Business 20 March 2018

Dennis Wafula

Securities regulator stops Hong Kong company from offering ICO

Most recent regulatory actions by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has led to the shutdown of an initial coin offering (ICO) of a company called Black Cell Technology Limited.

Black Cell has been selling “krop” tokens as a means to connect buyers with crop and livestock producers. But the SFC said the startup had engaged in “potential unauthorized promotional activities and unlicensed regulated activities.”

The regulations by SFC have resulted in Black Cell stopping any sales activities to the public in Hong Kong. The company has also agreed to unwind ICO transactions for Hong Kong investors and return their investments by March 29th.

According to SFC, Black Cell promised investors to use ICO proceedings to fund the development of the mobile application. They also said that token holders will be eligible to redeem their equity shares from the crowdsale. As per SFC regulations, such arrangements made Black Cell a “collective investment scheme” rather than an ICO, hence the need for approval from SFC before marketing the ICO to the public in Hong Kong.

Despite having made many regulatory interventions against various ICOs, this is the first time SFC has publicly mentioned a company it is taking actions against.

The regulatory action by SFC comes two months after the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission filed a cease and desist action against Black Cell for selling unregistered securities. Despite Black Cell’s appeal, a court in the Philippines confirmed that krop tokens are unregistered securities. As a result, the cease and desist order is now permanently stopping Black Cell from initiating an ICO in the country.

SFC advised parties wishing to engage in any ICO-related activity to seek legal or other professional advice, if they are in doubt of the applicable legal and regulatory requirements. Investors are also to exercise caution before making investments in any ICO.

Black Cell technology is still offering the ICO to the public; however, there is a note on the site stating that the sales are not open to residents of the U.S., Hong Kong, and other ICO-hostile areas.

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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