Crypto firms’ enthusiasm for Dubai grows as their hopes for Singapore as a hub for digital assets fade © montage/Bloomberg
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Crypto firms are rushing to set up shop in Dubai, which has begun offering licenses for virtual assets, making the Gulf state the latest jurisdiction to become a haven for the global crypto industry.
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Exchange Bybit, which announced last week that it will move its global headquarters from Singapore to Dubai, joins major industry players Crypto.com, X and Binance to establish a location in the city.
Crypto companies’ enthusiasm for Dubai comes as hopes for Singapore as a hub for digital assets are waning. While Singapore has only approved a handful of cryptocurrency groups applying for a license, Dubai has attracted several heavy hitters in the weeks since the licensing scheme was introduced.
Singapore was seen as a growing crypto hub in Asia, with China cracking down on digital assets last year. Now that some companies have become more receptive to the Gulf’s regulatory framework, the crypto caravan has moved on.
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, who moved to Dubai from Singapore, said the Gulf state’s government is attracting cryptocurrency companies with its “open-mindedness and business-friendly attitude.”
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Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, has now consulted on the rules to be regulated in Dubai. In December, Binance signed an agreement with Dubai World Trade Center, a duty-free business park, to advise on cryptocurrency regulation in the emirate. The Virtual Asset Management Authority, which launched earlier this month, has granted a license to Binance.
Zhao said Binance lobbied for a free regulator, describing the decision as “brilliant” and praising Dubai authorities as “the smartest regulators and government officials in the world.”
However, Dubai’s enthusiastic embrace of virtual assets has raised concerns in some financial circles, given the recent decision by the global money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force to put the UAE on an enhanced “grey list”. monitoring procedures to prevent the flow of dirty money.
Lawyers and former regulators in the UK and US said the license order would do little to convince Western regulators that cryptocurrencies are being properly regulated.
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The UK has also sought to become a “global hub” for cryptocurrencies, with City of London minister John Glenn saying on Monday that the country wants to be attractive to “companies that don’t have a base yet”. However, lawyers said the government should encourage British regulators, including the FCA, to pay more attention to cryptocurrency operators.
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Dubai’s onslaught of crypto magic quickly attracted several companies. X Europe, a subsidiary of the Swiss exchange, announced in March that it would establish a regional license at Dubai Airport. Singapore-based Crypto.com added a Middle East office in the city last week. Dubai-based cryptocurrency exchange BitOasis also received a temporary license last week.
Zhao chose Dubai, where Binance already has nearly 200 employees across three offices, to be its regional headquarters. By comparison, he said: “The Singapore government is taking a more cautious approach.”
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Binance’s Singapore branch canceled its application for a license to conduct crypto business in the country in December after regulators ordered Binance Singapore to suspend all cryptocurrency transactions with global exchange binance.com, which the regulator put on an investor warning list and “may violate local laws. .” “.
In total, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued only four cryptocurrency licenses after receiving 176 review applications. More than a hundred companies have rejected it, and about a dozen are waiting for the green light.
Chia-Ling Koh, director of law firm Osborne Clarke, which compiled the figures, said: “The low success rate of MAS is undermining the crypto industry in Singapore.”
MAS also banned the promotion of cryptocurrencies earlier this year, in what was described as “a strong reluctance by MAS to offer cryptocurrencies to consumers,” said Nizam Ismail, CEO of cryptocurrency consultancy Eticom. “It seemed a little harsh. It was announced and implemented overnight.”
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The ministers said they would protect Singapore from “respectable risks”. Lawmakers stepped up oversight this week by passing new rules that would prevent crypto companies in the city-state from operating abroad without a license.
“Singapore is definitely losing its luster and charm,” said Sue Kai Pang, CEO of Indonesian cryptocurrency exchange Tokocrypto. . . There are open countries like Dubai. “
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