This week in tech: Criminals booked as IBM and Telefonica lead adoption

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have changed the world, introducing a new era of decentralization. However, the industry has also attracted some unscrupulous people seeking to take advantage of the technology to conduct criminal activities. This week, a number of them were brought to book, with regulators stepping up their efforts to bring order to blockchain.

The week wasn’t without its share of good news, with blockchain making inroads in banking, telecoms and logistics industries. Spain’s largest telecoms operator Telefonica continued its blockchain endeavors, partnering with a local industry association to avail blockchain to 8,000 Spanish companies. Telefonica partnered with the Association of Science and Technology Parks (APTE) in the project which will allow the companies to experiment with blockchain.

In Oman, the country’s largest port joined TradeLens, a blockchain-powered supply chain platform developed by IBM and Maersk. The Port of Salalah, which handles over 4 million containers a year, aims to utilize blockchain to increase efficiency and enhance customer experience. The port is now the latest member of the platform that now has over 150 clients.

IBM was also at the CES show in Las Vegas, where it demoed a blockchain-powered application that lets users track their coffee beans from the farm to their cup. The app, developed in partnership with Farm Connect, is known as Thank My Farmer. By scanning a QR code, you can track where the coffee was grown and all the processes it underwent before getting to your cup.

In Thailand, the country’s oldest bank launched a real-time low-cost cross-border payments system powered by blockchain technology. Known as SCB Easy, the app was launched by Siam Commercial Bank and completes a cross-border transaction in seconds.

In Spain, yet another bank delved further into blockchain, allowing its clients access to a blockchain-powered finance platform. CaixaBank added to its list of services this week. The platform was developed by major global banks including Societe Generale and UBS and relies on IBM’s blockchain platform. It allows its users to verify financial information in real-time, while using smart contracts to eliminate the risk of payment defaults.

In Italy, the country’s biggest soccer club Juventus made use of a blockchain platform to vote for their new goal song this week. The club’s fans voted in a poll on Socios, a tokenized sports platform for the song they want to be played every time they score. The use of the platform gave a voice to fans worldwide, allowing them to feel included in their club’s running.

The president of the European Central Bank this week endorsed the bank’s quest to develop its own digital currency. Christine Lagarde believes the currency could ease cross-border payments in Europe, making them both faster and cheaper.

On the legal front, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a woman for selling and distributing drugs over the dark web, receiving payments in crypto. The woman was tracked down by DEA agents who posed as buyers for her products. The DoJ also formally brought charges against Virgil Griffith, the controversial Ethereum researcher who it accused of conspiring to help North Korea evade sanctions.

The CFTC this week gave an update on its case against Benjamin Reynolds, the alleged operator of crypto scam Control-Finance. In a motion filed with a New York court, the regulator revealed that it has been hunting down Reynolds in the U.K., where he is said to reside, but had not had any luck tracing him. Kenyan police are having a similar predicament, with a new report this week revealing that they have been hunting down the man behind a $27 million scam. The man is said to have fled to California, leaving over 11,000 investors in tears.

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