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Cryptogem Global Defies Zimbabwe’s Central Bank with New P2P Bitcoin Exchange

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Cryptogem Global, a new peer-to-peer bitcoin (BTC) exchange, has opened in Harare in defiance of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s ban on cryptocurrencies. The decentralized platform allows Zimbabweans to buy and sell BTC without the need for intermediaries such as legacy financial institutions.

Also Read: French Lawmakers to Lower Cryptocurrency Tax by 6 Percent

A Globalized Cryptocurrency Exchange

Cryptogem Global Defies Zimbabwe's Central Bank with New P2P Bitcoin Exchange

“Cryptogem Global is a … bitcoin trading platform where people around the globe can exchange their local currencies and e-money to bitcoin,” Melissa Mwale, co-founder and chief executive officer of Cryptogem Global, told news.Bitcoin.com.

Mwale said the idea is to create a borderless platform that will not limit trades to a particular country. Offering an example, she explained that the company aims to provide a service that will allow “someone in Zimbabwe to buy from someone in the U.K. using Paypal, Skrill or Western Union.”

For some time, virtual currencies have operated under a cloud of uncertainty in Zimbabwe. But the ban on cryptocurrencies — announced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in May — pointed to the start of a dark and unpredictable phase, as it crippled the operations of the country’s only two digital currency trading platforms, Golix and Styx24. Ever since, bitcoin trades in the southern African country have gone underground or shifted to social media platforms like Whatsapp, where the risk of theft or fraud is significantly higher.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, essentially lacks the power to shut down cryptocurrency exchanges, which have been accused of providing unlicensed banking services, in violation of the Exchange Control Act. But the law does not allow it to ban cryptocurrencies, either. An earlier attempt by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to directly close down Golix was quashed by the High Court, which ruled that John Mangudya, the governor of the central bank, did not have jurisdiction over the country’s crypto-landscape.

Instead, the central bank shut the exchanges down by proxy, through commercial banks, over which it yields full control. It ordered the banks to close accounts belonging to Golix and Styx24, effectively cutting off their air supply. And with that, all centralized digital currency trading activities effectively ceased in the country.

Defying the Ban

Cryptogem Global Defies Zimbabwe's Central Bank with New P2P Bitcoin Exchange
Melissa Mwale

But Cryptogem is defying this backdoor ban in a particularly clever way. The P2P bitcoin exchange does not have any bank accounts, so the central bank can’t shut them down.

“Cryptogem does not have any bank accounts in Zimbabwe,” said Mwale, who has seen 300 new registrations on the platform within its first week, with total trades reaching about $2,000. Transaction fees average 0.9 percent for offers and 0.00005 BTC for deposits and withdrawals. She added:

There is actually no need for a bank account at the present moment, though we are registered fully as a private limited company in Zimbabwe. We don’t work with banks directly as we do not handle any fiat currency. And if you noticed, the (central bank) ban was mainly directed to using banking
services by exchanges.

However, the new exchange will be encouraged by Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s new finance minister. He has spoken positively about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

“I think the attitude for Zimbabwe should be to invest in understanding (digital assets) innovations,” said Ncube, a professor of economics, in an article published in September. “Often central banks are too slow in investing in these technologies.”

To trade on Cryptogem, one typically has to make a BTC deposit, offer and wait for bids that match the required price, or one that is favorable to them. Once a buyer shows interest, both buyer and seller are redirected to a private live chat on the exchange where details of the transaction, including payments, are finalized. The exchange then releases the BTC to the buyer, after holding it in escrow, once the seller confirms payment. News.Bitcoin.com tested the Crypotogem bitcoin-only interface in a $5 deal, which concluded smoothly within minutes.

Cryptogem Global Defies Zimbabwe's Central Bank with New P2P Bitcoin Exchange

The price of bitcoin on the exchange is significantly inflated, at between $20,000 and $24,000, which reflects exchange rate volatility. Current Zimbabwean bitcoin core prices appear to track the U.S. dollar black market rate, which is priced at three different levels depending on how the payment is made: by bank or mobile transfer, paper notes, and/or coins. Each dollar costs about three times as much for the cash transfer by bank or mobile phone of Zimbabwe’s substitute currency, known as “bond notes,” which the authorities claim is 1:1 with the U.S. dollar.

In a market that is sometimes plagued by fraud and the theft of investor funds, security is key. Mwale said that all accounts are secured with two-factor authentication.

“Only a very minimum amount of funds are kept online (hot wallet) just to facilitate quick withdrawals,” she added. “On application security, we have third-party security auditors that come in and audit security in our core application. Our server information is hidden from the public, it’s behind a firewall provided by one of the industry leaders in this regard.”

What do you think about the new P2P exchange in Zimbabwe? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Islamic Countries Challenge USD ‘Sanctioning Tool’ With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

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Muslim countries around the world are planning to push back against the U.S. dollar’s long global dominance by creating a common digital currency for use in Islamic states. The dollar has evolved into a “sanctioning tool,” charged Erol Yarar, chairman of the Muslim-focused business lobby group International Business Forum (IBF). It has lost its purpose as an international trading currency, he said.

Also Read: Nvidia Misses Q3 Revenue Target as Cryptocurrency Slump Weighs on Business

 Breaking the Dollar’s Hegemony

Speaking to Turkish news agency Anadolu on Nov. 16, Yarar said a single cryptocurrency for Muslim nations will be designed primarily to undermine and challenge America’s established hegemony in the global financial system.

Islamic Countries Challenge USD 'Sanctioning Tool' With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

“The U.S. dollar is beyond a common currency, it has become a sanctioning tool,” Yarar stated. “In IBF this year we will discuss the term ‘monetary pluralism’ to create a fairer and healthier trade environment. We will make a cryptocurrency system, that will be used for international trade among Islamic countries, a current issue,” he added.

The strength of the dollar, in use as an international trading currency since the end of World War II, gives America immense financial and political leverage among perceived weaker states. It has often been used as part of an arsenal of economic tools deployed to punish nations that refuse to toe Uncle Sam’s line.

It is, perhaps, President Trump’s renewal of economic sanctions against Iran this month – even at the risk of alienating allies in the European Union – that Muslim business leaders under the IBF have been prompted to look for ways of neutralizing the dollar’s dominance in global trade.

A number of E.U. member countries are desperate to protect the Iran nuclear deal to help keep trade alive. They are currently in the process of creating a special purpose vehicle that would undermine the sanctions by redirecting payments away from the dollar and therefore away from the prying U.S. financial system. Again, America has reacted by issuing threats of dire repercussions.

But Iran is moving to protect itself against the crippling economic measures. It has announced the completion of the development of a state-backed digital currency, created specifically to circumvent the sanctions, which target the country’s oil, gas and shipping industries as well as the financial system. The system has already been hit after Swift, at the U.S.’s behest, cut off the Central Bank of Iran from the global banking ecosystem.

Islamic Countries Challenge USD 'Sanctioning Tool' With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

Following the Example of Iran

Yarar, the IBF chairman, told Anadolu Agency that it is prudent for Islamic nations to emulate Iran’s example by developing a common cryptocurrency system for use within like-minded religious countries. He detailed:

The U.S. keeps down money transfers, imposes sanctions on the international market, and causes crises in countries by using the dollar.

The planned Muslim-compliant digital currency will be used for pricing of goods by businesspeople, exchange markets and countries, he said, adding that Islamic nations should also consider setting up a fund emulating the International Monetary Fund business model.

“The fund, based on non-interest finance principles, will help countries facing an economic crisis. The fund’s name can be ‘International Islamic Cooperation Fund’,” Yara proposed.

His plans have triggered debate on whether countries currently under full, partial or covert U.S. sanctions such as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Syria, Russia and Yemen could adopt virtual currency to bypass the stringent economic measures.

Venezuela recently launched its national cryptocurrency, the petro, while Russia and China are investing in blockchain technologies that will act as alternatives to the dollar in terms of global commerce.

Islamic Countries Challenge USD 'Sanctioning Tool' With Planned Common Cryptocurrency

U.S. sanctions work by placing bans on dealings and transactions with individuals, nations and companies. These restrictions are often enforced with the help of mainstream financial institutions. As such, the use of cryptocurrencies, which operate outside the established financial system, are regarded as key to helping economies under sanctions to continue transacting with other countries.

That means if a dependable cryptocurrency system to support financial transactions can be established, the power of sanctions will be diminished as the U.S. is incapable of blocking such transactions.

Binance Tells Iranians to Withdraw Their Money

In Iran, meanwhile, global cryptocurrency exchange Binance has reportedly told its remaining users in the Islamic Republic to pull out their funds from the platform in measures aimed at aligning with the American trade and economic embargo. “Iranians are not really able to trust cryptocurrency exchanges. That isn’t really something new,” Nima Dehqan, a researcher at the Tehran-based blockchain project Areatak, complained. Several exchanges, including Bittrex and Bitmex, have stopped providing services to Iranian investors on account of the sanctions.

Do you think the IBF will succeed in its plan for a common cryptocurrency for Muslim countries? Let us know in the comments section below.


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SEC Settles Charges With Two ICO Issuers

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has settled charges with two initial coin offering issuers. These cases are the commission’s first to impose civil penalties “solely for ICO securities offering registration violations.” Both companies have agreed to refund investors, pay penalties, and register their tokens as securities.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

Charges Settled

On Friday, Nov. 16, the SEC announced “settled charges against two companies that sold digital tokens in initial coin offerings (ICOs).” The agency explained that Carriereq Inc. (aka Airfox) and Paragon Coin Inc. both “consented to the orders without admitting or denying the findings,” elaborating:

These are the commission’s first cases imposing civil penalties solely for ICO securities offering registration violations. Both companies have agreed to return funds to harmed investors, register the tokens as securities, file periodic reports with the commission, and pay penalties.

SEC Settles Charges With Two ICO IssuersThe two companies’ tokens are neither registered with the SEC nor qualified for an exemption to the registration requirements.

Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, emphasized that “companies that issue securities through ICOs are required to comply with existing statutes and rules governing the registration of securities.”

The SEC further detailed:

The orders impose $250,000 penalties against each company and include undertakings to compensate harmed investors who purchased tokens in the illegal offerings.

These two cases follow the agency’s first non-fraudulent ICO registration case of Munchee Inc. The SEC did not impose a penalty in that case because the company stopped its offerings before delivering any tokens and promptly refunded investors.

The Two Companies

Both Airfox and Paragon conducted token sales last year after the SEC warned that ICOs can be considered security offerings in its DAO report, a landmark paper that serves as the defining document for ICOs to avoid being categorized as securities in the U.S.

SEC Settles Charges With Two ICO IssuersBoston-based Airfox raised approximately $15 million by selling 1.06 billion of its tokens to more than 2,500 investors globally through various websites that it controls. The company claims that the funds would be used “to finance its development of a token-denominated ‘ecosystem’,” the SEC described.

Established in July last year, Paragon sold its tokens to approximately 8,323 investors, including those in the U.S. The company “raised approximately $12 million worth of digital assets to develop and implement its business plan to add blockchain technology to the cannabis industry and work toward legalization of cannabis,” the commission noted.

Paragon issued a statement on Friday confirming that it has reached a settlement agreement with the SEC after working on it with a team at the commission for over a year. CEO Jessica Versteeg calls it “a very positive agreement … that will effectively put an end to the uncertainties of the legal status ” of her company’s token.

What do you think of the SEC settling charges with the two ICO companies? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen

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It has been close to 24 hours since the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) blockchain split on Nov. 15, and the community is assessing the first day of battle. At the time of writing, both chains are still operational and the ABC chain has a 32-block lead on the SV chain. Now many BCH supporters are patiently waiting to find out when infrastructure providers will resume deposits, withdrawals, and trading across the entire ecosystem.

Also read: Hash Wars: ABC Chain Leaps More Than 50 Blocks Ahead

Some Believe the Hash War Will Continue

The BCH hash war has continued into the second day of network warfare, protocol activity, and an abundance of discussions across social media. A clear victor has not yet been decided, according to SV supporters who believe the hash war is “not a sprint, but a marathon.” Currently, the ABC chain is 32 blocks ahead of SV and it has more hashrate and accumulated proof-of-work behind it, according to Coin Dance cash, and Forkmonitor.info data. Still, the SV chain has continued to chug along and has about 5,266 PH/s worth of hashrate compared to the ABC chain’s 7,237 PH/s. Moreover, SV supporters, specifically Nchain’s Craig Wright and Coingeek’s Calvin Ayre, have stated the next day, Nov. 16, that the hash war is not over.

“In our hash competition, we have seen the ABC team bring on their strongest sprinters,” explained Wright on Twitter on Nov. 16. “We are just at the trials and not yet on the finals to Marathon and they have made a remarkable burst to do a 9.9 second 100m (unfortunately in the wrong direction).” the Nchain executive adds.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
At the time of publication, the ABC chain has been roughly 30 or more blocks ahead of the SV chain.

Many SV supporters still believe Wright will continue to wage war and this can be seen across social media and cryptocurrency-centric forums. Coingeek’s Calvin Ayre agreed with Wright’s words and issued a similar statement during the early morning hours on Friday.

“The BCH hash war will not be decided in 1 or 2 days, but over many days and possibly weeks by on-going miner votes with sustained Proof of Work — Until a dominant chain emerges, cryptocurrency exchanges, wallet and service providers are advised to remain neutral, and to run a Bitcoin SV node to be prepared for the best interests of users,” Ayre detailed.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
The two networks’ hashrates as of 11:00 a.m. EST on Nov. 16, 2018. Orange (ABC) and Red (SV). 

The Wait for Service Providers to Assess the Situation

On the other hand, the further the ABC chain gets and the more proof-of-work is accumulated, ABC supporters seem confident that victory is very close. Many BCH proponents are now waiting for infrastructure providers to explain how they will list the newly forked chains. ABC backers believe that a large portion of wallet services, exchanges, and payment services will side with ABC. This belief is due to the overwhelming amount of company support garnered when infrastructure providers published contingency plans with most supporting the ABC roadmap. However, it seems BCH service providers are still assessing the situation and may not publicly announce plans until more time has passed.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
Many BCH proponents shared their views on Twitter on Nov. 16, 2018.

Further, the research team from Bitmex has been monitoring the situation with the organization’s recently published tool. Bitmex Research detailed to its Twitter followers on Nov. 16 that SV miners are losing a ton of money and estimated that they will lose $280,000 a day if they continue. Further, this estimate is calculated with the ability to sell SV coins at a spot price of $100, but the ability to sell these coins is pretty much non-existent.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
Cryptocurrency luminaries show they are curious to when the SV side of the chain releases a block explorer.

ABC proponents were quite pleased with the outcome so far and the forum r/btc is filled with supporters showing enthusiasm. The Bitcoin Cash developer Shammah Chancellor (Micropresident) was very thankful and expressed his gratitude on Twitter.

“Big thanks to Roger Ver, Bitcoin.com, all the p2pool miners, Btc.com, Antpool, and everyone else who is supporting the BCH chain with their hash — Continuing to work towards bringing peer-to-peer cash to the world,” the developer explained.

Hash Wars: Day Two and the Anticipation for BCH Trading Platforms to Reopen
Lots of BCH supporters have expressed that the war was not good for the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem in general.

However, even though many were celebrating yesterday’s battle, many BCH supporters had shown distaste for the entire situation. Bitcoin Cash and XT lead developer Tom Harding explained that the split has caused some damage. “Bitcoin Cash has splintered its network effect, pushed the overall price below $400, and wasted a lot of energy,” Harding stated. BCH developer Jonathan Toomin responded to Harding’s tweet and agreed with the XT developer.  “Unfortunately, you are totally right,” said Toomin.

What did you think about the first day of the hash war? Do you think it is over and there is a victor? Or do you think the hash war will continue? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images via Shutterstock, Pixabay, Coin Dance cash, Twitter, and Bitcoin.com.


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