In Monday’s Bitcoin in Brief, Belgium’s financial watchdog, which earlier this year published a warning about potentially fraudulent platforms promising fast and easy profits to crypto investors, has just expanded its blacklist. In Russia, reports have surfaced of a plot to assassinate Alexander Vinnik in Greece, where he fights an extradition request from US authorities accusing him of laundering billions of dollars, including funds from the hacked Mt. Gox. Elsewhere, Australia allocates budget for blockchain research, and Dubai-based exchange Bitoasis suspends dirham withdrawals.
Belgium Expands List of Fraudulent Crypto Platforms
Belgium’s Financial Services and Markets Authority has expanded its list of unauthorized and potentially fraudulent crypto companies operating in the country. The financial watchdog has recently published a new warning noting that “the FSMA is receiving an increasing number of consumer complaints regarding investments in cryptocurrencies [and] once again warns the public about these platforms, often operated by fraudsters who are now resorting to cryptocurrencies to swindle consumers.” The regulator also said that people who have invested through these platforms often complain they never recover their funds.
In March, the FSMA published its first list of 19 suspicious crypto platforms saying it had received “questions or complaints from consumers and has established indications of fraud,” as news.Bitcoin.com reported. The agency stressed that the compilation does not include all questionable crypto trading platforms, but only those whose fraudulent practices have been reported by consumers. Last week the Belgian financial authority reminded investors that these companies usually claim to offer the best trading platforms for both beginners and professionals.
Plot to Assassinate Vinnik Uncovered in Greece
Law enforcement authorities in Greece have reportedly uncovered a plot to kill Alexander Vinnik in jail. The Russian national was detained in Greece at the request of the United States on suspicions of money laundering in connection with the Mt. Gox hack. “Greek law enforcement received intelligence on plans to prepare an assassination via poisoning with the help of criminals. The head of the prison and the prosecutor of the city of Thessaloniki have summoned Vinnik and informed him about the plot. Special security measures were taken in connection with that,” a source familiar with the details told Sputnik.
According to the report, Vinnik is not allowed to accept any items, including food or beverages, from people he doesn’t know. His contacts with other inmates have been limited and measures have been taken to improve his personal security. Greek police received information about the murder plot earlier this year but it was not made public in order to help the investigation. The presumed murder attempt is said to be linked to the criminal underground and not the special services of any country. According to the quoted source, the assassination has been ordered by someone in Russia. Vinnik has recently expressed readiness to testify to Russian authorities for fintech-related crimes in his home country.
Alexander Vinnik was arrested in Greece in July last year at the request of authorities in the US, where he is suspected of laundering between $4 and $9 billion dollars through the now defunct cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, including funds obtained from the notoriously hacked bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. Russia has also asked for his extradition on other charges and Vinnik himself prefers to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in Moscow. The Russian IT specialist has also filed a petition for political asylum in Greece hoping to avoid extradition to the United States.
Australia to Finance Blockchain Research Through Budget
Australian authorities intend to finance the research of blockchain technologies through the federal budget for 2018/2019. According to the annual budget report, the government will provide additional $0.7 million AUD (>$0.5 million USD) for the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) which will be tasked to investigate areas where blockchain technology could offer the most value for government services. The agency is expected to use the funds to conduct “research to determine the current maturity of blockchain, assess the readiness for government to adopt the technology, and identify problems that blockchain might be able to solve,” and also, to “understand the potential of using blockchain to support government services.”
Set up in 2015, DTA aims to facilitate the digitization of the Australian government. The agency has received a total of $92.4 million AUD (almost $70 million USD) in this year’s budget. That means the funds allocated for blockchain research are less than 1%. Nevertheless, the country has already recognized cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and passed legislation that treats cryptos like fiat money in the context of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing policies. In April, Australia introduced regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges. The country’s financial regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, has taken measures against “deceptive and misleading initial coin offerings.”
Dubai Exchange Bitoasis Suspends Dirham Withdrawals
Dubai-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitoasis has announced a temporary suspension of deposits and withdrawals in UAE dirhams. The trading platform warned its customers that if they want to access their dirham balances or deposit dirhams into in their accounts via wire transfers they will have to initiate an order no later than Tuesday, May 15. Such transactions will not be processed after that date. According to the notice sent to account holders, credit card deposits will be possible until June 16.
In the letter, quoted by Arabian Business, Bitoasis claims the restrictions were imposed due to issues with the bank it works with. Other means of buying and selling cryptocurrencies on the platform, as well as digital coin withdrawals to other wallets, are not affected, the exchange noted. “If you decide to leave your fiat balances, the only way for you to withdraw your funds at any time after May 15 would be to convert them to cryptocurrency and send them to an external wallet,” the statement reads. Bitoasis warns clients that it cannot provide a specific date for reactivating AED fiat withdrawals.
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