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Dubai’s VARA shifts leadership for market operations following CEO departure

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Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) has announced a reshuffling of its leadership in a move designed to inject fresh perspectives into the operations of the market regulator.

In line with a statement, VARA’s current CEO, Henson Orser, will be stepping down after nearly a year on the job. VARA says he will be replaced by Mathew White, a finance professional with extensive experience at professional services firm PwC.

While VARA did not give a clear-cut reason for Orser’s departure, specific sources cite personal reasons and a need to “ramp up to full-scale market operations.” VARA disclosed that Orser will still maintain ties with the regulator in a consultative capacity, given the successes recorded in his tenure.

“His commitment to VARA is steadfast as he will remain available in a consultative capacity hereon, highlighting the strong collaboration between both parties,” said VARA.

Under Orser’s tenure as VARA CEO, the regulator recorded several milestones in the quest to ensure a vibrant digital currency ecosystem. With Orser at the helm of affairs, VARA issued a string of operational licenses to several regional virtual asset service providers (VASPs), including KomainuOKXLaser Digital, and BitOasis.

Apart from merely issuing licenses, the Orser-led VARA rolled out complete market regulations for industry players, released a schedule of fees for digital currency-related activity, and gave the green light for asset staking by digital asset exchanges.

“VASPs licensed to carry out Custody Services may now, with specific additional approval from VARA, provide staking services to their customers from the same legal entity and without obtaining a separate licence for VA Management and Investment Services,” said VARA back in August.

White, the new man at the helm of affairs, is expected to double down on the achievements of Orser, leaning on his extensive experiences in traditional finance. The new CEO is no stranger to the operations of VARA as he previously served as a consultant to the regulator but faces an uphill climb given the Emirates’ Web3 ambitions.

Toughening stance for digital assets in the UAE

Financial regulators in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are scrambling to roll out robust regulations for VASPs operating in the country, following VARA’s lead.

In early November, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) published joint guidance with other regulators, warning unregistered VASPs against operating in the country.

On its part, VARA has taken enforcement actions against erring VASPs in the region, slamming huge fines on OPNX and revoking BitOasis’ license for flouting its rules.

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