Film producer pleads guilty in fraud investment scams

ATLANTA (AP) — A movie producer has pleaded guilty to several counts of fraud and money laundering arising from his fraudulent promotion of two cryptocurrency investment schemes, federal prosecutors said.

Ryan Felton, 48, entered the plea on the fourth day of his jury trial in his hometown of Atlanta on Thursday.

“The defendant used 21st century technology to perpetrate an age-old fraud: lying to investors to steal their money and fund his own lavish lifestyle,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a news release. “Felton’s conviction should serve as a warning to anyone who seeks to capitalize on emerging technology to victimize others.”

Investigators said Felton, in 2017, promoted an initial coin offering, or ICO, for an entertainment streaming platform promising to surpass Netflix. Prosecutors said he falsely promoted that Atlanta rapper T.I. was co-owner of the FLiK platform, the U.S. military had agreed to distribute the platform to service members, and FLiK was finalizing licensing deals with major film and television studios.

Instead of using investor funds to develop the platform, Felton used around $2.4 million from investors to fund an extravagant lifestyle. He bought a $1.5 million home, a Ferrari, a Chevy Tahoe, and about $30,000 in diamond jewelry, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said.

Felton promoted a second ICO for a new company in 2018. Investigators say he raised more than $200,000 for CoinSpark and again diverted money to his personal bank account.

“The technology has advanced, but the crime remains the same, and those who invest in cryptocurrency must be wary of opportunities that appear too good to be true,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is committed to protecting investors from sophisticated cryptocurrency scammers that seek to capitalize on the novelty of digital currency.”

Felton pleaded guilty to 12 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of money laundering, and two counts of securities fraud.

Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date before U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Best Crypto Presales Launching in 2022

The remarkable growth in cryptocurrency’s popularity over the past few years has provided a platform for countless exciting projects to launch. Many of these projects make use of a presale phase, designed to raise capital and boost awareness – whilst providing investors with an opportunity to purchase tokens at a discount.

This guide will take an in-depth look at the best crypto presale to invest in, reviewing ten upcoming presales with huge potential before highlighting some of the key factors to keep in mind before investing.

Best Crypto Presales for 2022 – Full List

Finding the best cryptocurrency presales can be tricky, especially given the abundance of new coins within the market. However, through extensive research and analysis, we’ve narrowed down the selection to our top 10 presale crypto projects – all of which are listed below: 

  1. Say Network (SAY) – Overall Best Crypto Presale to Invest In
  2. LunaOne (XLN) – Cryptocurrency Presale Project Within the Metaverse Niche
  3. Panda Elon (PELON) – ‘Meme Coin’ Presale with Huge Price Potential
  4. Bonuz (BONUZ) – Exciting Social Media Presale Crypto Platform
  5. EstateX (ESX) – Best Crypto Presale to Invest In for Fractional Real Estate
  6. TechDoge (TECHDOGE) – New Crypto Presale Looking to Emulate Dogecoin
  7. Diferencial (DRL) – Utility-Based Token with Numerous Use Cases
  8. Leshy Inu (LES) – Best Crypto Presale to Invest In with DeFi Connections
  9. NFT Workx (WRKX) – Top NFT-Based Crypto Presale Project
  10. Sleep Care (SLEEP) – First-of-its-Kind ‘Sleep-to-Earn’ Crypto Presale

A Detailed Look at the Best Crypto Presales in 2022

Our list of best crypto presales 2022 features projects from various niches, ranging from DeFi to NFTs. Let’s take a closer look at these projects, focusing on their use cases and value potential over the longer term:

1. Say Network (SAY) – Overall Best Crypto Presale to Invest In

Say Network logo

Our pick for the best crypto presale to invest in is Say Network. Say Network is a Layer-1 blockchain network that aims to provide a foundation for constructing exciting decentralized applications (dApps). uSay is the incumbent social media app hosted on Say Network, designed to offer more control over the content that each user posts.

One of the most appealing features of uSay is that users will be compensated for posting content through distributions of the $SAY token. Although the uSay platform is still in production, this app looks to revolutionize how social media operates – whilst providing a way for users to earn passive income through engaging content.

Say Network presale

The other reason Say Network is our pick for the best crypto presale 2022 is that it will integrate seamlessly with NFTs. The litepaper mentions a feature for users to create NFTs from their social media profiles and posts, providing full ownership over the longer term. Finally, given that Say Network will function as a DAO, all network participants will have a say in the direction the platform takes.

2. LunaOne (XLN) – Cryptocurrency Presale Project Within the Metaverse Niche

LunaOne logo

Another exciting presale cryptocurrency to be aware of is LunaOne. LunaOne is a metaverse project that looks to combine business, gaming, and education into one ecosystem. As such, this will allow members of one niche to interact with demographics they wouldn’t usually communicate with – fostering new relationships and providing a platform for innovative creations.

LunaOne users will be able to create their own avatar, which will provide the basis for earning XLN – LunaOne’s native token. Although investors can purchase tokens through the LunaOne crypto presale, users will also be able to acquire them in-game through studying, working, or taking part in cybersport events. There will also be ‘quests’ for users to complete, offering rewards in XLN.

LunaOne presale

Aside from the passive income aspects, LunaOne will also provide an NFT launchpad driven by the community. The metaverse itself will operate as a DAO, meaning the users can decide on policies and other areas of how the world will work. The LunaOne crypto presale is due to end in Q2 2022, with a view to launching the metaverse in Q3 2022.

3. Panda Elon (PELON) – ‘Meme Coin’ Presale with Huge Price Potential

Panda Elon logo

As the name implies, Panda Elon is an upcoming ‘meme coin’ with inherent links to Elon Musk. Most crypto investors will understand Musk’s influence on the crypto market, which was evident during the peak of Dogecoin’s price rise. The Panda Elon creators are attempting to leverage this influence whilst combining it with China’s best-known animal – the panda.

Panda Elon’s creators don’t deny that this meme coin is designed to make money for investors. The $PELON token itself is hosted on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC), with a total supply of 1 billion tokens. However, 425,000,000 (42.5%) will be put aside for the presale before being listed on PancakeSwap after that.

Panda Elon presale

Details remain scarce on $PELON’s use cases, although the whitepaper mentions an 8% tax on buy and sell transactions. Half of the collected amount will be used for marketing, whilst the remainder will be used for further development and liquidity pools. So, although utility may pose an issue for Panda Elon, this project could be one of the best presale crypto coins due to its community-building potential.

4. Bonuz (BONUZ) – Exciting Social Media Presale Crypto Platform

Bonuz logo

Bonuz looks set to be the best crypto presale to invest in regarding social engagement and interaction with celebrities. Put simply, Bonuz is a turnkey engagement platform that allows content creators to develop their own tokens, which their fans can purchase. This helps create stronger communities filled with exciting benefits for token holders.

At launch, Bonuz will focus exclusively on celebrities, influencers, and brands. However, as the platform grows, the team will also begin targeting game studios and publishers, enabling them to tokenize their content through the platform. The tokens themselves are BEP-20 compatible and will allow holders to gain exclusive access to ‘channels’ hosted by the connected creator.

Bonuz crypto presale

In terms of benefits for token holders, these range from Q&As to offline meet-and-greet events. Creators may also host giveaways or even provide a one-on-one call with specific fans. Finally, given that the $BONUZ token is deflationary, speculative investors can also gain exposure to the project’s growth whilst benefitting from price appreciation driven by regular token burns.

5. EstateX (ESX) – Best Crypto Presale to Invest In for Fractional Real Estate

EstateX logo

EstateX is a regular presale crypto project that looks to revolutionize how real estate investing works. At its core, EstateX will offer a blockchain-based ecosystem that significantly improves the accessibility of real estate investing to retail investors. Since EstateX offers ‘fractional ownership’, investors can purchase shares in a property for as little as $100.

In turn, this enables investors to generate a passive income stream through $ESX – the ecosystem’s native token. Furthermore, liquidity shouldn’t pose an issue, as EstateX will offer 24/7 property token trading on a dedicated secondary marketplace. Users can even take out instant loans backed by fractional ownership in EstateX properties.

EstateX crypto presale

Given that the European tokenized real estate market is estimated to be worth €1.5 trillion by 2024, EstateX is poised to be one of the best crypto presales in 2022. Since all transactions are handled via smart contracts, the ecosystem will be entirely decentralized, boosting safety and transparency. Finally, investors who aren’t on the EstateX platform can still invest in $ESX tokens, providing a way to gain exposure to the platform’s growth and success.

6. TechDoge (TECHDOGE) – New Crypto Presale Looking to Emulate Dogecoin

TechDoge logo

Much like Panda Elon, which we discussed earlier, TechDoge is the latest attempt at a ‘meme coin’, looking to capitalize on the success of Dogecoin. However, not only does TechDoge aim to leverage the power of DOGE’s community, but it also seeks to provide real-world use cases. According to the roadmap, these include regular airdrops, mini-games, contests, and NFT collections.

One of the key elements going in TechDoge’s favour is that the token was designed by the team behind MiniDOGE – which surged to a $220 million market cap in 2021. None of the development team will own TechDoge tokens, which helps reduce the possibility that this is a ‘pump and dump’ scheme. What’s more, TechDoge has already been KYC verified and audited by Cyberscope, providing credibility to the project.

TechDoge presale

TechDoge will also include a ‘static rewards’ mechanism, whereby a 10% tax will be levied on each transaction. A total of 5% of the collected amount will be given back to TechDoge token holders, whilst the remainder will be used for marketing or burned – reducing the supply. As more tokens are burned, the remaining TechDoge tokens will become scarce, which will help drive the price over the longer term.

7. Diferencial (DRL) – Utility-Based Token with Numerous Use Cases

Diferencial logo

One of the best cryptocurrency presales to keep an eye on in the months ahead is Diferencial. Put simply, Diferencial (DRL) is a utility-based token hosted on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC) that looks to provide token holders with a route towards regular passive income. This is accomplished through Diferencial’s ‘reflection’ mechanism.

This mechanism works by taxing buy and sell transactions, meaning a 6% distribution is provided to remaining token holders. Notably, the amount each holder receives is in proportion to their investment – so larger investors will receive more passive income.

Diferencial presale

Aside from reflections, Diferencial’s whitepaper notes other use cases, such as NFT buying and selling, secure document transfer, DRL fashion, exercise rewards, and more. The NFT aspect is fascinating, as it will contain a staking and voting mechanism which can lead to further rewards. Finally, Diferencial will also be launching a dedicated mobile app where users can swap, stake, or trade their tokens.

8. Leshy Inu (LES) – Best Crypto Presale to Invest In with DeFi Connections

Leshy Inu logo

Leshy Inu is a presale cryptocurrency project that has already garnered significant attention on social media. At the time of writing, Leshy Inu’s Twitter page has nearly 14,000 followers, whilst the official Telegram group boasts more than 33,000 members. This community backing forms the foundation of Leshy Inu’s appeal, as the name is derived from the famous ‘Shiba Inu’ coin.

However, Leshy Inu isn’t just a meme coin – it also offers use cases within the world of DeFi. These include a custom-built swap exchange, where users can trade tokens and yield farm. This exchange will be based on an Automated Market Maker (AMM) model, which will offer revenue sharing for liquidity providers.

Leshy Inu tokenomics

Leshy Inu also aims to offer lotteries and NFTs within the ecosystem, providing an ‘all-in-one’ platform for trading and investing. There are 10 trillion $LES tokens in existence, although 90% of these will be burned at launch. With only 3.5% of the total supply available for early investors to purchase, this regular presale crypto looks likely to be one of the most sought-after crypto events of the coming months.

9. NFT Workx (WRKX) – Top NFT-Based Crypto Presale Project

NFT Workx logo

Our pick for the best crypto presale 2022 within the NFT niche is NFT Workx. NFT Workx is an upcoming NFT platform that provides services related to Web 3.0, such as consulting, strategy, and marketing. The platform works with artists, athletes, musicians, and more to develop their own collections and build a loyal following.

In a sense, NFT Workx works similarly to a marketing company, as the project will also offer press releases, paid ads, promo videos, digital artwork, and more. One of the project’s main features is its ‘Starter Package’, which includes everything a creator needs to develop an NFT collection and build awareness.

NFT Workx presale

The NFT Workx platform will be powered by $WRKX, which has several compelling use cases. These include discounts on fees and prices, early access to new NFT collections, VIP partner benefits, and voting opportunities for governance. $WRKX users will even be able to stake their tokens on the NFT Workx platform and earn an attractive APY whilst still benefitting from price increases.

10. Sleep Care (SLEEP) – First-of-its-Kind ‘Sleep-to-Earn’ Crypto Presale

Sleep Care logo

Rounding off our list of the best crypto presale projects to invest in is Sleep Care. Sleep Care is a first-of-its-kind ‘sleep-to-earn’ protocol where users can receive passive income based on their sleep quality. This passive income is denominated in $SLEEP, Sleep Care’s native token.

To begin earning a return, users must own at least 500 $SLEEP tokens and complete a minimum of five hours of sleep each night. Since Sleep Care’s overarching goal is to make a noticeable impact on the world’s sleep quality, users who sleep ‘better’ will receive more income. Sleep quality is monitored by the Sleep Care app, which uses GPS technology and body sensors to help measure sleep.

Sleep Care presale

There will also be a monthly leaderboard where the top 10 ‘sleepers’ will receive a bonus prize. Sleep Care will also include built-in social media elements, allowing users to view the sleep habits of other users and form lasting relationships. Finally, with an inherent burn mechanism, $SLEEP will be a deflationary token, helping price appreciate over the longer term.

What are Crypto Presales?

Now that we’ve discussed the best crypto presale to invest in, it begs the question – what exactly are crypto presales? Put simply, presales are limited-time sales of a crypto token designed to raise awareness (and capital) for a project. These presales occur before the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and tend to only be available through the provider’s website.

The main appeal of these presales is that they allow early investors to purchase tokens at a reduced price point. Naturally, this is a risky endeavour, as the project itself will still be in the very early stages of its growth. Nevertheless, risk-seeking investors can generate huge returns if they pick projects that achieve huge valuations.

Crypto presales

One of the most successful crypto presales was by Ethereum back in 2014. In just 12 hours, more than 7 million ETH was raised, which equated to roughly $2.3 million. Given the incredible prices that Ethereum has reached in recent years, it’s fair to say that presale investors hit the jackpot with this one.

How to Find the Best Crypto Presales to Invest In

Due to the regularity of crypto presales, finding high-value projects to invest in can be tricky. Fortunately, there are a few factors to keep in mind which can help narrow down the selection:

Keep Tabs on Crypto News Sites

Crypto news sites are an excellent resource for finding new crypto presales to invest in. These websites constantly monitor the market, providing updates on new projects or developers launching other enterprises. However, due to the abundance of news outlets, it’s best to use those that are objective and do not partner with any crypto projects – as they tend to showcase some bias.

Use Social Media

Social media is another excellent resource and one that led to great success with the Crypto Vault presale. Twitter and Reddit tend to be the best networks for information on presales, as they offer real-time updates with discussions from real traders. Subreddits like r/CryptoCurrency are great for established coins and soon-to-be-released projects with high potential.

Say Network Twitter

Review Whitepaper & Roadmap

Finally, once an exciting project has been found, it’s crucial to review the roadmap and whitepaper presented on the website. These two elements are essential to determining longevity (and price potential), so it can be a red flag if they aren’t present. It’s also wise to research the development team behind the project to ensure they have the relevant credentials to lead the project forward. 

Are Presale Cryptos a Good Investment Opportunity?

Crypto presale projects are inherently risky – there’s no escaping that fact. However, those investors who are happy to take on the risk can receive some tremendous benefits, such as: 

Become Part of Growing Community

Early investors in presale crypto projects can become part of a growing community at the ground level – which can be extremely rewarding. As there will likely be a limited number of investors at first, it’s easier to form connections with like-minded people. Furthermore, making connections can also lead to tips about other high-potential presales in the future. 

Market-Beating Price Potential

Naturally, investing in crypto presales presents a path to generating huge returns. This is because tokens will be priced at a discount, which can help produce triple-digit (or even quadruple-digit) returns if the project begins gaining traction. However, it’s also essential to remain grounded and realize that not all projects will be ‘winners’ – as many will not grow to the level required for notable returns.

LBLOCK price chart

Gain Exposure to New Niches

Finally, investing in crypto presales can also provide exposure to new areas of the market that investors may not have otherwise ventured into. The projects listed earlier hail from various niches, from DeFi to NFTs. Not only does this provide compelling use cases, but it can also help diversify crypto portfolios and optimize the risk/return ratio.

Best Crypto Presales – Conclusion

In conclusion, this guide has discussed the best crypto presale to invest in during 2022, highlighting which coins have the highest potential and the most hype. Although presales are undoubtedly risky, they can provide market-beating returns – ensuring they remain an essential part of the broader crypto ecosystem.

Say Network and LunaOne are two of the most promising projects on our list, offering compelling use cases and stellar development teams. However, any of the ten projects discussed in this guide could be the next to take off, so it’s crucial to conduct prior research and never invest more than you’re comfortable losing. 


How do crypto presales work?

How do you invest in presale crypto?

Are crypto presales considered ICOs?

What is the best crypto presale to invest in this year?

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UAE museum partners with cryptocurrency exchange on ‘most beautiful NFTs in metaverse’ project

DUBAI: The abaya is a sartorial staple for women across the Gulf. The loose robe-like garment, which dates back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia, constitutes national dress in countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, serving as a symbol of modesty.

Today, the abaya is a far cry from the plain black cloak of the past — as elegant as that can be. With time, the floor-length robe has evolved into a fashion statement, with many different designs available. The new wave of garments, while engineered for modesty, features contemporary elements like jewel-encrusted palm trees, black lace trim and embroidered hearts, and come in experimental and playful colors, silhouettes and fabrics that are anything but basic.

One such label reimagining the traditional garment is Wings.

Wings is a handmade abaya label founded by Emirati designer Al Anood Al-Mansoori. Inspired by the movement of birds, Al-Mansoori has produced a lineup of culturally modest attire in powerfully outspoken colors and fabrics that will ensure you are the best-dressed person in any room.

The fashion designer reveals that she is deeply influenced by sci-fi movies and TV shows. Supplied

“I have always been inspired by the boldness of an independent woman,” proclaimed Al-Mansoori. “All my life I have worked toward becoming one myself,” added the electrical engineer turned fashion designer.

“I am pretty much driven by the thought of freedom and breaking through,” she explained, hence the name Wings, which boasts multiple meanings.

The fashion designer, who reveals that she is deeply influenced by sci-fi movies and TV shows such as “The Matrix” and “The X-Files,” is currently studying for her master’s degree in artificial intelligence, and it is clear how biology, physics and algorithms inform her designs.

One bestselling piece is a graphic printed chiffon abaya that comes with a matching stretch jersey dress and opera gloves, which can also be worn on their own. The design’s print evokes the chronophotographic lines of bird wing movements.


A graphic printed chiffon abaya that comes with a matching stretch jersey dress and opera gloves is a bestseller. Supplied

The designer’s inspirations also culminated into an expansive lineup of edgy and contemporary looks that include an exquisite black overlay embroidered with a giant bird on the back and creations that merge the trench coat with the traditional abaya and can easily double as outerwear.

However, Al-Mansoori states that having unique creations is only one element of a successful clothing company.

“To thrive in such a local business, you can’t just be good at designing garments,” she said. “You have to master project and relationship management. You should always be up to date with worldwide trends in the fashion industry and any new entrepreneurship hacks.”

She explained, for instance, that she is using her education in artificial intelligence to see how she can predict her customers’ behaviors and thus improve customer loyalty through her findings.

However, judging by how quickly her creations run out of stock online, it is safe to presume that Wings is steadily on the rise — no fancy app or elaborate program necessary.  


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Bitcoin, Ether fall; Brazilian Congress may approve regulation; North Korean hackers blamed for heist: Crypto Moves

RIYADH: Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency internationally, traded lower on Sunday, down 0.56 percent to $40,296 as of 08.15 a.m. Riyadh time.

Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, was priced at $3.037, down 0.27 percent, according to data from Coindesk

The Brazilian Congress may approve a legal framework for cryptocurrency 

The proponents of various proposed law projects presented in the Senate and the Congress have stated they will seek the unification of the projects due to their similarity, according to reports from local media. 

This new consolidated project provides incentives for green mining and the inclusion of crypto-related fraud as a crime, according to 

“There is a market demand for a safer business environment and the need for criminal classification to avoid fraud, in addition to adjusting Brazil to international agreements,” senator Iraja Abreu said. 

The senator believes that with a clear and well-established legal framework for cryptocurrencies in place that adapts the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, known as FATF, the sector will be more suitable for investors interested in Brazil.

Oman integrates real estate tokenization in virtual assets regulatory framework  

The Oman Capital Market Authority, known as OCMA, is set to include real estate tokenization in its virtual asset regulatory framework, reported.  

Oman expects to complete the drafting of the regulatory framework for virtual assets by the third quarter of 2022, according to the report. 

“The Regulatory Framework for Virtual Assets and Virtual asset service providers currently being established will allow the issuance of virtual assets such as real estate tokens for the first time in the Sultanate of Oman,” the advisor Kemal Rizadi said at the real estate conference held in Muscat. 

Rizadi suggested the tokenization of real estate — the supposed conversion of real estate property into several blockchain-based tokens — will likely open up investment opportunities in the real estate sector for local and foreign investors. 

North Korean hackers blamed for crypto theft

The US has linked North Korean hackers to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency tied to the popular online game Axie Infinity, the US Treasury Department said on April 14.

Ronin, a blockchain network that lets users transfer crypto in and out of the game, said digital cash worth almost $615 million was stolen on March 23.

No one has explicitly assigned blame for the hack, but on Thursday the US Treasury identified a digital currency address used by the hackers as being under the control of a North Korean hacking group often dubbed “Lazarus.”

“The US is aware that the DPRK has increasingly relied on illicit activities — including cybercrime — to generate revenue for its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs as it tries to evade robust US and UN sanctions,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

The spokesperson warned that those transacting with the wallet risk exposure to US sanctions.

Amazon not ready for crypto payments Inc. CEO Andy Jassy said the e-commerce giant is not close to adding cryptocurrency as a payment option to its retail business, in an interview with CNBC on April 14.

He also said it might be possible to sell NFTs on its e-commerce platform and expects NFTs to continue to grow “significantly.”

NFT, a type of digital asset that exists on a blockchain, has exploded in popularity in 2021, with NFT artworks selling for millions of dollars.

Jassy said cryptocurrencies will become bigger in the longer term, but added he himself does not own any bitcoin.

A growing number of companies have started to accept virtual currencies for payment, bringing an asset class shunned by major financial institutions until a few years ago closer to the mainstream.

Last year, eBay Inc. allowed the sale of NFTs for digital collectibles like trading cards, images, or video clips on its platform, the first e-commerce company to tap into the frenzy around NFTs.

eBay had also said it was open to the possibility of accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment in the future.

(With inputs from Reuters) 


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GCC countries are leading the way of cryptocurrencies regulation

GCC countries are leading the way of cryptocurrencies regulation

GCC countries are leading the way of cryptocurrencies regulation
In the Middle East, crypto has generated traction, often in different ways. (Shutterstock)

The Russian central bank sent shivers down the spines of virtual asset investors after coming out with a proposal for a ban on digital assets in January. But a few days later the nation’s Ministry of Finance instead said that further regulation would be enough to protect citizens from fraud and other misuses, setting the stage for more internal debate. More regulation seems to be where the debate is currently pitched in the nation, with authorities setting their sights on boosting tax revenue.

The apparent split over virtual assets among Russia’s financial top brass is reminiscent of a larger global pattern that has emerged in recent years. Nations openly fret about whether to ban, or not to ban, cryptocurrencies.

Some countries, such as China and Algeria, imposed strict bans on digital currencies. Others, like the US, many European nations, and it seems, Russia, are slowly but surely moving toward comprehensive regulatory regimes.

In the Middle East, crypto has generated traction, often in different ways. Saudi Arabia has been quite welcoming to crypto companies and has experimented with blockchain for banks. The Kingdom has pledged to invest billions into blockchain and the metaverse. NEOM, its futuristic city in the making, will get a metaverse twin city, which will incorporate crypto and non-fungible tokens. This makes for a daring experiment, not just in crypto, but for urban development, as the end result could be nothing short of a city within a city, a place where the physical and digital worlds come together.

Bahrain is another leading nation in crypto adoption. In January, Bahrain’s national bank tested a blockchain platform built by US bank JPMorgan in another likely hint of where the lending industry may be moving its operations next. It previously rolled out a set of comprehensive rules in 2019, covering security, due diligence, and other digital asset operations. The Gulf nation allowed banking access to crypto companies, easing a major pain point these firms have traditionally faced due to a reluctance by banks to deal with digital assets.

But it is the UAE that stands out as a global and regional regulatory trailblazer in this area, seizing momentum early on and putting together a comprehensive regulatory framework to support digital asset firms. The country has emerged as a bustling hub for crypto innovation and bets on blockchain as a crucial part of its plan to double its gross domestic product by 2030.

Keeping up with innovation

The UAE has built up a network of around 40 free zones over decades, which are special economic areas with looser regulatory control. Their benefits include tax and customs exemptions, support for 100 percent foreign-owned businesses, and easy market access. These conditions are obviously very effective in attracting foreign talent and new firms to the country. But the benefits don’t end there— this arrangement is good for the nation’s administration.

Free zones are usually focused on a specific market niche and have their own regulators, who are well placed to keep the finger on the pulse of the relevant industries they oversee. The arrangement allows free zones to advance the government’s regulatory framework as innovation occurs.

This flexible model helped the nation move quickly to embrace virtual assets, even though the process is not evenly spread across the country. On the mainland, beyond the boundaries of the free zones, the virtual and digital asset sector is playing catch up. This is also true when it comes to banks, which are yet to make significant moves into the blockchain space. But in free zones, things could hardly be more progressive, with the digital asset business steaming ahead at full speed.

In June 2018, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the regulator of the Abu Dhabi Global Market, a financial free zone, published the first edition of its virtual asset framework. Essentially, the FSRA became the world’s first regulator to offer a bespoke regulatory framework for this novel asset space, and this work serves as a good example for others to follow.

What the regulator got right

The FSRA built its virtual asset guidelines from the ground-up four years ago, in a move that treated this kind of digital infrastructure as a self-standing asset class. Its regulations include a clear-cut definition of digital assets, giving them the three key features of a currency — as a medium of exchange, a store of value and a unit of account. It also distinguishes different sub-classes in this category, such as digital securities and fiat tokens.

These guidelines show a thorough
understanding of the playing field, which the FSRA was able to gain by maintaining proximity to the industry and monitoring
its development.

Also, by treating crypto as a self-standing asset class, it went further than many other regulators, who tend to put the sector on the same shelf as money transfer companies.

The problem with the money transfer approach is that it focuses only on knowing your customer and anti-money laundering issues, ignoring other factors. The FSRA’s rulebook includes provisions designed to guarantee market integrity, consumer protection, custody regulations and technology governance.

When it comes specifically to exchanges and platforms where users can trade digital assets, the FSRA rulebook goes far beyond knowing your customer supervision. It provides guidelines for transparency, fair trading practices, market surveillance, and other aspects of exchange operations.

The FSRA continues to monitor the industry and updates its regulations in line with key developments. It also incorporates the best practices proposed by international bodies, such as the French Financial Action Task Force.

With its fast-moving and flexible approach to virtual asset regulations, the UAE sets the example for every nation outside the crypto ban club to follow. Countries looking to capitalize on this novel asset class should pay close attention and take notes.

• Vasja Zupan is the president of Matrix, the first Virtual Assets Multilateral Trading Facility and Custodian to be launched under the regulations of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Abu Dhabi Global Market.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view

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NFT Collection Failures Begin to Mount in Flashback to ICO Bust

For every Bored Ape and CryptoPunk there is a Baby Baller, one of the thousands of NFT projects that have faltered not long after celebrated debuts. 

On average, one in three NFT collections have essentially expired, with little or no trading activity, blockchain analytics firm Nansen found. Another third are trading below the amount it cost issuers to mint the tokens. Nansen analyzed about 8,400 collections comprised of 19.3 million individual NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. 

As failed projects pile up, long-time crypto observers are having flashbacks to the Initial Coin Offering bust of 2018, when thousands of digital token quickly become worthless after regulators warned they’re probably unregistered securities. Much like ICOs in their heyday, NFTs have become one of the hottest corners of the cryptocurrency world as speculators seek to take advantage of the surging interest and prices for the digital certificates of authenticity most commonly representing art or collectibles.      

“The semblance is uncanny,” said the anonymous collector known as WhaleShark who is thought to be one of the largest NFT holders in the world. “Money is flowing too fast and too ignorant into the space.”  

While purchases of Bored Apes by celebrities such as Madonna for more than $500,000 kept the collection in the headlines, overall NFT sales have ebbed recently. The 30-day sales volume is down 40% from the prior month, according to Nansen. Trading volume on OpenSea, the biggest NFT marketplace, is down 67% in the last 30 days, DappRadar data show.

Industry participants say the decline is more a sign of frenzied demand cooling rather than a bubble bursting. NFTs are still being touted for use in everything from video gaming to commerce. 

“We are at a stage of stabilization of the NFT market, after the crazy peaks of last year,” said Gauthier Zuppinger, co-founder of the NonFungible markets data platform. 

Still, there are examples such as EL by Reza Milani, an Iranian visual artist — a collection of 1,456 cartoonish people standing by their bicycles — that’s seeing virtually no trading activity on OpenSea. The NFTs have 190 owners. Then there is the Baby Ballers project backed by NBA player John Wall. The all-star guard’s collection of cartoonish images were quickly derided after their launch for mimicking images from popular video games and films.   

The value of NFTs can also plummet if creators don’t get a marketing plan together or if the collection is supplanted by newer and shinier projects. Many NFTs that are simply digital images — so-called PFPs, or profile pictures — are particularly vulnerable to price drops.

“In the current market, it’s a pump-and-dump cycle among PFPs which is why this is leading to a decrease in the market,” WhaleShark said. “Not enough new money coming in to support PFP projects. Similar to a pyramid scheme.”      

Demand also appears to be concentrated. The number of repeat buyers outweigh new entrants by a ratio of seven-to-one, according to Nansen. Overall, the number of total NFT buyers is up significantly from a year ago, though that number appears to have peaked in early February, the researcher found. On March 15, there were about 92,000 secondary sales and about 22,000 sales of newly minted NFTs, according to Nansen.

NFTs that have ceased to generate interest on trading platforms might still serve a broader purpose, much like the rest of the art and collectibles world.

“They are not dead,” said Javier Gonzalez, an engineer at Nansen. “You can still look at them. But some collections, they don’t trade, people are not interested — they are just memories from the past, and that’s it.” 

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NFL will let teams seek blockchain sponsorships

A football with the NFL logo

Jacob Kupferman | Getty Images

The National Football League, in a memo issued Tuesday, granted teams limited permission to seek blockchain sponsorships, a partial reversal from late last summer, as the technology grows in popularity among the organization’s fans and athletes.

The league said it made the decision to allow “promotional relationships without undertaking excessive regulator or brand risk” after it completed an evaluation of the technology. The updated team guidelines, which are subject to the NFL’s approval, exclude stadium signage. For now, restrictions remain in place for specific cryptocurrencies and fan tokens, which can be exchanged for merchandise and experiences.

“Clubs will continue to be prohibited from directly promoting cryptocurrency,” the memo reads.

The NFL’s decision also comes after its recent lobbying push related to blockchain. CNBC reported in February that the league lobbied the Securities and Exchange Commission on “issues related to blockchain technology” from July through December 2021. The NFL also lobbied the White House and the departments of Justice and Commerce.

“In this evolving regulatory environment, it remains essential that we proceed carefully when evaluating potential commercial opportunities involving blockchain technologies, and conduct appropriate diligence on all potential partners and their business models,” the memo reads.

The memo comes days ahead of the NFL’s annual meetings, which start Saturday in Florida. The league will update team owners on business initiatives, including the revised blockchain guidelines. It’s the first time the NFL will hold the meetings in person since 2019 due to the Covid pandemic.

CNBC obtained a copy of the memo issued by NFL Chief Revenue Officer Renie Anderson and Chief Media and Business Officer Brian Rolapp. The update comes after the NFL and the players union struck a deal with blockchain company Dapper Labs to produce video collectibles. Panini has the league’s NFT trading card rights. In addition, the NFL approved media partners to allow blockchain advertisements during its games for the first time during the 2021 season.

Joe Ruggiero, the NFL’s head of consumer products, told CNBC the team deals with blockchain companies will not exceed three years, “so that it gives us flexibility for the long term.” Ruggiero added the NFL could put its official blockchain rights on the marketplace, too.

It’s unclear how much the NFL would seek. CNBC previously reported that the National Basketball Association struck a deal with Coinbase worth $192 million over four years. Likewise, cryptocurrency platform FTX’s $10 million pact with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors could be a blueprint for potential deals between blockchain-linked companies and NFL teams under the newly issued guidance.

“We’re extremely bullish on blockchain technology,” Ruggiero said. “We think that it has a lot of potential to really shape innovation, shape fan engagement over the course of the coming decade.”

Blockchain tech serves as digital ledgers similar and is used for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. It also effectively gives virtual collectibles like nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, unique and nonhackable certificates of authenticity. Tuesday’s memo also granted teams limited permissions on NFTs.

Monitors display Coinbase signage during the company’s initial public offering (IPO) at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“Subject to League approval, Clubs may now accept advertising (without use of club marks and logos, unless in connection with a League NFT deal) for NFTs and NFT companies,” the memo reads. Yet the league will continue to prohibit teams from “engaging in product licensing arrangements or sponsorships for NFTs or NFT companies (other than as permitted in connection with League-level NFT partnerships),” it adds.

NFL stars such as Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have capitalized on the blockchain marketplace with NFT deals. Brady’s NFT platform, Autograph, raised $170 million in January, according to Bloomberg.

E-commerce giant Fanatics – which the NFL co-owns –invested in NFT company Candy Digital. That firm launched in 2021 and locked up Major League Baseball NFT rights. In October, CNBC reported Candy Digital is valued at $1.5 billion after a raise from investors, including NFL legend Peyton Manning.

Ruggiero said the NFL would continue to evaluate its remaining restrictions on blockchain-related technologies.

“Everything is changing so quickly – we all have to be looking at the next areas of innovation,” he said. “So, we’re spending a lot of time looking at where the future might go.”

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