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Kenyans Duped of Millions of Dollars in Cryptocurrency Ponzi Scheme

When I first came across this news headlines, I have to admit I hid a chuckle. Talk about chickens coming home to roost. Kenyans being duped by a cryptocurrency Ponzi scam, was a sweet payback for all those times, when our parents and grandparents (AKA old people) were being scammed by fraudsters who claimed to be “Nigerian princes” who wanted to share their wealth, if only recipients would be kind enough to share their bank details.

In all seriousness, many Kenyan investors were left in shock, when it emerged that they had unwittingly put in their hard-earned money into a scheme that was all kinds of fraudulent. According to local media reports, a company called Velox 10, shut shop after duping millions of dollars from unsuspecting Kenyan investors.

Interestingly, while this may come as a shock to Kenyans, Indians are only too aware of these types of Ponzi scheme. In November, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had discovered that a Bangalore-based company, Ambidant Marketing Pvt Ltd, involved in Islamic banking and halal investment, was allegedly running a Ponzi scheme.

At the time, the ED had said, “During the investigation, it came to the fore that the scheme run by the company is surely a potential Ponzi scheme. In view of the above, ED has written to the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) to have another look into the matter and protect the interest of the investors/depositors at large who are being duped in the name of Islamic banking/halal investment.”

Apparently, Velox 10 had lured investors by claiming to be a “bitcoin investment fund.” Richard Rocha, the founder of Velox 10, promised investors a daily profit of up to $4000. Investors got profits depending on the amount of “membership fee” they paid to the company.

A victim, Ester Muthoni had invested 3.2 million Kenyan shilling ($32000) and was promised to earn up to 50 percent profit on her investment. Velox 10 failed to deliver on their promise. Her efforts to get her money back bore no fruit, leading to her reporting the matter to police, according to local reports.

Source . crypto-news.in

Cryptocurrency

US Federal Reserve Governor Says They Are Speeding Up Cryptocurrency Regulations

Today, a news report from Reuters has mentioned, once again, that the blockchain industry continues to develop at an unprecedented speed, and that regulators need to get themselves caught up to speed, or risk behind left behind in the dust.

In fact, the report suggests that many of the world’s Central Banks are becoming increasingly worried that the ongoing development of cryptocurrencies and digital assets is threatening the very balance of the current global financial system.

Their belief is that certain cryptocurrencies, namely stablecoins, as well as the advent of other major companies like Facebook launching its own digital currency, could potentially “reduce state control over money around the world”.

Regulators Are Being Left In The Dust

Yesterday, we reported that, in a formal financial reform proposal, Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City and current presidential candidate, made many financial recommendations for helping the U.S. economy recover, and even hinted at the fact that digital currencies could play a role in preventing future financial crisis at the national and even global scale.

According to Bloomberg, “Cryptocurrencies have become an asset class worth hundreds of billions of dollars, yet regulatory oversight remains fragmented and undeveloped.”You Might Also Like:

  • U.S. Secretary Of Treasury Steven Mnuchin: New Cryptocurrency Regulations Coming Soon
  • Next Generation: Bitfinex Launches Lightning Network Bitcoin Deposits On Its Mobile App
  • Visa Approves US Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase As Principal Member

What Does This Mean For The Future Of The Industry?

According to the report, Randal Quarles, Chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and a Governor of the US Federal Reserve, said in a letter to the G20 financial authorities of the world that “We are resolved to quicken the pace of developing the necessary regulatory and supervisory responses to these new instruments.”

Alongside statements from presidential candidate Bloomberg, Quarles, a former U.S. Federal Reserve governor, also mentions that a group is currently working at creating policies in hopes to address the benefits and risks of stablecoins.

In their concluding statement to Quarles’ letters, the G20 responded, after their last meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last weekend, that the “risks from global stablecoins need to be evaluated and appropriately addressed before they start operation.”

And while the future of crypto still isn’t set in stone, this is, needless to say, another big step for digital currencies and the crypto industry around the world.

There’s an increasing number of world leaders stepping up and speaking out about the importance of regulation, which helps drive the point home, that crypto is here to say.

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ONLINE BINGO GAMES START ACCEPTING CRYPTOCURRENCY

The Rundown

  • How to Play Bingo?
  • Online Gambling Platforms Accept Cryptocurrencies

Many online gambling games have started to integrate cryptocurrencies and blockchain in one way or another, but what about bingo?

HOW TO PLAY BINGO?

Bingo is one of the most popular gambling games out there. This type of lottery-like game of chance has been popularized in the US, but it has reached many other countries.

For those unfamiliar, the game’s rules are simple – players must check whether the numbers that are randomly selected by a caller coincide with the positions of the numbers of on their cards. If the numbers correspond and form vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines on the card (depending on the type of bingo game), then the player wins.

The two most popular types of bingo games are the American version, which involves 75 balls, and the British version, which plays with 90 balls, read more about variations of bingo.

However, the internet has spurred the development of many other varieties of this game. Indeed, online bingo games have several advantages:

  • The prize pool of the game, which includes jackpots, is much higher. This is because physical bingo halls cannot gather a large number of players at the same time. Also, the costs of producing, distributing and processing cards affect the prize pool.
  • Online gambling platform providers can arrange various bonus programs that are not available offline.
  • Players can try their luck from home or any other place.

ONLINE GAMBLING PLATFORMS ACCEPT CRYPTOCURRENCIES

Cryptocurrency holders now have the opportunity to play bingo games online by buying virtual tickets with Bitcoin or other digital currencies. Some gambling platforms are already offering this option, while others, including Barbados Bingo,are seriously thinking about accepting crypto payments.14 BTC & 30,000 Free Spins for every player, only in mBitcasino’s Crypto Love Affair! Play Now!

Crypto traders can have fun with bingo games online by allocating a small portion of their profits to purchasing virtual tickets. This might be another chance to win significant amounts despite the earnings generated from crypto investments.

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Preston Byrne: Peirce’s Safe Harbor Proposal Would Be Hilarious if It Weren’t so Serious

Preston Byrne, a columnist for CoinDesk’s new opinion section, is an attorney at Byrne & Storm, where he advises cryptocurrency miners, decentralized protocol developers, custom software development shops, and interactive computer services businesses. This is his bi-weekly column, “Not Legal Advice,” an opinionated roundup of bigger legal topics in the crypto space. And, yes, it is not legal advice. Hester Peirce’s CoinDesk op-ed about her Safe Harbor proposal is here.

Much ink has been spilled over the last six years about the extent to which U.S. securities laws can and should apply to the sales of cryptographic tokens by protocol developers.

The default position that a conservative law firm will follow is that in the U.S. the sale of a token by a protocol developer before a token network is launched is the sale of a security. Current Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) policy appears to say that, in the life of any cryptocurrency, there will come a point when the token has been distributed to sufficiently many hands and the network’s architecture is sufficiently distributed – or as SEC corporate finance director Bill Hinman put it in 2018, “sufficiently decentralized – where purchasers would no longer reasonably expect a person or group to carry out essential managerial or entrepreneurial efforts,” and thus the token ceases to be a security.

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, aka “Crypto Mom,” thinks the government should facilitate startups that want to have a go at turning their definitely-are-securities-today into maybe-not-securities-tomorrow. She has proposed a safe harbor to achieve this, whereby token startups will be given a three-year head start to take an ICO coin and turn it into a “decentralized” network, i.e. one which:

is not dependent upon a single person or group to carry out the essential managerial or entrepreneurial efforts… (such that) the tokens must be distributed to and freely tradeable by potential users, programmers, and… secondary trading of the tokens typically provides essential liquidity for the development of the network and use of the token.

The three-year safe harbor period will allow protocol devs time to:

facilitate participation in, and the development of, a functional and/or decentralized network, unrestrained from the registration provisions of the federal securities laws so long as [certain] conditions are met.

In other words, under the proposal, crypto projects would be able to sell securities to the public and work towards “decentralization” by, among other things, selling still more of these securities and creating a robust market for these securities, in the hope that engaging in the sale and marketing of these securities will turn them into non-securities, despite the fact that they will function in the marketplace exactly as securities do today at all relevant times.

This proposal would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious.

The most significant issue is that the proposal relies on a standard for “decentralization” which isn’t entirely certain today. Although the SEC has “decentralization” guidelines in print, projects that appear technically indistinguishable receive differing regulatory treatment for reasons that, to industry experts, are not immediately apparent.

Take, for example, Block.one, Sia and Telegram. Block.one claims to have raised north of $4 billion in a yearlong, rolling ICO for the EOS blockchain that kicked off with the purchase of billboard advertising in Times Square at the Consensus 2017 conference. Sia did an unregistered [initial coin offering] also, raising roughly $150,000. 

Telegram, by contrast, endeavored to sell its tokens to U.S. persons via the Rule 506(c) exemption of Regulation D. At a predetermined future date, Block.one’s and Sia’s presale tokens converted to live network tokens. At a predetermined future date, Telegram’s presale tokens were to convert to live network tokens.

Block.one was fined $24 million, or about 60 basis points on $4 billion, and walked away, and its once-were-securities-but-I-guess-now-they’re-not coins continue to be listed on major exchanges. Comparatively smaller offender Sia was fined $250,000, or twice what they raised, and walked away. Telegram, by contrast, drew an emergency injunction in the Southern District of New York and the project has ground to a halt.

Of course, there are reasons why the SEC might be friendlier to some startups and less friendly to others. For example, startups that approach the SEC and cooperate will be treated more gently than those that do not. But, fundamentally, the real problem here is that the SEC’s “decentralization” test, as currently used, and as proposed to be used in the future, is unquantifiable to the point of being unconstitutionally vague.

There is no agreed statutory or technical definition of what makes a project more or less “decentralized.” When prominent developers and industry marketers cannot agree on a uniform definition of the term, which more often appears to be marketing-speak than as a definite, measurable quality, I struggle to see how the government should be in a better position to do so. For this reason, I would struggle to advise a client seeking to adhere to the “decentralization” test whether they are decentralized or not. 

The only thing that is made clearer by this proposal is that, to paraphrase an industry colleague, “’blockchain technology’ and Mom & Pop investors don’t have lobbyists. Coinbase does.” This proposal is fantastic for startups who need capital, market venues who need trading volumes to survive and the lawyers who advise them. For this reason, I don’t expect that many U.S. law firms will raise significant objections to this proposal which, if adopted, would almost undoubtedly be the single greatest creator of transactional legal work since the invention of securitization.

It would facilitate a headlong rush of issuers into the lightly-regulated crypto-capital markets as every company in the world sought to obtain American investors’ capital without selling them so much as a single basis point of equity or taking on a single dollar of debt, all without needing to sort out the details for 36 months.

If that’s the rule the SEC wishes to adopt and the result it wishes to bring about, that’s the Commission’s prerogative. I might suggest that a simpler approach would be for the government to approach tokens like it approaches bitcoin: treat coins sold in an initial coin offering as something sold, a securities sale, and treat a mined coin as something made, a mere commodity, which will still allow for a great many experiments in blockchain tech to flourish without creating incentives for every company in America to launch its own token.

Crypto scam numbers on the rise

The Wall Street Journal reports on Feb. 8:

Seo Jin-ho, a travel-agency operator in South Korea, wasn’t interested in exotic investments when a colleague first introduced him to PlusToken, a platform that traded bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But the colleague was persistent.

His investment grew at a dazzling rate. He invested more—a lot more. In less than five months, he bought $86,000 of cryptocurrencies, cashing out only $500.

The story ends in a familiar way, with Seo Jin-ho losing all of the money he invested.

Crypto-analytics company Chainalysis estimates that after a fairly busy 2017 in which $1.83 billion was “invested” in crypto scams, 2018 was a quieter year. This is perhaps understandable given the noises that the SEC made from January through November.

In 2019, however, a staggering $3.99 billion – that’s billion with a B – was reportedly lost to crypto-investment scams. This suggests that regulatory intervention in 2018 was not aggressive enough to deter the continuing growth of “scam” activity.

Clamping down on scams is almost universally understood as an important prerequisite to mass adoption and acceptance of cryptocurrencies as a viable payment and financial services technology. When asking why investors seem so uniquely susceptible to crypto scams, it bears mentioning that each of the top ten coins in circulation was issued otherwise than through a regulated channel, with the SEC and Department of Justice, at least as far as the public is aware, declining to take action against ethereum, tether, XRP, litecoin, Binance Coin, bitcoin cash, bitcoin SV and tezos, and taking a $24 million punt on EOS, despite there being identifiable promoters for each project (usually a notionally non-profit foundation but sometimes a for-profit entity).

The absence of an adequate regulatory regime means that a new “scam” project is virtually indistinguishable from one that has shed that label through accidental success. The marketing material for, say, ethereum and for any “scam” currency are primarily found on informal channels such as internet fora and Twitter promotional posts rather than in the form of an offering circular. The closest thing to “legitimacy” that any particular project can obtain is a listing on Coinbase or Binance, commercial actors with commercial interests that call for them to list and trade more coins in greater volumes, regardless of the gain or loss to investors.

A “safe harbor” that made it more difficult for retail investors to distinguish bona fide projects like Blockstack from known scams like OneCoin for a three-year period would likely undo much of the progress towards mainstreaming crypto adoption that has been made to date, which has seen large institutional players like Bakkt or Fidelity Digital Assets enter the space.

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