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Fintech CEO: Binance Money Laundering Probe Highlights Need for Greater Trust in Crypto Markets

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Last week, Bloomberg broke a story detailing how Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, is being investigated by the DOJ and IRS in an attempt to eliminate financial crimes which have arisen due to under-regulation in the sector. 

Modulus CEO Richard Gardner today offered a statement noting that the investigation is indicative of exactly why the industry must increase compliance among digital exchanges. Notably Gardner recently filed for a patent on a “Digital Exchange Auditing System,” a revolutionary solution which aims to restore trust in exchanges, particularly those dealing in digital assets and cryptocurrencies.

“What’s interesting about this probe is that Binance has not been accused of any wrongdoing as the inquiry launched,” said Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges. “Right now, regulators are trying to get a handle on the scope of financial crimes, including money laundering, which exist in the sector. They’re still trying to figure out how to regulate a technology that many have trouble fully grasping.”

Incorporated in the Cayman Islands, Binance is without a corporate headquarters, though it has an office in Singapore. According to the Bloomberg article, Chainalysis “concluded last year that among transactions that it examined, more funds tied to criminal activity flowed through Binance than any other crypto exchange.”

“Binance is the biggest, so that’s not necessarily shocking. Though it raises questions about financial crimes more generally. If even the largest exchange can’t, or won’t, limit money laundering and other financial crimes, how do traders, as well as government agencies, know who to trust? They can’t lodge inquiries into every single exchange. There must be a better way. And we think we’ve found it,” Gardner said.

Utilizing the Exchange Trust Score System, exchanges and custodial service providers would implement open-source server-side software which obfuscates and anonymizes data. It then calculates a counter value, which can be inspected in real-time by any third party, such as a regulator or anybody else using Modulus’ explorer app. The counter values are calculated from exchange order data, deposit, and withdrawal figures, among other data points. The data gets inserted into a blockchain via the Modulus application. The counter and encrypted data allows the Modulus explorer app to read data from the blockchain, and it compares the data with real-time counter values being provided by exchange and custodial service APIs.

“What we’ve created is truly revolutionary because the app grades the data collected and will give regulators, or any other end user, a trust score. If an exchange is involved in nefarious financial activities, the trust score will indicate such. We determine the trust score by comparing the expected counter value with the actual counter value. We also partner with custodial service providers to ensure that this mechanism is always operational and is not tampered with in any way,” noted Gardner. Additionally, Modulus’ Exchange Trust Score System utilizes Benford’s Law to analyze the distribution of leading and trailing digits for both the buy and sell orders, as well as the ratio of deposits to withdrawals.

Modulus has been leading the way on exchange trust for years. Earlier this year, Modulus launched a groundbreaking Blockchain-as-a-Service offering, an enterprise blockchain for decentralized verification and tracking, featuring cutting-edge AI-based capabilities. And, in 2018, Modulus launched a market surveillance and risk management solution, which targeted abuse within cryptocurrency markets. Modulus developers are known for upending industries and changing what the industry conceives to be possible. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Nigeria’s SEC to Enforce Weekly, Monthly Reports from Crypto Service Providers

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced a new regulatory framework requiring Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) to submit weekly and monthly trading statistics.

This move is part of a broader effort to monitor and regulate Nigeria’s burgeoning crypto market, according to a document released by the SEC titled “A Framework on Accelerated Regulatory Incubation Program for the Onboarding of Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) and other Digital Investments Service Providers (DISPs).”

The framework aims to bring more structure to the country’s crypto ecosystem by amending existing rules on digital asset issuance, offering platforms, exchanges, and custodians.

The SEC’s initiative is seen as a significant step toward enhancing oversight and ensuring compliance within the rapidly evolving digital asset space.

Accelerated Regulatory Incubation Program

The Accelerated Regulatory Incubation Program (ARIP) will provide a special window for onboarding VASPs. The SEC has outlined specific reporting requirements for participants in the ARIP, including:

  • Weekly and monthly trading statistics.
  • Quarterly financials.
  • Compliance reports demonstrating adherence to the SEC’s conditions.
  • Reports on key issues such as misconduct, fraud, or operational incidents.
  • Actions taken to address customer complaints and emergent risks.

A Growing Market

Nigeria boasts one of the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto markets globally. According to blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, crypto transactions in the country amounted to $56.7 billion between July 2022 and June 2023, averaging $1.09 billion weekly.

Industry and Regulatory Insights

Senator Ihenyen, lead partner and head of blockchain and virtual assets practice at Infusion Lawyers, emphasized the importance of regulating digital assets for economic and security reasons.

“Nigeria can no longer afford to keep pushing digital assets underground for obvious economic and security reasons,” Ihenyen said.

He noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) recognition of the SEC’s regulatory role marks a positive shift for the sector, with regulators now working together to ensure consumer protection and investor safety.

Comparisons have been drawn with regulatory practices in South Africa, where a similar approach has been adopted to meet Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing for digital assets.

“Execution is what will make the difference,” said an industry expert. “We’ve never been lacking in regulations.”

Government and Industry Reactions

Earlier in July, Wale Edun, Nigeria’s minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, urged the SEC to address the complexities of crypto regulation.

“The SEC board should be willing to accept the challenge of regulating these new areas, particularly crypto, as they are fast-moving complex areas,” Edun stated.

The Senate Committee on Capital Markets also emphasized the need for crypto regulation to ensure accountability and protect investors’ funds.

Osita Izunaso, chairman of the committee, pointed out, “The issue of cryptocurrency must be regulated because Nigerians are trading in crypto. Since Nigerians are trading in crypto, why are we not regulating it? Where is the money going if we don’t regulate activities in the crypto market?”

Compliance and Challenges

The new regulatory framework aims to facilitate the onboarding of entities willing to engage in virtual asset activities and enhance the SEC’s understanding of digital asset business models.

However, some industry insiders have raised concerns about the practicality of certain requirements, such as the need for a physical presence for crypto companies.

Chimezie Chuta, founder and coordinator of the Blockchain Nigeria User Group, highlighted the potential benefits of regulation for tax revenues.

However, others worry about over-regulation. “We are now like banks that are over-regulated. Between 2020 and now, we have had new regulations and changes to existing rules, but where has that taken us to?” questioned a Lagos-based crypto player.

As Nigeria’s crypto market continues to evolve, the SEC’s new regulatory framework represents a crucial step towards ensuring transparency, accountability, and consumer protection in the digital assets space.

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KuCoin Announces New 7.5% VAT on Transaction Fees for Nigerian Customers

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KuCoin has announced the implementation of a 7.5% Value-Added Tax (VAT) on transaction fees.

This new regulation will take effect on July 8th, 2024, impacting all users whose Know Your Customer (KYC) information is registered in Nigeria.

KuCoin, one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange platforms, revealed this update in a statement addressed to its Nigerian users.

The tax will be applied exclusively to transaction fees, not the overall transaction amount.

For example, a user buying 1,000 USDT worth of Bitcoin will incur a fee of 1 USDT at the standard 0.1% fee rate.

The new VAT at 7.5% will apply to this fee, resulting in an additional charge of 0.075 USDT.

Consequently, the net amount available for the transaction will be 998.925 USDT.

KuCoin clarified that the VAT would cover all types of transactions on its platform. The move aligns with recent regulatory updates and demonstrates the company’s commitment to complying with local tax laws.

The announcement has garnered mixed reactions from the Nigerian cryptocurrency community. Some users express concern over the added cost to their transactions, while others recognize it as a necessary step towards greater regulatory compliance and legitimacy for cryptocurrency trading in Nigeria.

KuCoin encourages affected users to seek assistance through their Telegram group or by contacting the online support team for further guidance on the new tax regulations.

As Nigeria continues to evolve its regulatory framework for digital assets, this development underscores the importance for traders to stay informed about local laws and their potential impacts on trading activities.

The KuCoin team expressed their gratitude for users’ cooperation and understanding, reiterating their commitment to providing a secure and compliant trading environment.

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Bitcoin Eyes Gains with Seasonal July Boost After Slump

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After several months of declines and rangebound trading, Bitcoin (BTC) bulls have reason to cheer as the largest cryptocurrency is poised for a potential seasonal upswing this July.

Historical data and recent market movements suggest a positive outlook for Bitcoin, following a period marked by billions in sales, upcoming selling pressure, and outflows from exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Since April, Bitcoin has been trading within a narrow band of $59,000 to $74,000, weighed down by market dynamics and peak negative sentiment among retail traders.

However, July has historically been a bullish month for Bitcoin, and early indicators show a possible reversal of recent trends.

On the first day of July, U.S.-listed ETFs recorded nearly $130 million in inflows, their highest since early June.

This influx comes after a significant $900 million outflow in the previous month, signaling renewed investor confidence in the cryptocurrency.

“Bitcoin has a median return of 9.6% in July and tends to bounce back strongly, especially after a negative June,” said Singapore-based QCP Capital in a recent Telegram broadcast.

“Our options desk saw flows positioning for an upside move last Friday into the month-end, possibly in anticipation of the ETH spot ETF launch. Many signs point to a bullish July.”

Historical data supports this optimistic outlook. Over the past decade, Bitcoin has gained an average of more than 11% in July, with positive returns in seven out of the ten months.

A 2023 report by crypto fund Matrixport highlighted significant July returns in recent years, with gains of around 27% in 2019, 20% in 2020, and 24% in 2021.

Seasonality, the tendency of assets to experience regular and predictable changes that recur annually, appears to be a driving factor.

These seasonal cycles can be influenced by various factors, such as profit-taking around tax season in April and May, leading to drawdowns, and the generally bullish “Santa Claus” rally in December, which reflects increased demand.

As the cryptocurrency market enters July, Bitcoin traders and investors are optimistic about a potential rally. While the market remains cautious of underlying pressures, the historical trends and recent inflows suggest a favorable environment for Bitcoin’s resurgence.

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