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Two Mail Bombs Explode in Bitcoin Scheme Rocking The Netherlands



Dutch police are investigating two letter bombs that exploded on Wednesday. The first explosion occurred at a bank and the other at an electronics store. Investigators suspect the incidents are related because each bomb was accompanied by a letter demanding an undisclosed amount of Bitcoin (BTC).

One bomb was sent to an ABN Amro bank mail-sorting facility at 24 Bolstoen Street in Amsterdam. A mailroom clerk who was handling the package heard a hissing sound and promptly tossed the package aside, triggering the explosion.

Police say that minutes later another package exploded at the Japanese electronics firm Ricoh, located 140 miles away in the town of Kerkrade near the German border.

No injuries were reported in either incident and the explosions were characterized as “small fireworks”.

The blasts are the latest in a spate of mail bombs targeting hotels, mail sorting centers and other businesses in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht since early January.

The extortion letters are reportedly demanding Bitcoin to prevent more attacks. According to Lex van Liebergen, an Amsterdam police spokeswoman,

“It’s fair to say that all of these are connected because the same demand was made. But we still don’t know who sent it. We are still investigating.”

According to a report by NLTimes, the police are not disclosing the amount of BTC demanded or any details indicating a blockchain wallet or method of payment so that the information may be used against an eventual suspect. According to an official statement,

“The police strongly take it into account that the letter found on Wednesday morning [in Amsterdam] fits in with the series of letter bombs previously sent and found at various locations in the country. The letter in Kerkrade this morning is also part of the investigation.”

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A TON of Challenges: Resistance Is Nothing New to Pavel Durov



2019 was one hell of a year for Pavel Durov.

The serial entrepreneur announced and made moves to release the Telegram Open Network, or TON — the blockchain associated with his Telegram messaging app. The idea of TON is to allow users to go beyond simply sending messages and emojis to each other, by using the app’s underlying infrastructure to transact a cryptocurrency called Gram in a completely trustless and secure manner.

But the United States Securities and Exchange Commission had other plans for the launch of Telegram’s new blockchain product, filing an emergency restraining order in October in an effort to halt the initial coin offering after it raised $1.7 billion in an unregistered sale.

“Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold,” said SEC Division of Enforcement co-director Stephanie Avakian at the time. “We allege that the defendants have failed to provide investors with information regarding Grams and Telegram’s business operations, financial condition, risk factors, and management that the securities laws require.”

But it would appear that this wasn’t enough for Telegram to properly hit the brakes on its ICO — the SEC managed to dig up evidence that token sales continued after that. Now, Telegram joins large entities like Facebook who want to make meaningful plays in crypto but are being held back at the shirttail by regulators and enforcers. Telegram boasts some 200 million users around the world, and the TON blockchain would give them a token-enabled economy to participate in online. But the U.S. government considers this illegal.

Durov gave a deposition in Dubai on the matter in early January, a full transcript of which is available online. While his project seems to be suffering at the hands of regulators and other powers that be, this embattled state is just a reflection and callback to his earlier career at VK, the Facebook-like social network that took Russia and Eastern Europe by storm.

Durov is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to his native Russian government. When the Kremlin wanted access to VK user data to identify protestors in 2014, that was enough for him to sell his remaining stake in the company and flee the country. Durov and his brother had already launched Telegram in mid-2013, so they simply began focusing on that.

Telegram attracted controversy before there was ever any mention of it having an associated blockchain for payments and transacting. The app depends on encryption and highly secure technologies in order to prevent third parties from monitoring or blocking conversations. As such, it became a choice app for ISIS fighters and propagandists. The addition of a blockchain system didn’t really do the company any favors in the eyes of regulators and other authorities.

Sources suggest that TON has been ready for launch for some time. Fresh off the heels of a presale in March 2018, Durov and his brother indicated their preparedness to launch that autumn, but it so far isn’t happening. The SEC’s injunction against Telegram only doubles down on that delay. Purchase agreements for the Gram token sale stipulated that if the network failed to launch by October, token investors would be eligible for a refund following a vote. It’s been a year marked by bureaucracy and hindered progress for Durov.

Yes, TON is operational in private testing mode and reportedly exhibiting “extremely high transaction speeds,” but this is not where the company expected to be by now. Durov and team had designs to be operating a robust blockchain for a couple hundred million users by now. Instead, they are eyeballs-deep in regulatory muck, trying to clean it up so that they can move forward as planned.

We’ll see if they can extricate themselves from a legal puzzle created by an SEC that seems increasingly motivated to make an example out of TON. If anything, the resistance is probably more galvanizing to Durov than anything else. If 2019 was the year that all TON’s problems came crashing down, perhaps 2020 is the year that the project actually sees launch and successful operation. Durov got his entrepreneurial start in Russia, and has significant experience handling business pressure and hardship at the hands of the government there. TON’s present-day difficulties just seem like a slightly different version of that same drama from the past.

Durov exhibits certain mindfulness practices — he meditates, doesn’t eat meat, and keeps a consistently cool demeanor in public. These days, his difficulties are with financial regulators instead of Russian government leaders, and while he’ll show up to every meeting required of him, he’ll probably do it with a cool head and a soft voice. This founder knows too well what it’s like to operate a company facing resistance, so we don’t expect to see him hanging up any hats just yet.

Pavel Durov is ranked #4 in the first-ever Cointelegraph Top 100 in crypto and blockchain.


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Bitcoin Price Falls to $9.6K Amid Bloody Sunday for XRP, ETH, Altcoins



Bitcoin (BTC) price has fallen further dropping about $300 in less than one hour on Sunday, Feb. 16, though paring some losses since with a bounce from $9,600 to $9,790 at press time.

Crypto market 1-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Crypto market 1-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Bad weekend for Bitcoin price bulls

Most other cryptocurrencies fared much worse, however, as evidenced by Bitcoin’s market dominance rising one percent from yesterday to 63.2%.

The bad weekend for the bulls began on Saturday after losing the $10,000 level. Today, BTC/USD tumbled further and bounced off a key resistance level at around $9,600, which also happens to be the 20-day moving average or 20-MA.

So what’s next for Bitcoin? The $9,850 level need to be reclaimed, according to regular Cointelegraph Markets analyst filbfilb, in order to avoid dropping further to $9.4-$9.5K and $8.8K support areas.

BTC/USD 1-day chart. Source: Tradingview

BTC/USD 1-day chart. Source: Tradingview

Worth noting is that the weekend drop has left a so-called Bitcoin futures “gap” at $10,495, the price at which CME BTC futures trading closed on Friday. As Cointelegraph reported numerous times before, the phenomenon of these gaps being filled upon resumption of trading — typically within a few days — has not gone unnoticed.

Meanwhile, the Fear and Greed Index has dropped from 64 to 59, which still means that the market sentiment is currently “greed” and suggesting that the multi-week rally above $10,300 is due for a correction.

Altcoins red across the board

Bitcoin’s 40% gains year to date have seen many altcoins posting ever bigger gains. However, the opposite appears to also be true as the losses for altcoins tend to be bigger as well.

Ether (ETH) is down almost 6% in the past 24 hours, while EOS, XRP and Bitcoin SV (BSV) saw heavier losses with -9.13%, 7.83% and 11.93%, respectively. Tezos (XTZ) is down 5.8% and Tone (TRX) tumbled by almost 10%.

One notable exception, however, is Chainlink (LINK), one of the best performing cryptocurrencies in 2020. LINK has dropped slightly but has already recovered and now up 6% on the day, according to data from Coin360.

“Well, we get the retracement,” commented regular Cointelegraph Markets contributor  Michaël van de Poppe. He continued:

“Retracement is harsh on some of those altcoins, but it’s also providing opportunities. Doubt we’ll see $9,400 though.”

At press time, Bitcoin’s market dominance stands at 63.2% with the cryptocurrency market capitalization dropping over 2% on the day to $282 billion.

Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here


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Countries Buckle Up as FATF’s Travel Rule Deadline Approaches



The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published its travel rule last June, in which it proposed a means through which cryptocurrency exchanges and other asset custodians could operate while also staying in compliance with existing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. 

In that time, several countries have taken different paths towards regulating the crypto space concerning information control and user identity. 

When the FATF proposed the travel rule, it explained in an accompanying press release that it would be giving its member countries a maximum of a year to ensure full compliance and get their native crypto industries in line. Now that the deadline seems to be up, several countries have done their bit to adopt progressive rules concerning the agency’s requests.

Compliance is Strong in the U.S.

In the United States, the Bank Secrecy Act forms the basis of AML regulations. Financial institutions have complied with the regulation for decades, but in 2013, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) demanded that cryptocurrency companies should be made to ensure full compliance as well. The agency also enacted its BSA travel rule for crypto companies last year, issuing its guidelines to digital asset service providers. 

Earlier this week, Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, announced at a hearing with the Senate Committee on Financial Services that the FinCEN is also working on developing cryptocurrency laws. As he explained to the Committee, the agency has seen the rapid rise in crypto use, and while they recognize the fact that the technology is innovative, they would also work to ensure that these assets don’t end up being used like Swiss bank accounts. 

Uneven Compliance Across Europe

 The European Union is a bit of a different case. As an economic bloc, the Union has accepted that the cryptocurrency space needs to be effectively regulated, and it has adopted the FATF travel rule completely. Then, the stakes were even higher for crypto companies in the EU when the block adopted the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5). 

The AMLD5 isn’t as stringent as the FATF’s travel rule, but it does put some significant responsibilities on crypto firms in the EU. The most significant of these responsibilities has been about customer record-keeping, a decision that has led to the mass exodus of cryptocurrency firms in the region.

Regardless, the AMLD5 came into full effect on January 10, and several crypto companies in the EU have still committed to fighting it. There’s also the issue of the United Kingdom, which left the EU earlier this year. While it complied with the regulations up until its exit, there hasn’t been any word on whether that will continue.

 Countries On the Way to Compliance 

Switzerland, which is seen by many as the most crypto-friendly nation, also recently made amendments to its Payment Services Act to comply with the FATF’s rules. Last week, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority reduced the threshold for unidentified crypto exchanges from 5,000 CHF ($5,000) to 1,000 CHF ($1,000). It’s expected that other components of the Act could also be amended likewise. 

Singapore is also working on falling in line. In December, the Monetary Authority of Singapore confirmed that it “intends to amend the PS Act to fully align with the most recent enhancements to the FATF Standards.”


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