Week In Crypto: OKX Delists Tether In Europe, Shuts Down In India

March 22, 2024
OKX removes Tether trading for European users, Nigeria pursues access to Binance’s transaction data, and a survey finds that a significant number of Canadians have used crypto to pay a ransomware attacker.

OKX removes Tether trading for European users, Nigeria pursues access to Binance’s transaction data, and a survey finds that a significant number of Canadians have used crypto to pay a ransomware attacker.

OKX, the world’s second-largest crypto exchange by volume, has confirmed that it has delisted all crypto-to-USDT trading pairs in the European Economic Area (EEA) due to “regulatory requirements”.

In a company email that was shared on X, an OKX customer support agent said the move was “essential” to “comply with regulations and uphold the security of our platform”.

Going forward, the agent said that OKX will only list crypto-to-EUR and crypto-to-USDC trading pairs, referring to the US dollar stablecoin issued by Circle.

Speaking with Vixio, an OKX spokesperson added: “We evaluated this decision and delisting the current USDT pairs only impacts a small subset of our user base.

“This year our focus is to expand euro pair liquidity and become the preferred venue for euro-to-crypto spot trading.”

The move has been widely interpreted as a step towards compliance with the EU’s Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation, which comes into effect on December 30, 2024.

MiCA establishes that no stablecoin can be offered to the public or listed on a trading platform unless the issuer is authorised in the EU as an electronic money institution (EMI).

In March 2023, Circle applied to become both a licensed EMI and a registered digital asset service provider (DASP) in France.

In December 2023, Circle’s DASP application received conditional approval from the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), with the condition being that Circle’s EMI application must also be successful.

Tether, on the other hand, has yet to file an application with any national competent authority in the EU to become a licensed EMI.

In the US, pressure is building on prosecutors to charge Tether with similar crimes to those that Binance, one of its largest customers, was convicted of last year.

OKX quits India

In India this week, OKX informed all users that the exchange will soon be shuttered due to “local regulations”.

In a statement shared on X, users were told to close all of their current positions and withdraw all funds from their accounts by April 30, 2024.

Speaking to Vixio, an OKX spokesperson added: “This decision was made in response to recent regulations directed at offshore exchanges that make centralised trading available in India.

“OKX's decentralised finance (DeFi) and Web3 services remain available to developers and creators in India.”

The move follows a crackdown on non-compliant exchanges that was launched last year by India’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

In December, as covered by Vixio, the FIU published a list of nine crypto exchanges that are suspected of violating India’s anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

Each exchange was issued a "Show Cause" notice and the FIU also asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) to block the URLs of the nine platforms.

OKX was not one of the nine platforms named by the FIU, but similarly large platforms such as Binance, Kraken and KuCoin were on the list.

Two weeks after the FIU instructed MEITY to take down the URLs, both Apple and Google removed all nine of the named platforms from their app stores in India.

India tightens regulations on offshore exchanges

In March 2023, virtual digital asset service providers (VDASPs) were designated under India’s Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002 for the first time.

Since then, VDASPs have been required to register as reporting entities under the PMLA, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in India.

As of December last year, there were 31 VDASPs registered with the FIU, but the regulator said that offshore entities catering to a “substantial part” of Indian users are not registered.

OKX appears to have been unable or unwilling to register in India, based on its decision to exit the market.

It should be noted that in other jurisdictions, OKX has applied for and has received several categories of licences.

So far in 2024, for example, OKX has received a virtual asset service provider (VASP) licence in Dubai and in-principle approval as a major payment institution (MPI) in Singapore.

Nigerian court pursues Binance transaction data

In Nigeria, a Federal High Court judge has ordered Binance to hand over all transaction data from the last six months relating to its top 100 customer accounts.

According to local media, Justice Emeka Nwite made the order following a motion from Ekele Iheanacho, a lawyer who is representing Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Iheanacho argued that the data is essential for the EFCC to carry out its investigations into suspected money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud and currency manipulation by Binance in Nigeria.

The motion was supported by Hamma Bello, who is part of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) working within the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

In addition to the data handover, the Federal High Court extended the detention of two Binance executives in Nigeria for at least another two weeks.

Large number of Canadians have paid ransomware hackers, survey finds

Finally, a survey by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) has found that between 6 and 7 percent of Canadians have used crypto or stablecoins to pay a ransomware attacker.

The findings were revealed in the OSC’s 2023 Crypto Asset Survey, which was based on a nationwide sample of 2,360 Canadians.

The survey also found that about 30 percent of Canadians have never used a crypto-asset.

Among those who have held a crypto-asset, the survey found that an increased number of Canadians, compared with last year, were unable to sell it or withdraw it.

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