Business 23 March 2018

Gerald Fenech

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance sets its sights on Malta

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by traded value, is planning to open an office in Malta, founder Zhao Changpeng confirmed in an interview with Bloomberg from Hong Kong.

The exchange, founded in Hong Kong last year, will soon start a “fiat-to-crypto exchange” on the European island nation and is close to securing a deal with local banks that can provide access to deposits and withdrawals, according to Zhao. The executive did not provide a timeframe.

The move could also be seen as an effort by Binance to escape serious regulatory issues which it encountered in China and Japan recently. Binance also suffered a number of hacks in the past weeks which somewhat dented its reputation. Zhao described Malta as “very progressive when it comes to crypto and fintech.”

Binance’s move to Malta was also announced through a tweet by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and was further confirmed by Zhao in another tweet.

Worldwide regulators have been cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges and businesses since last year, leaving many like Binance struggling to find a permanent base. The company had an office in Japan and was trying to get a license to operate, but decided to remove its staff to avoid a clash with local regulators, Zhao said. Japan’s Financial Services Agency issued a warning to the venue on Friday for operating without approval. That news led to a crash in the price of several crypto currencies including Bitcoin.

The move to Malta comes as policymakers look for ways to promote the nation as a leader in the digital assets field. The government has held several public consultations on regulating virtual currencies, token sales and crypto exchanges. Plans for a Malta Digital Innovation Authority that will certify and regulate blockchain-based businesses and their operations were unveiled last month, the Malta Independent reported. The organization will also create a framework to oversee initial coin offerings, according to the report.

Zhao said he had recently been invited by the Maltese government to review an upcoming bill that was favourable to crypto businesses. Binance was ranked as the world’s top-ranked exchange by volume for the past 24 hours, trading about $1.7 billion, according to Coinmarketcap data.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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