate international fund transfer instructions reporting.

Australia to ban cash payments over AU$10,000 in the name of thwarting crime

The law making it illegal to make or accept cash payments over AU$10,000 was meant to come into force on January 1, but the Bill is still being probed by a Senate committee.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/home-affairs-and-austrac-think-blockchain-can-reduce-compliance-costs/

Blockchain

CoinMarketCap CEO Hosts ‘Live’ AMA on Twitter — With No Video

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Crypto data site CoinMarketCap hosted a “live” ask me anything, or AMA, session on Twitter with company CEO and founder Brandon Chez — but the session only included Chez on Twitter standby posting comments, not on video. 

“I do value my privacy, but [am] not completely opposed to trying more of a live format in the future,” Chez said in a tweet when asked if the AMA format was for anonymity or privacy purposes. “We’ll see how this AMA goes,” he added. 

Chez appears quite private

The AMA’s format lines up with Chez’s reputation as someone who prefers to lay low, labeled as CoinMarketCap’s “mysterious” founder in a recent blog post from the company.

Many references and profiles for Chez on various sites also include no pictures of the CoinMarketCap, or CMC, founder. Chez ranks 25th in Cointelegraph’s top 100 most influential people in crypto and blockchain. 

The founder answers the public’s questions

As one of the largest crypto data sites in the industry, it makes sense that CMC would be a target for hackers. The company has not faced much in this department though, according to Chez. 

“CMC been DDoS’d several times in the early days but I’m happy to say that we’ve never been hacked,” Chez said, referring to distributed denial-of-service attacks — a type of attack which leaves users without website or network access.

A Twitter user also brought up the topic of fake volume numbers on CMC, as research data revealed in 2019. “We’ve released a new metric to give a more accurate picture of activity on exchanges,” Chez said, pointing to a blog post with further information. 

As for how Chez got into crypto, the CMC founder noted he stumbled on an article about Bitcoin in 2011 when the asset hit $1, and has been involved since then. 

Several months ago, Cointelegraph also reported on CMC adding a liquidity metric to its data sets. 

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/coinmarketcap-ceo-hosts-live-ama-on-twitter-with-no-video

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Brazil’s PIX Payments System Has the Same Spirit, but Not a Blockchain Structure

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The Central Bank of Brazil made some waves last week with its new instant payment system. While not blockchain-based, the new system, dubbed PIX, nevertheless is imbued with some of blockchain’s core attributes.

Money transfers have historically been slow, cumbersome and expensive. For example, Bank A takes its fee when a payment is sent and Bank B also charges its fee when the payment is received. More intermediaries mean additional fees and sometimes more delays.

But now the Brazilian central bank, or BCB, wants to cut out those intermediaries. The central bank will enable peer-to-peer and business-to-business transactions in 10 seconds or less via mobile phone, internet banking or select ATMs beginning in November 2020. “Transfers take place directly from the paying user’s account to the receiving user’s account, without the need for intermediaries, which leads to lower transaction costs,” the central bank said.

When implemented, a number of Brazilan banks could take a hit to their income from fees. Point-of-sale machines and payment processing firms could become scarce. “There is no need to have a POS machine,” the BCB noted.

The BCB had reportedly been feeling some heat from cryptocurrencies like XRP and their promises of low-priced, quick, transparent and secure payment instruments, which spurred the move.

“Trillions can be saved”

Dirk Andreas Zetzsche, a professor of financial law at the University of Luxembourg, told Cointelegraph that “instant payment is important since it makes expensive security margins for payment delays unnecessary. These are trillions of USD/EUR that can be saved.”

“Others have tried instant payment systems,” he continued. For example, the 28 countries of the European Union as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco and San Marino are able to use the instant credit transfer system known as the Single Euro Payments Area, or SEPA, which promises payments across its network in less than 10 seconds.

One key difference between SEPA and the BCB’s system, however, is that PIX is mandatory for large Brazilian institutions. SEPA, by comparison, is optional, as European banks can elect to participate. According to Brazil’s central bank:

“It is mandatory for all financial institutions and payment institutions licensed by the BCB, with more than 500,000 active customer accounts — including checking and savings accounts, as well as prepaid payment accounts to participate.”

This larger group includes about 20 institutions. Smaller nonfinancial businesses would most likely partake as indirect participants, meaning their transactions will be settled through a direct participant such as a bank. But all Brazilian businesses are welcome to connect to the system, directly or indirectly, and reap the benefits of instant payments, the BCB said.

Payers can initiate payments in at least three different ways: first, through the use of keys or account nicknames such as a cell phone number, Brazilian ID numbers (i.e., CPF or CNPJ), or an email address; secondly, through a QR code (static or dynamic); or thirdly, via technologies that allow the exchange of information by proximity, such as NFC technology.

Crypto exchanges gain access

More crypto firms — including exchanges — expect to now gain access to Brazil’s National Financial System, and Brazil’s crypto community reacted positively to the news of PIX. Reinaldo Rabelo, the CEO of Mercado Bitcoin exchange, told Cointelegraph, “The Bitcoin market follows with great interest and appreciation the movements of the Central Bank of Brazil in relation to instant payment.” Furthermore, Carlos Eduardo de Andrade Brandt Silva, a deputy governor of the BCB, said in a statement to the Cointelegraph:

“There will be no restrictions for entities not regulated by the Central Bank of Brazil, including exchanges of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.”

Rocelo Lopes, CEO of fintech firm Stratum, who has lobbied for greater access for crypto firms to the National Financial System, also found much to approve of:

“PIX will give more freedom to cryptocurrency exchanges that operate in Brazil and will deliver more freedom to users. The entire Bitcoin ecosystem is the big winner of this initiative. Through PIX, for example, it will be possible to transfer money from one exchange to another in real time with a QR code.”

Before, Lopes explained, if he were to see an arbitrage opportunity, he would need to file a bank withdrawal request, wait for confirmation, send the funds to the transacting company’s bank, wait for the funds to arrive and be confirmed, and finally purchase the new position. He will now be able to do this directly in two seconds, he told Cointelegraph, adding:

“The winner is the entire market — including fintechs in other sectors. This will inaugurate a new Bitcoin market in Brazil and, I believe that PIX also clears the way for the central bank to issue its own CBDC [i.e., a central bank digital currency].”

Why not blockchain?

As noted, this is not a blockchain-based system. It makes use of a centralized database, owned and operated by the central bank of Brazil. Asked why the BCB may have steered clear of distributed ledger technology for the new system, law professor Zetzsche told Cointelegraph:

“A DLT takes a while until all ledgers have been updated. In the BTC universe, it is 15 minutes. That would be longer and more costly than what exists in the SEPA. I think the instant payment system that you find in Brazil and in many other countries across the world are heading in the same direction.”

Ross Buckley, a law professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, told Cointelegraph that distributed ledger systems are most useful if there is a trust problem, adding that, “It would be an odd central bank that had a trust problem. Also distributed ledgers are not as fast usually as centralized ledgers.”

Nonetheless, the BCB has been studying DLT for several years. In 2017, for instance, the central bank published a positioning report titled “Distributed Ledger Technical Research in Central Bank of Brazil,” in which it noted:

“A blockchain may be fully trusted to have been recorded by a verifiable entity (i.e. one which possesses the respective private keys) and untainted by anyone else. Thus, another benefit of this technology is the creation of a permanent, trusted record of assets and transactions.”

According to Cointelegraph Brasil, the BCB initially considered blockchain technology for the system but opted in the end to use ICP Brasil Digital Certificate, the Brazilian public key infrastructure that is already used in the National Payment System and does not use DLT.

Still, even if the payments system is not DLT-based, it appears to share some blockchain-like qualities, such as the way it disintermediates traditional banks and payment firms and allows for peer-to-peer and business-to-business transactions 24/7, 365 days a year.

It’s also potentially disruptive, as BCB President Roberto Campos Neto declared that by reducing operating and money transfer costs, the new system can help wean people from physical money — something that “generates a great cost for society.”

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/brazils-pix-payments-system-has-the-same-spirit-but-not-a-blockchain-structure

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Malta Regulator Clarifies Legal Status of Binance

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In a recent interview, a Malta parliamentarian has sought to clarify the legal status of top cryptocurrency exchange Binance within the island country.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Malta’s Junior Minister for Financial Services and Digital Economy, Bartolo Clayton, reaffirmed that Binance has never been licensed in the jurisdiction:

“As informed by the Malta Financial Services Authority, which is an autonomous body not a state entity, until the time of writing, Binance has never been in possession of an official license by MFSA. Such statement has been further corroborated by Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, on his personal Twitter account where he also stated that Malta has not changed its position.”

The minister also sought to dispel notions that Malta has retreated from its permissive stance toward business operating with cryptocurrencies:

“This therefore DOES NOT mean that the Government has in some way or another introduced a harsher or more stringent stance towards cryptos, but merely an authority stating facts. On the contrary, the Government of Malta is committed to consolidate blockchain together with other niche sectors. It is the Maltese government’s belief that we believe that more synergies between these emerging sectors should be explored and encouraged in order to reap and exploit their benefits. Moreover, the Government of Malta is opting for an overarching and holistic strategy for the Digital, Financial and Innovative services in Malta. More details about the new strategy will be disclosed in the coming months.”

CZ addresses “truth FUD and misconception” surrounding Binance and Malta

Clayton’s remarks follow from a public statement published by Malta’s financial watchdog, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), on Feb. 21 stating that “Binance is not authorised by the MFSA to operate in the crypto currency sphere and is therefore not subject to regulatory oversight by the MFSA.”

The next day, Binance’s CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) took to Twitter to address concerns expressed by the cryptocurrency community. CZ described the announcement as “old news,” adding that Binance “has a number of regulated entities around the world, either operated by our partners or by Binance.com directly.”

“Binance.com has always operated in a decentralized manner as we reach out to our users across more than 180 nations worldwide. As well as pushing the envelope in experimenting how to become a true DAO (decentralized autonomous organization).”

According to Malta Today, Binance is registered in the Cayman Islands.

Binance moves to regulate STOs

On Feb. 25, the MFSA published its responses to feedback received from industry stakeholders regarding the draft guidelines for security token offerings (STOs) that it circulated last July.

Respondents disagreed with the regulator’s proposal to categorize security offerings different if they issue tokenized assets, arguing that a tokenized security meets the definition of a transferable security under European law.

The interview with Bartolo Clayton was conducted by Stephen O’Neil.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/malta-regulator-clarifies-legal-status-of-binance

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