Nigeria’s central bank not discouraging people from trading crypto, says governor

The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has seemingly softened his stance on crypto for individuals, if not banks.

Godwin Emefiele, governor of Nigeria’s central bank which previously banned banks from servicing crypto exchanges, has reportedly clarified the bank’s position on the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.

According to local news outlet TodayNG, Central Bank of Nigeria, or CBN, deputy governor Adamu Lamtek said on behalf of Emefiele that the bank had not banned Nigerian residents from buying, trading, or selling crypto, but “[protected] the banking sector from the activities of cryptocurrencies.” Lamtek spoke at a seminar for the Finance Correspondents and Business Editors in the capital, Abuja.

“The CBN did not place restrictions from use of cryptocurrencies and we are not discouraging people from trading in it,” said Emefiele. “What we have just done was to prohibit transactions on cryptocurrencies in the banking sector.”

The statement follows the CBN announcing last month in a circular that it had placed a ban on all regulated financial institutions from providing services to crypto exchanges in the country. The ban directed all commercial banks to close accounts belonging to crypto exchanges and other businesses transacting in cryptocurrencies in Nigeria, warning of “severe regulatory sanctions” for any institution in breach of the rule. Some account holders at Nigeria’s Access Bank have already reported their accounts have been closed.

Emefiele previously referred to cryptocurrencies as “not legitimate money” with no place in Nigeria’s monetary system. The governor said at the time the central bank was doing its due diligence to better understand the implications of the emerging space.

However, many regulators and crypto enthusiasts in Nigeria have criticized the ban. Some lawmakers in the Nigerian Senate have proposed inviting the CBN governor and major crypto stakeholders to a hearing to discuss issues related to crypto regulations in the country.

Since the CBN introduced the crypto ban, the price of Bitcoin (BTC) has been trading at a premium in the country. Valued at $57,349 in the United States, data from crypto exchange Luno currently shows BTC has risen to a more than 70% premium in Nigeria at a price of $97,509.

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Indian banks put crypto traders’ accounts under the microscope

HSBC, HDFC and Citi are now requiring crypto traders in India to provide information about their activities or risk losing their funds.

Cryptocurrency traders and investors in India are among the latest casualties in an increasing trend of personal account closures by global banking operations. 

India’s parliament is currently contemplating a nation-wide crypto ban which local industry critics, such as former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan have compared to “banning the internet for five years.”

The Economic Times reports that customers of private banks in India, such as HDFC, HSBC and Citi, have been receiving notices this year asking them to clarify crypto-related transactions, often requiring them to visit their local bank branch in person. If such clarification is not received, accounts are at risk of being suspended or seized. One letter to an affected customer states:

“To comply with the regulatory guidelines, banks are advised to exercise due diligence by closely examining the transactions carried out in the account on an ongoing basis to caution users, holders and traders of virtual currencies including Bitcoins regarding risks.”

In 2020, India’s Supreme Court reversed an order from the Reserve Bank of India in which banks were asked to discontinue provision of services to cryptocurrency traders.

India’s parliament is expected to enact a new bill that will further restrict the financial activities of traders, and prominent members of the Indian cryptocurrency community have spoken up against it. Sathvik Vishwanath, CEO of India-based exchange Unocoin, believes that a move in the opposite direction is needed to encourage growth of the fintech space in his country. “With crypto by her side,” he said, “the country can bank the massive unbanked population.”

Banks are also preemptively closing customer accounts deemed to be associated with funds moving in or out of cryptocurrency exchanges in a number of countries.

On Feb. 5, the Central Bank of Nigeria prohibited financial institutions operating in the country from “facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchanges,” leading to the immediate closure of bank accounts associated with exchanges and the individuals behind them.

In the U.K., HSBC recently stopped accepting transfers from cryptocurrency exchanges altogether. Lloyds Bank, a British retail and commercial bank, has also been ramping up efforts to dissociate themselves with cryptocurrency traders, as experienced by podcaster Peter McCormack in a Feb. 22 tweet. However that may be a self inflicted wound.

A long-time Bitcoin investor based in the U.K., who wishes to remain anonymous, told Cointelegraph that major banks across Europe are increasingly distancing themselves from crypto traders. He said that new accounts are being turned away from banks on the basis of their involvement with crypto.

“I was looking to openly approach a new bank and be up front about it,” he says. “But I met a brick wall.” The investor claims to have put “six figure amounts” through HSBC “with no issues,” but that legacy accounts are being treated differently than newcomers.

“If you don’t tell them and you’re already in, it seems fine. But if you ask, it’s a ‘no’.”

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Evolve wins second Canadian Bitcoin ETF as Ontario regulator approves application

Evolve Funds Group Inc has received approval to list its Bitcoin ETF. The new asset will trade under the ticker symbols “EBIT” and “EBIT.U” and provide direct exposure to BTC.

North America’s second Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund received regulatory approval on Tuesday, offering another potential entry point for institutional investors to access digital assets.

Less than three weeks after filing a preliminary prospectus for a Bitcoin ETF, Evolve Funds Group Inc announced Tuesday that its fund has been approved by the Ontario Securities Commission, or OSC.

The ETF has two ticker symbols: EBIT for Canadian-denominated units and EBIT.U for U.S.-denominated units. EBIT is said to provide “unhedged exposure to the daily price movement” of Bitcoin in Canadian dollars, whereas EBIT.U provides exposure to the daily price movements in U.S. dollars. 

Notably, the fund will track price data using CF Benchmarks’ Bitcoin Reference Rate, which aggregates data from several BTC/USD markets into a one-a-day benchmark index.

An updated prospectus submitted to the OSC on Frida outlines the fund’s investment objective:

“The Evolve Fund’s investment objective is to provide holders of Units with exposure to the daily price movements of the U.S. dollar price of bitcoin while experiencing minimal tracking error by utilizing the benefits of the creation and redemption processes.”

To achieve this goal, the Evolve fund will invest in long-term holdings of BTC purchased through Gemini NuSTAR LLC and other platforms. 

The prospectus was filed under a passport system, which allows the fund to be accessed in all of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories. 

Sui Chung, CEO of CF Benchmarks, told Cointelegraph that the Evolve ETF has “developed a true first — giving investors an easy-to-understand product that is available through their existing brokers and advisors that gives ownership of Bitcoin.”

Chung continued:

“By using the regulated Bitcoin Reference Rate from CF Benchmarks, the ETF tracks the value of the Bitcoin and because its structure allows daily creation and redemption of ETF shares investors aren’t forced to pay soaring premiums in the secondary market.”

The Evolve fund is the second Bitcoin ETF to be approved by Canadian securities regulators this month. The Purpose Bitcoin ETF received approval last week, becoming the first physically settled North American ETF.

An ETF-style product from 3iQ was approved in Canada last year and is currently listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. However, unlike the Evolve ETF, the EiQ fund doesn’t continually issue new shares.

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Andrew Yang says he’ll transform NYC into a Bitcoin hub if elected mayor

Andrew Yang has plans for New York City that cryptocurrency users anywhere would find appealing.

Andrew Yang, the Democratic Party front-runner in the race to be New York’s next mayor said he would transform New York City into “a hub for BTC and other cryptocurrencies” noting the city to be “the world’s financial capital.”

The former presidential candidate made the comment in a tweet earlier today which drew a flurry of mixed reactions, with some proclaiming it to be a campaign-selling maneuver and others equating it to political suicide.

The most unifying reaction, however, was the demand that Yang use his powers, if elected, to end the BitLicense, enacted by the New York Department of Financial Services. Meltem Demirors, CSO of digital assets management company CoinShares, suggested Yang would need to deal with bo high state taxes and the Bitlicense to make his plan a reality.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Miami mayor Francis Suarez discussed the possibility of paying city employees in Bitcoin to encourage cryptocurrency adoption in the area. Yang actually floated a similar idea in a Sept. 2019 interview, describing the benefits of a government-issued, digitally-based “social currency” which could be exchanged 1:1 with the U.S. dollar.

Yang is currently is leading the Democratic field in popularity and name recognition among voters according to recent polling that saw him streets ahead of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

In sharp contrast to most of his political peers, Yang has vocalized his support for Bitcoin several times in the two years he has been on the mainstream media’s radar. His outspoken beliefs have earned him the title of “Best President for Bitcoin” from some in the cryptocurrency community.

New York has a tumultuous relationship with Bitcoin. The introduction of the BitLicense in 2015 was initially regarded as something of a disaster, potentially stifling the innovation of fintech by imposing draconian restrictions on cryptocurrency use. By 2020, however, the fruits of regulation were paying off with the regulatory clarity under the Bitlicense enabling corporate giants like PayPal, Gemini and Coinbase to attract the deep pockets of Wall Street.

In 2019, during the lead up to his presidential run, Yang argued that congress lacks the basic knowledge required to enact effective cryptocurrency legislation, and that countries which are ahead of the U.S. in regulation will eventually “(dictate) the rules that we’ll need to follow once we catch up.”

Yang was reportedly on the short list of potential nominees to fill the Secretary of Commerce position under the Biden administration. Receiving just 0.45% of the vote in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary, Yang dropped out of the race on Feb. 11 2020, endorsing Biden the following month. In January he announced he was running for Mayor of New York.

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Miami mayor aiming for ‘the most progressive crypto laws’

“We want to make sure that we believe that if all things are equal, we win,” said Mayor Francis Suarez.

Francis Suarez, who has served as the mayor of Miami since 2017, wants to make the city the most attractive in the United States for those in the crypto and blockchain industry.

In an interview with Forbes published Sunday, Suarez said lawmakers in Miami were looking into the policies of crypto-friendly areas like Wyoming and New York in an effort to promote regulatory incentives for crypto and blockchain in Florida.

“[Miami is] making sure that we have the most progressive crypto laws,” said Suarez. “We want to make sure that we believe that if all things are equal, we win. So, we just want to equalize the playing field. We want to make sure that nobody has an advantage over us based on laws that are easily changeable.”

Mayor Suarez did not describe the race to be the regulatory winner as a fight between lawmakers in other jurisdictions. Rather, he gave Wyoming “kudos for being smart” in attracting crypto firms, but added that “every city in America and in the world should be trying to grow its technology ecosystem.”

“We’re working on making sure that our incentives are in place and that our legislation promotes crypto and blockchain and is forward-thinking.”

The mayor has already made several bullish statements on Bitcoin (BTC) and crypto in recent weeks, including having Miami consider letting city employees to get paid in BTC rather than U.S. dollars. He also proposed allowing Miami residents to pay for local fees and taxes using crypto as well as investing some of the city’s treasury into Bitcoin, a task he called “the hardest” of the three ideas.

He has already spoken with a few high-profile figures in the crypto community including a meeting with Gemini co-founders Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. Earlier this month, Tyler said that the mayor is “leading the way for governments and Bitcoin.”

Mayor Suarez did not provide a timeline as to when these actions may take effect for Miami’s 450,000 residents, but some in the crypto community have seemingly taken notice. Last week, Bitcoin 2021 announced it would be moving from Los Angeles to Miami for its June crypto conference.

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