Department Store Chain in Venezuela Integrates Pundi X Point-of-Sale

Traki, the largest department store in Venezuela, has announced a partnership with Singapore-based Pundi X to integrate blockchain-based cash registers in its 49 retail outlets.

According to a press release published on August 22nd, the giant retail store will integrate Pundi X’s point-of-sale device – XPOS – to offer customers a new method of payment in ten cryptocurrencies and tokens.

The XPOS payments systems will support cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Binance coin (BNB), DAI stablecoin, Digix gold token (DGX), NEM (XEM), KuCoin Shares (KCS), Kyber Network (KNC), and Pundi X’s own two tokens – NPXS and NPXSXEM.

Whilst sharing more details about the new partnership, co-founder and CEO of Pundi X Zac Cheah stated:

“Traki has been one of the early adopters of cryptocurrencies in Venezuela, which highlights its commitment to improve the traditional financial system. We hope the XPOS further expands the crypto use cases that customers have come to expect from Traki.”

He further added:

“We made the XPOS with the mission of creating real-life use cases for blockchain technology, and this couldn’t be better represented than Traki shoppers paying for their daily needs with cryptocurrency.”

Founded in 2017, Pundi X is a developer of blockchain-powered devices, which includes the XPOS and blockchain phone called BOB powered by Function X. The XPOS solution has been present in over 25 markets including Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Korea, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan and the USA. The company aims to roll out 100,000 XPOS devices across the globe by 2021.

Following this partnership, Traki is now a part of Pundi X’s global payment ecosystem, which currently has nearly 300,000 users of XWallet, its mobile crypto wallet, and holders of XPASS – its physical transaction card for crypto payments. According to the press release, out of Pundi’s 300,000 wallet users approximately one-tenth are based in Venezuela.

Chief of Crypto Assets Department at Traki Michael Gomez stated that this new partnership will strengthen and establish its goal to make digital currency as easy and convenient to use as fiat in stores.

“At Traki, we aspire to offer the most convenient options for our customers, and cryptocurrency has proven to be an effective payment solution,” Gomez said.

Meanwhile, a long period of hyperinflation and a lack of liquidity in markets has caused the currency to be severely devalued. Pundi X believes digital currency to be a necessary form of commercial trade, and a perfect way to protect the value of liquid assets.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has attempted to create the Petro, a nationally-backed cryptocurrency, as a way to save the Venezuela economy. Maduro recently ordered banks and state-owned companies to use the token, however many still remain skeptic about the project’s legitimacy.

US Agency Blacklists Several Cryptocurrency Addresses Under the Kingpin Act

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued an advisory to alert financial institutions of drug trafficking financial schemes. The agency sanctioned three Chinese nationals and their cryptocurrency addresses, alleging they manufactured and distributed “synthetic opioids or their precursor chemicals.”

According to an updated Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list on August 21st, the US Treasury has added multiple cryptocurrency addresses under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, also known as the Kingpin Act. These addresses as well as the individuals associated with them, have been deemed to be associated with foreign narcotics operators.

Respectively, the three alleged narcotic operators associated with these addresses are Chinese citizens Xiaobing Yan, Fujing Zheng and Guanghua Zheng. The Chinese nationals all have associated Bitcoin (BTC) addresses mentioned on the SDN list. Guanghua Zheng has in addition to that a Litecoin (LTC) address.

According to OFAC, the individuals are known to be significant foreign narcotics traffickers, who laundered part of their drug proceeds in BTC, sending these proceeds in and out of banks in China and Hong Kong.

In addition to naming the three individuals, OFAC listed Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Technology Co. Ltd. and the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organization in Wednesday’s update.

Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence stated:

“The Chinese kingpins that OFAC designated today run an international drug trafficking operation that manufactures and sells lethal narcotics, directly contributing to the crisis of opioid addiction, overdoses, and death in the United States.  Zheng and Yan have shipped hundreds of packages of synthetic opioids to the U.S., targeting customers through online advertising and sales, and using commercial mail carriers to smuggle their drugs into the United States.”

Mandelkar further stated that the agency has coordinated with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as well as other local law enforcement agencies.

Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, the agency has taken measures against the three Chinese national by freezing any property they own within the U.S. and listing a number of email aliases, citizen numbers and passport information belonging to them.

Following the law, individuals who violate the Kingpin Act might face civil penalties of a $1.1 million fine per violation, in addition to possible criminal penalties of a $5 million fine and up to 30 years in prison.

This marks the second time that the US Treasury has sanctioned cryptocurrency addresses. In November 2018, the department blacklisted two bitcoin addresses associated with an Iranian ransomware scheme.

SEC Serves Cease and Desist Order to Russian ICO Rating Website

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has fined and settled charges against Russian analytics website ICO Rating in the amount of $268,998 for failure to disclose payments it received to publicize digital asset offerings of issuers it had rated, according to an announcement.

In the announcement, the US Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed that it had charged ICO Rating for violating anti-touting provisions for projects rated from December 2017 to July 2018.

Particularly, the regulator claimed that ICO Rating violated the anti-touting provisions of Section 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933 by failing to disclose payments it received from initial coin offering (ICO) issuers it rated and published on its platform.

According to the press release, ICO Rating featured ratings of tokens that the regulator deemed to be securities on its website as well as across social media. Such as projects rated by ICO Rating during that time raised funds through particular initial coin offerings (ICOs), proper disclosures should have been made to potential investors.

Associate Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division Mellisa Hodgman explained:

“The securities laws require promoters, including both people and entities, to disclose compensation they receive for touting investments so that potential investors are aware they are viewing a paid promotional item. […] This requirement applies regardless of whether the securities being touted are issued using traditional certificates or on the blockchain.”

Neither admitting nor denying the SEC’s findings, the Russian-based company has agreed to cease and desist from committing any future violations of these provisions. Consequently, it paid disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $106,998 and a civil penalty of $162,000, which rounds to a total of $268,998 in damages.

Meanwhile, August has proven to be a busy month for the regulatory agency. Just last week, the SEC charged New England-based SimplyVital Health for failing to register a $6.3 million Ether (ETH) pre-sale of its HLTH tokens. Without confirming or denying the allegations that it violated certain aspects of the Securities Act of 1933, the healthcare agency agreed to a cease-and-desist order imposed by the regulator.

Earlier in August, it has also been reported that the SEC reached a $7 million dollar settlement against two other ICO-based projects – PlexCorps and Reggie Middleton of Veritaseum – over an allegedly fraudulent ICO.

Deloitte Launches Blockchain-In-A-Box Platform

Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” auditing and consulting firms, has announced the launch of a new mobile blockchain-based platform designed to help businesses showcase their blockchain solutions to clients.

According to a press release, the consulting giant has revealed the launch of the Blockchain in a Box (BIAB) platform – the mobile, self-contained technology platform which has been designed to provide intuitive, tangible blockchain demonstrations and experimentations.

The new platform is designed to host blockchain-based solutions across four small-form-factor compute nodes and three video displays, which can be linked to external services such as traditional cloud technologies and storage.

Secure Digital (SD) cards can be used with each of the compute nodes to allow companies to quickly demonstrate and share demo solutions tailored to specific client needs. The approach provides developers with a tool for creating and sharing dapps with a minimal amount of hardware.

Linda Pawczuk, principal at Deloitte Consulting and U.S. blockchain lead, has commented on the product launch and stated that the solution has been developed in response to growing client interest in understanding blockchain capabilities in live interactions.

She further added:

“What’s often misunderstood about blockchain is that it is an entirety of a technology solution – when in reality, it’s a technology component that enables larger business applications and approaches. Our mobile demonstration is practical, tactical and most importantly, tangible to clients.”

The company revealed that the solution has already been showcased to a number of clients as well as the broader blockchain and emerging technology community at multiple conferences, including Consensus 2019.

Chih-Wei Yi, principal at Deloitte & Touche, said that “each time we have used the BIAB to facilitate exploration, the reaction is that of curiosity and excitement where the audience leaves with a deeper understanding of blockchain and how the use cases are implemented.”

In May, the consulting giant released its 2019 Global Blockchain Survey, which found that businesses still struggle with where to get started when it comes to developing proofs-of-concept that capitalize on the unique features of distributed ledger technology.

According to the survey, only 23% of the firms polled deployed a blockchain component to their businesses in 2019, compared to 34% the previous year. However, 53% of those polled agreed that blockchain will be critically important to their organization—a 10% rise over the previous year.

Meanwhile, Deloitte has been investing in blockchain over the past year, and the company’s efforts can be seen with a number of partnerships. Most recently, Deloitte has joined hands with IDEO CoLab, Amazon, Fidelity and several other corporations to develop a blockchain targeted business accelerator called Startup Studio.

The program will provide workshops to blockchain startups to help them strengthen a variety of skills, including product design, law and engineering, smart contract development, and finance and hiring, amongst others.

In addition to that, in May Deloitte partnered with three Irish banks develop a blockchain credentialing platform. The project aims to enable banks to have a single view of all their employees’ qualifications and learning where the employees keep control of the data in their own software wallets. The company developed the Ethereum-based tool using its dedicated EMEA Blockchain Lab.

Binance Reveals Plans to Launch a Libra-like Cryptocurrency

Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange platform in the world, has announced it is launching an open blockchain project “Venus” naming it an “independent regional version of Libra,” with the goal to develop localized stablecoins all across the globe.

According to an announcement published on August 19th, Venus is an open blockchain project to develop “localized” stablecoins and digital assets pegged to fiat currencies. It is further added that the exchange will leverage its existing infrastructure and experience with various regulatory regimes to reinforce a compliance risk control system and build a multi-dimensional cooperation network for the Venus project.

As Venus is an open blockchain project, Binance is currently seeking partners amongst governments, corporations and tech firms to create a new currency ecosystem that will “empower developed and developing countries to spur new currencies.”
The exchange stated that it “welcomes additional government partners, companies and organizations with a strong interest and influence on a global scale to collaborate with us to build a new open alliance and sustainable community.”

Notably, it appears that the exchange plans to use its Binance Chain to launch these stablecoins. Binance Chain has already issued several native asset-pegged stablecoins, including a Bitcoin (BTC)-pegged stablecoin (BTCB) and the Binance BGBP Stable Coin (BGBP) pegged to the British Pound.

Unlike the Facebook’s Libra, Binance will be encouraging collaborators to build directly on its proprietary chain – Binance Chain, which uses a “distributed proof of stake” consensus model, with transactions validated by a handful of entities close and “affiliated” with the exchange.

Meanwhile, the exchange stated it is well-positioned to launch such a currency ecosystem due to its existing public chain technology – Binance Chain – as well as its wide user base and already established global compliance measures.
Binance co-founder Yi He said:

We believe that in the near and long term, stablecoins will progressively replace traditional fiat currencies in countries around the world, and bring a new and balanced standard of the digital economy.”

Yi He further added that the exchange hopes to break the “financial hegemony” and reshape the world’s financial system, including allowing countries to have more tangible financial services and infrastructures, and protecting their financial security and increase the economic efficiency of countries.

The announcement follows as major companies including Facebook and Walmart have recently revealed plans to launch their own stablecoins.

Likewise, Facebook’s cryptocurrency project, Libra, has a similar structure, which intends to serve the unbanked and facilitate low-fee money transfers across the globe. Libra is expected to launch sometime next year.

Earlier this month, it has been reported that retail giant Walmart could also be working on issuing a USD-pegged stablecoin, similar to Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency.