Swiss Crypto Bank Sygnum Receives License in Singapore

Swiss-based cryptocurrency bank Sygnum has been granted capital markets services (CMS) license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), allowing it to provide digital asset investment strategies to accredited and institutional investors in Singapore. Prior to this, Sygnum was the first bank to get a banking license from Swiss regulators back in August.

Announced through a blog post on Thursday, Sygnum announced that it had been granted a capital markets services (CMS) license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and given the green light to provide a range of digital asset management services including Bitcoin (BTC), digitized shares and various other financial products to institutional investors and qualified private investors in Singapore.

Stefan Mueller – Sygnum’s Head of Asset Management – stated in the press release:

“The CMS license is an important milestone for establishing our asset management arm, leveraging the vibrant financial environment in Singapore. This is complementary to our banking services in Switzerland and will also benefit our Swiss institutional and private qualified investor clients.”

According to the press release, the first product that the crypto-bank would be offering to Singaporean investors is the multi-manager fund which allocates investments across a portfolio of managers who tap into different and uncorrelated investment strategies for different digital assets. The same product will be launched in Switzerland later this year.

Notably, Mueller stated that he believed that the bank’s multi-manager product approach was a compelling way for professional investors to gain exposure to this emerging new asset class.

 “We want to help our clients construct broader, diversified portfolios with reduced risk and institutional-grade trust,” he further added.

The Swiss bank further noted that the CMS was received by the Singapore-registered entity of the bank and cannot be overlapped with its Swiss entity.

Meanwhile, Singapore has retained its position as a friendly environment for cryptocurrency as well blockchain technology. In addition to that, both Switzerland and Singapore share close financial ties, especially in the emerging Fintech industry and digital assets where much of Swiss-led private banking has made its way to Singapore.

Now with licensing in two financial hubs – Switzerland and Singapore – the company is strengthening its team as well as its ties to each other.

Mathias Imbach – Sygnum’s Co-Founder and CEO of its Singapore oentity – has stated upon the recent acquisition of a CMS license, saying:

“Our dual location – in Singapore and Switzerland – is one of the cornerstones of our strategy. This is reflected across team, advisory council, board of directors as well as investor base. All have been instrumental in our achievements so far across both countries.”

Sygnum is also planning to expand its services to other markets as well, with a high demand for digital assets and management services in regions like Hong Kong, Britain, Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Portugal, and the Netherlands.

China’s Central Bank Will Start Certifying Blockchain Platforms

The People’s Bank of China – the country’s central bank – has announced the launch of a new process for certifying blockchain platforms.

The new verification system, named the ‘Certification of Fintech Products’,  will certify 11 types of financial technology hardware and software that are widely used for digital payment and blockchain services.

On October 26th, the central bank released the first list which includes fintech products that could be used in both front-end and bank-end development for digital payment services. Currently, the new certification system covers all the products that could be involved in digital payment technologies, including point-of-sale mobile terminals, embedded application software, user front-end software, as well as security carriers and chips.

Notably, a specific fintech item included on the list of 11 products is trusted execution environment (TEE), which is a technology that can assist in the establishment of a “consortium blockchain network and verifying blockchain transactions in financial transactions use cases,” according to the filing.

For reference, giant tech company Microsoft filed for two patents in August 2018 to use similar type of technologies with the goal to improve the security and capacity of its blockchain services offerings.

Furthermore, blockchain platforms will be granted a Certification of Fintech Product (CFP) by the central bank only if their products meet the required checks to pass such as prototype examination and on-site checks. In addition to that, the certificate will be reviewed and renewed every three years.

Respectively, during the three year period, the authorities in charge will conduct random inspections on any step of the production process to ensure compliance. Additionally, institutions will be allowed to stamp the certifications on their logo. However, it is not allowed to use the certification as a means to directly promote products or for advertising itself.

The news follows China’s recent praise of blockchain and cryptocurrencies as a whole, with the President Xi Jinping urging the country to accelerate blockchain adoption, noting that it can and will be a big part of any upcoming technical revolutions.

 “[Blockchain will play] an important role in the next round of technological innovation and industrial transformation. Greater effort should be made to strengthen basic research and boost innovation capacity to help China gain an edge in the theoretical, innovative, and industrial aspects of this emerging field,” stated President Xi Jinping.

The central bank is currently working on developing the country’s own digital currency, which will launch soon. The bank forsees the national digital currency boosting the digital payment industry, touting its own coin’s security features and off-line transaction ability as superior to commercial products offered by China’s Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Bitmain Co-Founder Ousted in Internal Power Struggle

Bitmain co-founder and executive director Micree Ketuan Zhan has reportedly been forced out of the company in a power struggle with business partner Jihan Wu.

Bitmain’s co-founder Wu Jihan announced on Tuesday the resignation of his partner, a move which comes as a surprise to outsiders. The change appears to be the consequence of a power struggle within the largest crypto mining company in the world.

Zhan, who is considered one of the wealthiest cryptocurrency billionaire, was the largest Bitmain shareholder with 36% ownership. Since the company’s delayed IPO this is the second major shakeup at the executive level.

According to Wu’s memo Micree Zhan Ketuan, who started Bitmain alongside Wu six years ago, no longer holds any position at the company, effective immediately.

Jihan Wu also warned employees against taking further instructions from Zhan or attending any meetings, threatening staff with dismissal or criminal charges.

“If employees cause any harm to the company’s economic interests, the company will investigate their civil or criminal liability in accordance with the law,” Wu wrote in the memo, signing off as Bitmain’s co-founder and chairman.

Bitmain’s two co-founders had long served as co-CEOs but were replaced this year by Wang Haichao, in an attempt to reinvigorate the company after the crushing bear market for the cryptocurrency industry as a whole.

The unexpected memo from Wu is sure to stoke more questions around the world’s largest producer of crypto mining rigs, which had previously failed to get listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Bitmain had high ambitions during the filing process, netting a valuation around US$15 billion in a private funding round last year. With the downward pressure on Bitcoin’s price and the uncertain regulatory environment, the IPO failed as the cryptocurrency industry was deemed too risky.

The mining giant also considered a US debut, long before rival Canaan Inc filed for its own American US initial public offering.

It’s yet unclear how Bitmain’s board made the decision and whether Zhan was bought out of his shares. As of September last year when Bitmain filed the IPO application, Zhan was still a major shareholder of Bitmain with 36 percent of Bitmain’s holding company while Wu owned 20 percent.

Crypto Capital Executive Indicted in NY Court

Crypto Capital executive Oz Yosef has been indicted on three criminal counts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.

Citing court documents from October 23rd, Oz Yosef has been indicted by the U.S. authorities on three criminal counts, which are conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.

It appears that the filing confirmed allegations from cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, which has recently claimed to have been a victim of fraud regarding Crypto Capital — its former payments processor. Bitfinex has issued a statement on the matter, saying that it was not involved in money laundering and that it has been lied to by Crypto Capital representatives including its former president and Oz Yosef.

Accordingly, Crypto Capital spread the firm’s funds across multiple bank accounts in several countries, making it difficult to access. The crypto exchange further added that Crypto Capital provided false reassurances regarding its reputation, expertise and operations, which lead to the disappearance of $880 million.

Bitfinex presented itself as the victim of Crypto Capital following the latter’s president arrest by Polish authorities due to money laundering scandals involving the Columbian Cartel. On Thursday, Crypto Capital president Ivan Manuel Molina Lee was extradited by Polish authorities on charges of money laundering, subsequently charged with laundering 1.5 billion zloty ($390 million).

Upon Lee’s arrest, Stuart Hoegner – Bitfinex’s general counsel – released a statement last Friday, on behalf of the exchange, maintaining its claim to be a victim of fraud and will pursue the company in retrieving its lost funds.

Following investigations conducted over this past spring by multiple international authorities, including U.S. authorities, Crypto Capital’s funds have been frozen, out of which $880 million belonged to crypto exchange Bitfinex.

Meanwhile, there have been doubts circulating about both the company’s heads stem from the losses of the $880 million. Previous reports revealed that Tether – a cryptocurrency governed by Bitfinex – had previously stated that the lost funds weren’t actually lost but had been “seized and safeguarded.”

The lost funds triggered an investigation by the New York Attorney’s Office into the relationship between Bitfinex and sister firm Tether. The New York General Attorney has been investigating this case since last year and found damning messages exchanged between a senior Bitfinex executive and a representative of Crypto Capital.

The exchanged messages were centered around the $880 million funds, with the Bitfinex exec urging Crypto Capital to release the money but was told it was seized by the U.S. and Polish authorities. Bitfinex didn’t buy the excuse and said that it fears that Crypto Capital is engaged in fraud, speculation that ultimately landed Lee behind bars.

China President Calls for Blockchain Development Acceleration

Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China held a study session on blockchain technology on Thursday, October 24th.

The President spoke as part of the 18th collective study of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee on Thursday in Beijing, stating that blockchain technology has a wide range of applications within China such as financing businesses to mass transit as well as diminishing poverty.

The meeting, that took place on Thursday, is part of a workshop series held regularly by the Central Committee and was aimed at studying the current state and future development of blockchain technology. Presumably, it is the first time the party’s central committee collectively studied blockchain.

During the meeting, Xi Jinping stressed that the country’s communist party should regard blockchain as a core technology for important innovative breakthroughs and should commit to accelerating the development of the technology and subsequently aim at taking the leading position in the emerging industry.

In addition to that, China needs to accelerate the standardization of blockchain research, which will, in turn, give the country more power in setting rules and standards internationally.

 “We must take blockchain as an important breakthrough for independent innovation of core technologies, clarify the main directions, increase investment, focus on a number of key technologies, and accelerate the development of blockchain and industrial innovation.”

He further noted that it would be “necessary to implement the rule of law network” into existing and future blockchain systems. On that note, the President argued for a top-down approach concerning implementation, calling for guidance and regulation. Xi said testing of the tech should be widespread, including the investments in training platforms and “innovation teams” before implementation.

His remarks also alluded to creating a platform – Blockchain+ – which would aid personal development such as education, employment and food and medicinal safety, among other basic needs.

Meanwhile, Xi’s push for blockchain adoption comes against China’s long-standing aversion to cryptocurrencies. Since a 2017 decision by the People’s Bank of China, cryptocurrencies are banned in the country, quickly followed by exchanges.

However, the central bank is currently working on developing its digital renminbi, which will launch soon and accordingly might “re-wire [much of the world].”