From Belarus to Bahrain, the small states going big on cryptocurrency
30 Jul 2019

When Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met entrepreneur Viktor Prokopenya in March 2017, their discussion was scheduled to last for an hour but went on for three times that long.

The meeting, Prokopenya said, ended with Lukashenko asking him to propose regulations to boost the country’s tech sector. Prokopenya worked with IT firms and lawyers to draft guidelines to cash in on an emerging digital industry: cryptocurrencies.

Some two years later, the rules are in place. Investors can trade bitcoin on an exchange run by Prokopenya, while other companies are launching their own cryptocurrency platforms.

“The idea was to create everything from scratch,” Prokopenya told Reuters in an interview in London. “To make sure that it is free in some of the aspects it needs to be free, and very stringent in other aspects.”

Contacted for comment, Lukashenko’s office directed Reuters to an account of the meeting here on the president’s website.

Belarus is among a handful of smaller countries coming up with specific rule books for digital currencies. Their efforts could help shape the development of the global market and the growth of industry players, from exchange platforms to brokers.

So far, cryptocurrency companies have often had to choose between two extremes when deciding where to set up shop.

Major financial centers like London and New York, which apply traditional financial services rules to the sector, might be attractive to big institutions seeking safety but the compliance complexity and costs preclude many of the startups at the heart of the fledgling industry.

Conversely, lightly-regulated jurisdictions like the Seychelles and Belize allow far easier market access. But states with light rules can offer less protection for investors and have looser checks on money laundering, lawyers say.

The likes of Belarus and other newer entrants – including Bahrain, Malta and Gibraltar – are seeking to offer a third way: crafting specific rules for the cryptocurrency sector, betting they can attract companies by providing regulatory security as well as perks like tax breaks.

By Tom Wilson, Reuters, 29 July 2019

Read more at Reuters

Photo: WorldSpectrum from Pixabay

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