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India is Cracking Down on OneCoin


Reports are emerging that authorities in India are undertaking a broad crackdown on OneCoin, a digital currency investment scheme widely believed to be fraudulent.

Outlets such as Times of India, The Hindu and Hindustan Times report that as many as 18 individuals have been arrested in connection with OneCoin events in the country. The arrests took place on Sunday, according to the outlets.

Police are also said to have confiscated funds from bank accounts associated with the individuals – believed to have been collected from would-be investors – totaling more than $2m. An official told The Hindu that authorities believe that additional accounts may exist, but due to the fact that those accounts weren’t explicitly connected to OneCoin companies, tracing them could prove difficult.

According to the reports, the arrests and subsequent account seizures came after Indian police went undercover during a recent OneCoin event. Attendees were allegedly promised big gains – a common refrain among OneCoin supporters – at the end of next year.

The news represents what is perhaps the most significant crackdown on OneCoin – accused of operating a Ponzi scheme under the guise of a digital currency investment program – to date.

Earlier this month, BaFin, Germany’s top finance regulator, shut down a Germany-based payment processor that was collecting payments on behalf of OneCoin. BaFin also seized €29m from accounts tied to the processor.

Central banks in areas believed to have been targeted by OneCoin promoters, such as Nigeria and Uganda, have issued warnings in recent months. Police in the City of London are also investigating the scheme, as previously reported.

Arrest image via Shutterstock

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Former Coinbase Engineer Launches Ethereum Search Engine


A former software engineer for cryptocurrency exchange startup Coinbase has launched a new search engine for ethereum, the second largest blockchain platform by market cap.

Created by Antonio Juliano, dubbed Weipoint and unveiled in a Medium post, the tool is designed to provide a means to search for, say, a smart contract underlying a particular project or token.

Though unrelated, the release comes days after Coinbase itself revealed that it is testing an app called Token, which will act as both wallet and browser for ethereum apps.

According to Juliano, Weipoint will eventually act as a decentralized application (or DApp) browser as well, with planned functionality for other ethereum-based resources.

Juliano wrote:

“Weipoint can be used to search for and interact with ethereum smart contracts. We’re planning to add search for entire dapps in the near future and eventually anything behind decentralized domain services such as ENS.”

The project is, according to Juliano, envisioned to go one step further, acting as a means to verify the code underlying smart contracts.

“It’s currently too hard for all but the most technical users to determine which dapps are trustworthy and secure. Similarly, it’s also difficult for dapp creators to establish trust for their users,” he wrote.

In this way, he said Weipoint will aim to verify reputation and ownership, while helping ensure their security.

It’s a compelling pitch, given issues in the past with ethereum smart contract-based projects such as The DAO.

That initiative collapsed following the exploitation of a flaw in the code that resulted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars with of ether, the cryptocurrency of the ethereum network, last year.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Coinbase.

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Bitcoin Price Sets New Single Exchange All-Time High


1409.8 BTCUSD BFXdata.com   2017 04 26 13.48.46 2 e1493228971392 Bitcoin Price Sets New Single Exchange All Time High

The price of bitcoin reached the highest level observed at any time, on any exchange today, reaching $1,411 on British Virgin Islands-based Bitfinex.

However, far from a rallying cry for bitcoin enthusiasts, the bitcoin price has emerged as an outlier among those offered by its global peers. At this value, bitcoin on Bitfinex was trading more than $130 higher than it was on OKCoin, nearly $100 above its price on Kraken and roughly $90 higher than Coinbase’s GDAX exchange.

Notably, the cryptocurrency’s price on Bitfinex was also trading more than $100 above the price of the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), an index from which it was recently suspended.

At press time, bitcoin was trading at $1,299, just below its all-time high of $1,325.

At the time of report, the cryptocurrency’s price had pared these gains somewhat, trading at roughly $1,410.00. But, as for what to make of the increase, traders have been less clear.

On one hand, the cryptocurrency’s price rallied in spite of the industry’s ongoing scaling dilemma and continued banking challenges, while on the other, those very issues have stoked concerns across the ecosystem.

When asked about the sentiment among traders, BTC VIX, organizer of bitcoin trading community Whale Club, said there are now concerns Bitfinex “may never have access to USD clearing again”, and that this was creating a “Bitfinex premium” in the market.

The result, he alleged, has been heightened bitcoin buying amid concerns that access to fiat funds at exchanges could decline.

Banking freeze

Indeed, spreads have widened as cryptocurrency exchanges – most notably Bitfinex – have struggled with ongoing banking challenges that are preventing customers from making formerly routine deposits and withdrawals.

However, the exchange is not alone, as OKCoin and BTC-e have also recently reported issues with US dollar transfers.

Earlier this month, Bitfinex announced that it was experiencing delays in its outbound wire transfers as a result of problems involving its Taiwan banks. Bitfinex cited the refusal of Wells Fargo, its correspondent bank-to process these transactions as causing the problem.

Only days after revealing this challenge, the exchange announced that it was refusing incoming wires. At the time, the spread between Bitfinex bitcoin prices and prices on other exchanges widened, rising to more than $90 in some cases.

Dangerous heights image via Shutterstock


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Ripple Adds 10 New Financial Firms to ‘Blockchain Network’


shutterstock 242574619 Ripple Adds 10 New Financial Firms to Blockchain Network

Ripple is adding 10 new banks and financial services providers to what it’s now calling its “blockchain network”.

Founded in 2012, Ripple has raised nearly $100m for its distributed ledger tech and related payments products, but it has been increasingly active of late in seeking to formalize enterprise partnerships amid a wave of high-profile consortium efforts.

The new partnerships find Ripple showcasing its reach and influence. New members include MUFG (Japan), BBVA (Spain), SEB (Sweden), Akbank, Yes Bank (India), Axis Bank (India), SBI Remit (Japan), Star One Credit Union (US), EZ Forex (US) and Cambridge FX (Canada).

In an interview, Ripple VP of product, Asheesh Birla explained the company is beginning to define its offerings in more collaborative terms. While its product allows for faster cross-border payments, Ripple is also creating a set of standards for banks to follow while using its underlying tech, he said.

Birla told CoinDesk:

“You need a whole ruleset, and that’s why we call it a blockchain network and when we say that partners are joining, they’re actually agreeing to the standards and rules that accompany the technology as well.”

The new partner banks and companies are a mix of inbound and outbound services. As Birla explained, Indian banks Yes Bank and Axis Bank are receiving more cross-border payments rather than issuing payments out.

MUFG in Japan, on the other hand, manages both. “They would be processing payments for a lot of Japanese that want to send money to other destinations like Turkey and India but then there’s a lot of demand for sending payments into Japan as well,” he said.

Faster payments is one advantage, but members also cited other advantages.

Evan Shelan, chairman of EZ Forex said, “The benefits [of the blockchain] are about adding the most advanced level of security to each payment through the distributive ledger for our financial institutions.”

Global reach

Of course, a global network is perhaps a natural fit given Ripple’s recent focus on the cross-border DLT opportunity. According to Birla, many banks are feeling the need to process more international payments than ever before.

As such, Birla framed DLT as an advance that could help financial institutions with a broader set of problems. For instance, without a standardized procedure, he argued things gets messy when operating payments to several different countries.

“[Banks are] looking at this as a new kind of service that they can offer that would compete with a lot of the startups in their space,” he said.

Still, work needs to be done to boost the Ripple ecosystem, and Birla said that banks were chosen, in part, due to their expertise with their local regulatory environment.

Birla concluded:

“The reason that we chose to work with banks is that they are experts in local regulation. A lot of them have that pull and understand the regulatory environment and we built our product in such a way that it fits within the different regulatory schemes around the world.”

Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Ripple.

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Nevada Senators Unanimously Advance Blockchain Tax Ban


Senators in the state of Nevada have unanimously backed a proposal that would block local authorities from instituting taxes or fees on blockchain use.

According to public records, after just over a month of deliberation, the Senate advanced the measure following a 21-0 vote, with zero abstentions.

As CoinDesk reported last month, it’s the first measure of its kind that would prevent local officials from charging money to use a distributed ledger or a smart contract tied to one. Sen. Ben Kieckhefer initially submitted the measure on 20th March.

The bill stipulates:

“A local governmental entity shall not: (a) Impose any tax or fee on the use of a blockchain or smart contract by any person or entity; (b) Require any person or entity to obtain from the local governmental entity any certificate, license or permit to use a blockchain or smart contract; or (c) Impose any other requirement relating to the use of a blockchain or smart contract by any person or entity.”

Other elements of the bill would clear the way for smart contracts and blockchain signatures to become acceptable records under state law, similar to a measure that was signed into law last month in neighboring Arizona.

The bill now moves to the Assembly – the lower chamber of Nevada’s bicameral legislature – for further consideration.

Nevada State Legislature image via Shutterstock


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