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Factbox: Singapore’s rise, and falter, as Asia cryptocurrency hub

Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, July 12 (Reuters) – Singapore’s burgeoning cryptocurrency sector has been shaken by the recent collapse of Three Arrows Capital, a cryptocurrency hedge fund, and signs of tighter scrutiny by regulators at the Monetary Authority of Singapore. read more

Following are key facts about the rise of Singapore as an Asian cryptocurrency hub, and the fallout from the Three Arrows collapse.

HOW IMPORTANT IS SINGAPORE TO ASIA’S CRYPTO SECTOR?

Investment in Singapore’s crypto and blockchain companies surged to $1.48 billion in 2021, according to KPMG, ten times the previous year and nearly half the Asia Pacific total for 2021.

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PwC says 6% of the world’s crypto funds are based in Singapore, ranking it a joint third globally – along with Switzerland and Hong Kong – behind the U.S. and UK.

Singapore, one of Asia’s main investment banking and asset management centres alongside Hong Kong, is keen to establish a leading role in financial technology, including blockchain and crypto.

WHY HAS SINGAPORE ATTRACTED CRYPTO BUSINESS?

The scale and range of Singapore’s crypto companies and service providers attracted digital asset companies fleeing regulatory crackdowns elsewhere.

These include Huobi, a crypto exchange initially focused on China that now has a major presence in Singapore.

U.S. firms like crypto exchange Gemini have set up regional Asia headquarters in Singapore.

The citystate was also a forerunner in developing a licencing regime for crypto companies, which attracted many companies hoping the endorsement of a leading regulator would help them to win business.

Other industry leaders such as crypto exchange Coinbase (COIN.O) have applied for licences in Singapore.

DBS (DBSM.SI), Singapore’s largest bank, has launched its own crypto exchange.

WHY DID 3AC COLLAPSE?

Digital currencies have been on the backfoot for months, with Bitcoin losing roughly half its value since the start of May.

The sell-off was triggered by the collapse of stablecoin TerraUSD and its paired token Luna, resulting in large losses for holders such as 3AC. The company lost about $200 million of its investment in Luna, an executive told the Wall Street Journal last month, adding that the company was still trying to quantify its losses.

According to U.S. court filings, several of 3AC’s lenders have issued it notices of default.

WHAT IS SINGAPORE’S REGULATORY STANCE?

The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s statements have indicated a welcoming approach, encouraging crypto-related services.

At the same time, some companies say the authorities’ soothing rhetoric belies an occasionally harsh regulatory stance.

Only a handful of approvals have been granted so far among well over 100 applicants for new crypto payments licences.

Chia Hock Lai, co-chairman, Blockchain Association Singapore, said there were currently well over 200 crypto businesses in Singapore, but several had shut down or moved out after the licencing regime came in.

The most high-profile of these is Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, which left Singapore last year as it came under close scrutiny around the world. read more

Like regulators elsewhere, MAS has also indicated that it would take a tough stance on money laundering, consumer protection, and other risks that may be associated with the digital currency sector.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and chairman of the MAS, told parliament last week that the regulator was considering additional consumer safeguards for cryptocurrency trading, although he did not mention 3AC.

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Reporting by Alun John and Chen Lin; Editing by Edmund Klamann

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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Bitcoin surges nearly 8% to $31,780

May 30 (Reuters) – Bitcoin rose 7.93 % to $31,780.51 at 2200 GMT on Monday, up $2,334.8 from its previous close.

The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency is up 25.1% from the year’s low of $25,401.05 on May 12.

Ether , the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, rose 9.8 % to $1,989.38 on Monday, adding $177.54 to its previous close.

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Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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EXCLUSIVE North Korea grows nuclear, missiles programs, profits from cyberattacks -U.N. report

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 (Reuters) – North Korea continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the past year and cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges were an important revenue source for Pyongyang, according to an excerpt of a confidential United Nations report seen on Saturday by Reuters.

The annual report by independent sanctions monitors was submitted on Friday evening to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee.

“Although no nuclear tests or launches of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) were reported, DPRK continued to develop its capability for production of nuclear fissile materials,” the experts wrote.

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North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It has long-been banned from conducting nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by the U.N. Security Council.

“Maintenance and development of DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile infrastructure continued, and DPRK continued to seek material, technology and know-how for these programs overseas, including through cyber means and joint scientific research,” the report said.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions, which the Security Council has strengthened over the years in an effort to target funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The sanctions monitors noted that there had been a “marked acceleration” of missile testing by Pyongyang.

The United States and others said on Friday that North Korea had carried out nine ballistic missile launches in January, adding it was the largest number in a single month in the history of the country’s weapons of mass destruction and missile programs.

“DPRK demonstrated increased capabilities for rapid deployment, wide mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces,” the sanctions monitors said.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CYBERATTACKS, ILLICIT TRADE

The monitors said “cyberattacks, particularly on cryptocurrency assets, remain an important revenue source” for North Korea and that they had received information that North Korean hackers continued to target financial institutions, cryptocurrency firms and exchanges.

“According to a member state, DPRK cyberactors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia,” the report said.

The monitors also cited a report last month by cybersecurity firm Chainalysis that said North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year.

In 2019, the U.N. sanctions monitors reported that North Korea had generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using widespread and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

The latest report said North Korea’s strict blockade in response to the COVID-19 pandemic meant “illicit trade, including in luxury goods, has largely ceased.”

Over the years the U.N. Security Council has banned North Korean exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capped imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

“Although maritime exports from DPRK of coal increased in the second half of 2021, they were still at relatively low levels,” the monitors said.

“The quantity of illicit imports of refined petroleum increased sharply in the same period, but at a much lower level than in previous years,” the report said. “Direct delivery by non-DPRK tankers to DPRK has ceased, probably in response to COVID-19 measures: instead, only DPRK tankers delivered oil.”

North Korea’s humanitarian situation “continues to worsen,” the report said. The monitors said that was probably due to the COVID-19 blockade, but that a lack of information from North Korea meant it was difficult to determine how much U.N. sanctions were unintentionally harming civilians.

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Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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