Business 20 July 2018

Gerald Fenech

Japanese minister in hot water over alleged crypto exchange link

The weather is heating up for Japan’s government in the cryptocurrency sphere, following reports that one of its foremost ministers has been caught in a seemingly uncomfortable situation.

Seiko Noda, the minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, was questioned by members of the Japanese press on Thursday over her alleged involved with an unregistered cryptocurrency exchange. According to reports, the exchange allegedly violated the Japanese fund settlement law. Incidentally, Noda is also Minister for Women’s Empowerment, although in this case, she seems to have gone ahead and empowered herself.

Jiji Press reported that Noda’s secretary and aide allegedly invited an agent of the Financial Services Agency (FSA) and a representative of the unnamed crypto exchange to the minister’s office.

Last January 12, the Tokyo-based operator received a warning from the FSA over suspicions that it had been violating Japanese laws, according to the report.

Noda, however, told reporters that her office invited the FSA agent for a “general background briefing” concerning the legal framework for crypto exchanges in the country. The meeting, she said, was organized at her parliamentary office with a representative from the crypto exchange who was an acquaintance. Noda said she was not present at the meeting, which reportedly took place last January 30.

“Because there has never been any administrative ties between this company and my office, I believe there is no exerting pressure on the front of this government investigation,” Noda said, according to the report.

In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, a senior agency official claimed that requesting for a briefing by public officials of Noda’s stature could be interpreted as exerting pressure, saying, “A public servant will likely take it as pressure if an aide to a sitting Cabinet member calls for a meeting in which an employee of a company the agency is looking into is also present.”

Noda told reporters that she has neither received any political contribution nor had she made any investment with the company, promising to “take more prudent responses in the future.”

The company, which began dealing in its own cryptocurrency in October 2017, received administrative guidance in February 2018 to stop selling cryptocurrencies in the country, according to reports.

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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