As reports surfaced recently highlighting a regulation-related dispute with Japan, leading cryptocurrency exchange Binance announced that it is preparing to open up in Malta.
An article published by Nikkei Asian Review late last week reported that Binance would be issued a formal warning from Japan’s Financial Services Authority (JFSA) to shut down its cryptocurrency exchange operation in Japan. The report claimed that the JFSA planned to file criminal charges if Binance refused to stop operations in Japan, and noted that according to the revised payment services law, “cryptocurrency trading services can only be offered in Japan by exchanges that are licensed by the FSA or by those awaiting their license.”
Nikkei claimed that “the exchange has irked the FSA by failing to verify the identification of Japanese investors at the time accounts are opened. The Japanese officials suspect Binance does not have effective measures to prevent money laundering; the exchange handles a number of virtual currencies that are traded anonymously.”
Binance’s CEO, Changpeng Zhao, initially called the report “irresponsible journalism.”
Nikkei showed irresponsible journalism. We are in constructive dialogs with Japan FSA, and have not received any mandates. It does not make sense for JFSA to tell a newspaper before telling us, while we have an active dialog going on with them.
— CZ (@cz_binance) March 22, 2018
As Zhao mentioned in his tweet, it appeared unusual that the JFSA would not reach out to Binance itself before providing its plans to news sources. Bloomberg reported that a warning to Binance from JFSA was eventually issued “according to a person familiar with the FSA’s plans, who asked not to be named because the information is private.” Zhao reportedly told the publication that while Binance has been working to obtain licensing in Japan, the exchange “decided to remove its staff to avoid a clash with local regulators.”
Japanese regulators have been working towards stronger oversight after Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck was hacked in January; more than $500 million worth of the cryptocurrency NEM was stolen in the incident.
In the midst of regulatory conflict with Japan, Binance announced plans to open an office in Malta. “We are very confident we can announce a banking partnership there soon,” Zhao said, according to Bloomberg.
“After reviewing several different locations, the company decided to invest in the European nation due to its existing pro-blockchain legislation and the stability that it offers financial technology companies through its regulatory framework” Binance stated in its announcement published on Medium. “With plans to substantially grow its operations, there are plans to eventually hire up to 200 people to assist their expansion.”
The announcement was embraced publicly by Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Silvio Schembri, the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation.
Welcome to #Malta 🇲🇹 @binance. We aim to be the global trailblazers in the regulation of blockchain-based businesses and the jurisdiction of quality and choice for world class fintech companies -JM @SilvioSchembri https://t.co/3qtAQjOpuQ
— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) March 23, 2018
Honored, sir! Part of my original quote to Bloomberg that was left out of the article. "Malta is very progressive when it comes to crypto and fintech. We think it is a good place for other crypto businesses to look into as well." https://t.co/cBZJnEgUGk
— CZ (@cz_binance) March 23, 2018
With great satisfaction @cz_binance welcome to Malta. I look forward to work with you and as a @MaltaGov we're committed to provide you with the ideal ecosystem. Thank you for being part of our vision, that of making Malta The Blockchain Island. @binance @JosephMuscat_JM https://t.co/nhFbnYH3cu
— Silvio Schembri MP (@SilvioSchembri) March 23, 2018
Malta has been in the process of implementing a Digital Innovation Authority to “to provide legal certainty in the sphere of Blockchain technology and by extension cryptocurrencies,” according to a Malta Independent report.
Binance is a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange currently ranking #1 in daily trading volume. It was launched through an initial coin offering (ICO) where it sold BNB tokens, which can be used for lower fees on the exchange platform, and opened its doors for trading in the summer of 2017.