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Malaysian Financial Regulators to Intensify Scrutiny of ICOs, Cryptocurrencies

Malaysia’s securities regulator and central bank are to strengthen their scrutiny of initial coin offerings (ICOs) through new rules meant to eliminate issues of unfair trade practices and alleged risk of money laundering and terrorism financing. The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said they will also tighten regulation in the trade of cryptocurrencies to boost investor security.

Also read: Brazilian Bitcoin Exchange Sends User $35M in Bug-Induced Error

‘Fair and Orderly Trading’

“The SC will regulate issuances of digital assets via ICOs and the trading of digital assets at digital asset exchanges in Malaysia,” the regulators said in a joint statement released Dec. 6. “Regulations are currently being put in place to bring digital assets within the remit of securities laws to promote fair and orderly trading and ensure investor protection,” they added.

Malaysian Financial Regulators to Intensify Scrutiny of ICOs, Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin and other digital currencies are not recognized as legal tender in Malaysia, but they aren’t banned either. That means individuals or companies trading cryptocurrency are free to do so, but are not protected by law. However, under the anti-money laundering legislation, all crypto asset exchanges operating in Malaysia are subject to reporting obligations.

Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng said cryptocurrency regulations will come into force during the first quarter of 2019. He also warned individuals and companies planning to issue new cryptocurrencies with a stern: “Don’t do it,” advising to wait for guidance from the country’s central bank.

Lim Guan Eng said the government was open to emerging forms of money such as virtual currency, but only if they adhere to the law.

 Enforcing Compliance

Now the Securities Commission and Bank Negara are starting to put that regulatory framework together. The two “will enter into coordination arrangements to ensure compliance with laws and regulations under the purview of both regulators,” said the statement.

Malaysian Financial Regulators to Intensify Scrutiny of ICOs, Cryptocurrencies

It added: “Initial coin offering issuers and digital asset exchanges which are involved in the issuance or dealing of digital assets with a payment function will need to comply with relevant BNM laws and regulations relating to payments and currency matters.”

Malaysia is slowly emerging as a hotbed of cryptocurrency trading. The government isn’t particularly averse to the technology. For example, Pakatan Harapan, Malaysia’s ruling party, is raising political funding through a cryptocurrency called “harapan coin,” in preparation for the 2019 general elections. Party officials say they have submitted documents of the harapan coin to Bank Negara for approval.

What do you think about the regulatory developments in Malaysia? Let us know in the comments section below.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Tags in this story
Bank Negara Malaysia, Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, Digital Assets, Exchange, ICO, Lim Guan Eng, N-Economy, Regulation, Securities Commission Malaysia
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Jeffrey Gogo

Jeffrey Gogo is an award winning financial journalist based in Harare, Zimbabwe. A former deputy business editor with the Zimbabwe Herald, the country's biggest daily, Gogo has more than 15 years of wide-ranging experience covering Zimbabwe's financial markets, economy and company news. He first encountered bitcoin in 2014, and began covering cryptocurrency markets in 2017