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The plot continues to thicken for cryptocurrency investors in Russia – after a senior finance ministry official appeared to open the door to legalizing crypto-trading.

Per news agency Interfax, Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseev stated last Friday, “The government may make it legal to buy and sell, but not pay using cryptocurrencies.”

Moiseev also added that Moscow was also prepared to “talk about the possibility of organizing exchanges and cryptocurrency sales.”

However, the deputy finance minister also left the door open for all sorts of options, ranging from a trading cap to a possible crackdown. He remarked,

“We now need to determine how much cryptocurrency citizens should be able [to trade]. There is a range that runs from total prohibition to unrestricted purchases.”

For the Russian crypto-community perhaps the most positive part of Moiseev’s statement was the confirmation that the country’s central bank is currently in discussion with the finance ministry on the matter. Central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina – a former aide to Vladimir Putin – is thought to be one of the country’s leading crypto-skeptics.

Moiseev stated that he was also in talks about the proposed crypto legalization with the Russian Federal Security Service.

The wait continues for Russia’s forthcoming package of cryptocurrency legislation, with parliamentarians last month “postponing” the second reading of three bills, claiming that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism guidelines had caused the bills to get “stuck.”

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Last week, Russian financial leaders also claimed they would close the door to Facebook’s forthcoming Libra project.

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A report in South Korea claims that two of the country’s biggest IT companies are hoping their blockchain technology related activities of recent months will help them steal ahead of Facebook and its new Libra project – both domestically and abroad.

Fn News claims that the Kakao Group and Naver– along with its Japan-based affiliate Line – have a massive headstart on the likes of Facebook and other IT firms branching out into crypto/blockchain activities. The report claims that Naver and Kakao are now “speeding up their blockchain activities through their subsidiaries.”

The progress, the report claims, puts them “at least six months ahead of Facebook” – with a number of developments expected from both Naver and Kakao in the days ahead.

Kakao’s blockchain arm Ground X is hoping to unveil the mainnet for its Klaytn platform on June 27, and already has a large number of domestic and international partners and investors. Like Facebook’s Libra project, Klaytn has a governing council made up of “major companies from around the world” – although the identity of most of these investors is yet to be made public (with the exception of gaming giant Neowiz). Earlier this year, Ground X raised USD 90 million in a private coin offering.

And as previously reported, Line is edging closer to opening its long-awaited Japanese exchange platform. Multiple Japanese media outlets reported that the regulatory Financial Services Agency (FSA) is set to issue Line with an operating permit, with further news on this front possibly forthcoming before the end of this week.

Whereas Kakao dominates the chat app market in Korea – operating on 93% of the country’s smartphones – Line has some 80 million Japanese users. The company also dominates chat app markets in many Southeast Asian countries, where it already operates cryptocurrency

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As bitcoin price is getting closer to the USD 10,000 mark, Circle K, one of the United States’ biggest convenience store chains, is set to welcome 20 new Bitcoin ATMs at stores located in Arizona and Nevada as part of a pilot initiative.

The devices will be installed after Circle K sealed a deal with Chicago-based company DigitalMint. The latter says it aims to enable consumers to purchase bitcoin through physical kiosks and teller windows, and says it has partnered “with over 250 brick-and-mortar locations” in 25 states, including grocery retailers and gas stations.

DigitalMint says its ATMs will be installed in Circle K outlets in major cities such as Tucson, Pheonix and Las Vegas. The machines, the company says, will allow customers to buy up to USD 20,000 worth of bitcoin per day.

According to a DigitalMint press release, a Circle K spokesperson said the deal would “provide Circle K customers with seamless access to Bitcoin at a very reasonable price.” Their website states that the company applies “a 12% flat markup rate for all Bitcoin ATM and Teller transactions,” which is significantly more than buying cryptocurrency on an exchange.

Per Coinatmradar statistics, DigitalMint is America’s eighth biggest ATM operator, with 109 devices. The market leader is CoinCloud, which operates 316 machines.

The stats also show that almost 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs have been installed worldwide over time – more than half of which in America.

Crypto ATM number net changes
The histogram chart shows net change of cryptocurrency machines number installed and removed monthly.

Source: coinatmradar.com

The world’s two leading Bitcoin ATM manufacturers are General Bytes and Genesis Coin, who account for over 60% of the entire global market.

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Bank of Japan Boss Keen to Follow Facebook's Libra Progress 101Haruhiko Kuroda. Source: a video screenshot, Youtube, Bloomberg

With regulators and financial chiefs around the world lining up to express their concerns and doubts over Facebook’s forthcoming Libra cryptocurrency, it looks like one of Japan’s biggest financial players would rather look on the bright side.

At a press conference, Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor Haruhiko Kuroda was asked about Libra, and responded, per Nikkei and Chunichi:

“I’m as yet unaware of the full details [of Facebook’s Libra project]. But I would like to see if cryptocurrencies can gain people’s confidence as a means of payment.”

Kuroda also said that he would be “carefully” studying “trends” in the cryptocurrency sector, and that he was curious to discover what sort of impact cryptocurrencies would have on the financial system.

He did warn, however, that cryptocurrencies’ adequacy as a means of payment and settlement depended on “whether their value can be stabilized, technical stability can be ensured and whether [their issuers, traders and developers] could abide by key regulations including anti-money laundering rules.”

Elsewhere in Japan, multiple media sources have reported that the country’s biggest chat app, Line, could be granted an operating permit for its forthcoming Bitmax cryptocurrency exchange within the next few days.

Nikkei says the regulatory Financial Services Agency (FSA) is on the verge of granting Bitmax a permit, potentially opening the door for some 80 million Japanese chat app users to begin trading tokens.

Should Line win FSA approval, it would become the third Japanese mega-company to launch an exchange business – after financial giant SBI Group’s SBI Virtual Currencies and Yahoo Japan’s TaoTao.
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A fourth major player could soon join their number, with Rakuten – Japan’s biggest e-commerce platform – also hoping to gain FSA approval for an exchange business.

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Facebook and its 27 partners are already running into a number of regulatory headaches from all corners of the globe following the unveiling of its Libra whitepaper earlier this week.

As previously reported, within hours of the social network’s Libra announcement, members of an American House of Representatives financial committee were pouring scorn on the company, and calling for Facebook to stop Libra until it had conducted a probe.

A member of the same committee yesterday made a second call for a hearing, stating, per CNBC, “There are so many open questions here, and I think we should be better informed.”

Jerome Powell, Chairman of the American central bank, the Federal Reserve, says Facebook got in touch with his organization – and many of its counterparts – ahead of its announcement. Also according to CNBC, Powell stated, “Facebook, I believe, has made quite broad rounds around the world with regulators, supervisors and lots of people to discuss their plans and that certainly includes us.”

The chairman spoke of Libra’s “potential risks” and warned,

“We will wind up having quite high expectations from a safety and soundness and regulatory standpoint if [Facebook] decides to move forward.”

Other American politicians are also looking to grill Facebook on Libra, with Reuters reporting that the social network has been called before the Senate’s Banking Committee on July 16. The news agency quoted a Facebook representative as saying “the company looked forward to answering lawmaker questions.”

Meanwhile, in Russia, Tass quotes Anatoly Aksakov, the head of Russia’s parliamentary financial committee (and the man charged with drafting Russia’s own forthcoming crypto laws), says Libra will be barred from operating in Russia.
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Per news agency Tass, Aksakov stated, “My opinion is that in Russia, [Libra] will

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South Korea’s prosecution authorities have indicted Bithumb, one of the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, accusing the platform of leaking sensitive financial data on around 31,000 of its customers.

However, the company claims that the leak – which prosecutors say occurred in 2017 – and a hack worth some USD 6 million that occurred later the same year, were unconnected.

A prosecutor’s office in East Seoul issued court orders to Bithumb and two other companies, travel agency Hana Tour and With Innovation, the operator of hotel booking app Yeogi Eottae.

The prosecution appears keen to draw a link between the data leak and the hack. Per ZDNet Korea, the prosecutor’s office stated, “We submitted [Bithumb’s] case to the court because personal information with […] economic value was leaked on a large scale, and further damage then occurred.”

The same media outlet quoted a Bithumb spokesperson as stating, “We respect the opinion of the prosecution, but [the 2017 hack] was not related to any personal information leak or theft of customers’ cryptocurrency holdings.”

The prosecutor alleges that data on the 31,000 customers affected was stored on a single Bithumb employee’s PC – and that the employee in question was not running antivirus software on their device, nor had they installed basic security updates.

The prosecutor’s statement was damning of all three companies, concluding:

“All three companies failed to take pre-emptive measures to detect vulnerabilities or stop hacking attempts. […] Both Bithumb’s and With Innovation’s revenues have risen quickly over the past three years. Considering how large these companies are, the size of their security spending on data protection has been lacking.”

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Facebook’s Libra token is already facing a legal threat, with senior American parliamentarians asking the social network to cease “momentum going forward” while they probe the project – and take their fight to the greater cryptocurrency industry.

Per an official statement from Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee, and a letter to Walters from fellow committee member and representative Patrick McHenry, it appears that some key American lawmakers take a dim view of Libra – and cryptocurrencies in general.

The social network unveiled its white paper yesterday, but it took politicians just a short time to respond.

Waters wrote:

“Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action.”

She also added that Facebook had “repeatedly” shown “disregard” for customer data privacy, and that it had “exposed Americans to malicious and fake accounts from bad actors, including Russian intelligence and transnational traffickers.”

And in a broader swipe aimed at cryptocurrencies in general, she added:

“The cryptocurrency market currently lacks a clear regulatory framework to provide strong protections for investors, consumers, and the economy. Regulators should see this as a wake-up call to get serious about the privacy and national security concerns, cybersecurity risks, and trading risks that are posed by cryptocurrencies.”

McHenry, meanwhile, wrote in his letter, a scan of which was posted in a tweet by CNN reporter Brian Fung:

“It is incumbent upon us as policymakers to understand Project Libra. We need to go beyond the rumors and speculations and provide a forum to assess this project and its potential unprecedented impact on the global financial system.”

As previously reported,

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Nine American companies are among the world’s top 10 blockchain patent acquirers, as big businesses and startups from the United States look to make advances in the technology underpinning most cryptocurrencies.

According to a survey of a total of 11,134 blockchain patents from German IP analyst IPlytics, tech giant IBM is the strongest, measured by patent family size. (Family patents are essentially patents that have been filed in more than one country. The more countries in which a patent has been filed, the higher the perceived international market potential for the patented invention.) The company owns a total of 297 patents, 185 of which are family patents.

Meanwhile, Blockchain developer nChain, affiliated with one of the main backers of Bitcoin SV, Craig Wright, often dubbed Faketoshi, led the way in terms of individual patents, having filed 443 of them. As a reminder, in May, Wright made headlines with his attempt to copyright the original Bitcoin white paper and Bitcoin code (version 0.1).

The lone non-American company making the IPlytics top 10 is the UK’s British Telecom (BT) – formerly a state-owned telecoms provider – which placed at number 7 in the rankings.
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Other big companies making the top 10 were Intel, placing at number 2, as well as Accenture, Visa, Mastercard, Microsoft and bank MBNA.

Source: IPlytics

The IPlytics figures also reveal that 4,673 blockchain patents were filed in 2018, a figure almost three times as high as 2017’s total. And as of April, 2,354 patent filings have already been filed in 2019.

The by-country analysis also revealed that Americans dominated proceedings – coming top with 4,948 applications, with China a distant second, followed by two European countries (Germany and the UK), and South Korea in fifth.

Source: IPlytics

Meanwhile, in

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South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges are looking to expand the scope of their activities – with one of the country’s market leaders joining Ripple’s Asian blockchain pay project.

Coinone, one of the nation’s “big four” exchanges has announced that it is to join SBI-Ripple Asia, an international blockchain remittance initiative.

The cross-border project now has participants from eight countries in Asia, including China, Thailand and the Philippines – as well as Japan (SBI’s country of origin), and South Korea. The platform, says its developers, allows users to send remittances faster and for lower fees across a blockchain-powered network. Transactions, SBI-Ripple Asia claim, take between 3 to 48 hours to complete, and fees are set at 1%.

Media outlet K Banker quotes Coinone CEO Shin Won-hee as stating, “We hope that the cooperation between Coinone and SBI Ripple Asia will provide allow us to introduce a range of financial services that make use of blockchain technology.”

As reported in April, Yoshitaka Kitao, president and CEO of Japanese financial giant SBI Group, was appointed as a board member of Ripple. SBI and Ripple have a long-standing relationship, and have formed SBI Ripple Asia, a joint venture, continent-wide payments platform initiative that makes use of the RippleNet, a global payment network, infrastructure.

Meanwhile, some six months after a catastrophic blunder that saw it accidentally hand out USD 5.3 million worth of Bitcoin and Ethereum to customers as part of an airdrop-gone-wrong, rival exchange CoinZest has launched a blockchain incubator.

Per Electronic Times, CoinZest’s incubator has already selected six projects that it will now promote in the form of initial exchange offerings (IEOs). The exchange says it will list and promote the projects – named as CCT, Toka, Lux, Skin Reach, Moa and EcuValue Coin – with airdrops, promotion and technical support.

The

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The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the country’s leading tax authority, has suggested that cryptocurrency taxation clampdowns are on their way. The agency hinted that individuals and businesses across the country will need to fall in line with compliance regulations – or potentially face prosecution.

Answering to Cryptonews.com questions, the CRA said that its probes have unearthed evidence that non-payment of tax on crypto-earnings is common in Canada.

The CRA stated,

“We have learned that there are many types of cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency businesses across Canada and that the risk of non-compliance is high, which reinforces the importance of compliance work in this market segment. “

As previously reported, the CRA has been operating a specialized cryptocurrency unit since 2017. Earlier this year it confirmed that it was conducting some 60 audits into companies or individuals involved in cryptocurrency trading and/or mining.
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The CRA also confirmed that these audits are “still active,” and that the results were “not yet available.”

However, the CRA says that it is aware that many cases of tax evasion involve cryptocurrencies. The CRA told Cryptonews.com,

“Generally speaking, [crypto-related tax crimes] are becoming more sophisticated, and we are seeing a growing number of cases with some kind of cyber or crypto component.”

Moreover, Canada is a part of a cross-border investigation with the J5 – a joint tax authority task force comprising representatives from the United States, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada. As reported, J5 is involved in more than 50 investigations involving international enablers of tax evasion, including an undisclosed global financial institution and its intermediaries who facilitate taxpayers to hide their income and assets.

The CRA said that they are not breaking up the cases into different categories (e.g. crypto-related),

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