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.

Coinbase Switches Banks from Barclays to ClearBank in the UK

Barclays – the British multinational investment bank and financial services company – has reportedly ended their relationship with U.S. cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase.

According to industry sources, the London – based bank, is no longer providing banking services to Coinbase ending a relationship that started in March last year as the exchange expanded in Europe.

The news has caused unwarranted disruption, such as Coinbase users having reportedly been indirectly affected. The rare deal between the exchange and the bank gave its UK customers access to the Faster Payments Scheme (FPS) which allowed users to directly deposit and withdraw pounds into their exchange accounts.

However, the news of the split up has already slowed UK deposits and withdrawals, which now take days to process. The US exchange platform has already found a replacement UK banking partner in ClearBank.

ClearBank is one of the U.K. challenger banks that have come up on the radar in recent years to compete with market incumbents. ClearBank is expected to restore Coinbase’s FPS access by the end of the third quarter.

The reasons for the separation of Barclays and Coinbase are not clear. Currently, Barclays, ClearBank and Coinbase have all declined to comment on the matter.

However, one unnamed source claimed that the Barclays-Coinbase relationship was simply a pilot program that had run its course. The source further added that Barclays has probably held Coinbase back, preventing it from listing certain coins and tokens.

A CEO of a U.K. crypto company who chose to remain nameless has also voiced his opinion on the saying, citing:

“It is my understanding that Barclays’ risk appetite has contracted a little – I’m not sure exactly why or what’s been driving that, maybe there has been some activity they are not happy with. But it’s about Barclays’ comfort level with crypto as a whole.”

Coinbase first secured a bank account with Barclays in early 2018 and by August it already began rolling out support to let UK customers buy and sell cryptocurrency in Pounds sterling. The exchange had also been granted an e-money license by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), making it to be the first crypto platform to gain access to FPS.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Coinbase delisted Zcash – a privacy-centric cryptocurrency, which uses a technology called zero-knowledge proofs to hide details of transactions from blockchain watchers. According to sources, the decision was made in accordance with Clearbank’s wishes, as it was uncomfortable indirectly supporting a currency with features that make law enforcement’s job harder.

ClearBank is also working with FCA-regulated crypto broker BCB Group. Most recently, the broker announced a deal to bring Luxembourg-based exchange BitStamp onto Faster Payments for the sterling pound.

Although, Barclays has taken the decision to take less risks when it comes to crypto, the global bank still provides operational banking services to Blockchain, the U.K. wallet provider which recently announced plans to move into the exchange space with its super-fast PIT trading service.

Chinese Police Investigate EtherDelta for Potential Exit-Scam

Chinese police have reportedly initiated an investigation against non-custodial token trading platform EtherDelta after being suspected of participating in an exit scam.

EtherDelta is a DEX that was founded by Zachary Coburn and it is mainly a trading platform for Ethereum tokens (ERC-20). It enables users to trade digital assets by means of an order book and Ethereum blockchain-powered smart contracts.

On Wednesday, August 7th, Dovey Wan – a Founding Partner of blockchain-focused venture investment firm Primitive Ventures, reported in a series of tweets that Chinese police are investigating an alleged exit scam involving a token listed on decentralized exchange (DEX) EtherDelta.

Wan noted through a series of tweets that the alleged exit scam, involving the sale of native exchange asset EtherDelta Token (EDT), took place after EtherDelta had been acquired by unnamed Chinese investors.

“The actual beneficiaries of EtherDelta are all Chinese after ownership transition in 2017 […] Basically [the founder] Zack Coburn sold EtherDelta to a group of Chinese who later issued exchange token $EDT and turned out to be a exit scam. Now furious investors of $EDT whistle blowed to local police the case was recently taking into official investigation process.” 

Respectively, the police was informed by the “furious investors”. Wan further added that the Chinese police shows no mercy in instances when any crypto scam involved large amount of retail capital.

In addition to that, Wan also shared a snapshot of the ownership agreement signed between Coburn and the Chinese buyers. She further alluded that the new owners bought it with the intent to use it as a front to issue their initial coin offering (ICO).

Prior to this, the exchange platform had faced legal challenges when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed charges against EtherDelta founder Zachary Coburn for running a securities exchange without a license.

Almost all of the orders placed through EtherDelta’s platform were traded after the Commission issued its 2017 DAO Report, which concluded that certain digital assets, such as DAO tokens, were securities and that platforms that offered trading of these digital asset securities would be subject to the SEC’s requirement that exchanges register or operate pursuant to an exemption,” stated the regulator.

At that time Coburn neither admitted nor denied the charges, however consented to the order and agreed to pay $300,000 in unlawful profits plus $13,000 in prejudgment interest as well as a $75,000 penalty.

Earlier in May, crypto analytics startup Coinfirm found that over 500 of the Ether (ETH), which had been stolen from hacked New Zealand-based cryptocurrency exchange Cryptopia and were worth over $125,000 —  had been moved to EtherDelta.

UN Report Claims North Korea Implicated in Cryptocurrency Exchange Hacks

A confidential United Nations report claims that North Korea is using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal cryptocurrency and fiat currency in order to fund its weapons of mass destruction programs, Reuters says.

The confidential report, compiled by a group of independent experts and obtained by Reuters, was submitted last week to the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee. The report stated that North Korea had used hacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges, collecting roughly $2 billion, which was laundered over the web.

As the attacks are becoming harder to track, the group of experts is currently investigating at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency in 17 nations. According to the report, these cyber actors are operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau – North Korea’s top military intelligence agency.

The experts’ report notes that large-scale attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges by North Korea allow the country to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.

The report further notes that North Korea is using new techniques to earn hard currency for its illegal activities. Many of the entities, operating as ploys, “continued to operate overseas, including under diplomatic cover, attempting to transfer conventional weapons and expertise and to procure equipment and technology” to the country.

In addition to that, according to experts North Korea continues to have access to the global financial system, through bank representatives and networks operating worldwide due to failure to implement financial sanctions as well as due to Pyongyang’s deceptive practices.

Furthermore, North Korea has also continued to disregard sanctions using illegal ship-to-ship transfers of coal and refined petroleum products. The report claims to have identified new evasion techniques for such transfers including feeder vessels using Class B Automatic Identification Systems and multiple transfers using smaller vessels.

Prior to this, other reports have linked North Korea to major hacks at crypto exchanges such as the massive hack of Japan’s Coincheck exchange platform, which resulted in a theft of more than $500 million worth in cryptocurrency.

Most recently, it has been suggested that North Korean hackers have been targeting users of the UPbit exchange with phishing email campaign.

Upon being asked about the report, an U.S. State Department spokeswoman voiced her opinion on the matter:

“We call upon all responsible states to take action to counter North Korea’s ability to conduct malicious cyber activity, which generates revenue that supports its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council held a closed-door meeting last week at the request of Britain, France and Germany, in order to discuss Pyongyang’s recent missile launches, and the three renewed the need to enforce U.N. sanctions.

Chinese Mining Company Canaan Reportedly Applies for IPO with the US SEC

Canaan Creative, one of the largest manufacturers of Bitcoin miners in China, has allegedly filed an application for a $200 million initial public offering (IPO) in the U.S.

The news was reported on July 31st via a blog posting on local social media platform – WeChat – by an official account named “IPO Zao Zhi Dao,” claiming that the company had already secretly submitted the application with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to people with knowledge of the matter, the Chinese manufacturer is seeking to raise $200 million through the public listing. Despite being less known in the west than its competitors such as Bitmain, Canaan is one of the three main Chinese Bitcoin mining players, the third being Yibang International.

Canaan’s first attempt to go public was during March 2018 when the Chinese manufacturer was seeking to file for a $1 billion IPO on the Hong Stock Exchange. However, the plan was later dropped by the company and the company’s Hong Kong Stock Exchange IPO application became void in November 2018.

Earlier this year, there were reports that Canaan was considering an IPO in New York, although the process was in its early stages. According to SEC’s new rules implemented in July 2017, companies in the US can make confidential filings of any size. The changes were made in an effort to encourage more IPOs. Prior to that, only smaller companies were allowed to file private applications.

In March, it was reported that the firm was considering an IPO attempt on the newly created Science and Technology (Sci-Tech) Innovation Board within the Shanghai Stock Exchange, in addition to its talks with the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

Notably, in March Canaan Creative had raised additional capital in its latest funding round, however the exact amount was not made public. The funding came from all existing backers as no new investors reportedly came on board. Following this news, this would make Canaan as the first Chinese market participant to successfully take its case to the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, Canaan is not the first Bitcoin (BTC) manufacturer to consider filing an IPO. Cryptocurrency mining giant Bitmain had earlier filed for an IPO, however failed to make a bid with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Following that, Bitmain was reportedly considering filing an application in the U.S. with the SEC as of the end of June. Rival mining manufacturer Yibang’s attempt at filing an IPO with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange had also met with rejection.

At the time of Bitmain’s failure in December 2018, many strongly believed that the then highly volatile nature of BTC was the reason which gave regulators cold feet. The month prior to that, mining had suffered as BTC prices plunged, leading to significant shifts as participants attempted to stay financially stable.

Six months later, the landscape had transformed, with Bitcoin seeing a dramatic reversal of fortunes across the mining industry.