Malta, the 'Blockchain Island': First Country to Establish a Full Regulatory Framework for Distributed Ledger Technology

On Wednesday (4 July 2018), the Parliament of Malta, an island nation that is part of the European Union, unanimously approved three bills that regulate Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), making Malta the first country to provide legal certainty in this space.

The three bills passed by "The House" on Wednesday evening, just before summer recess, are the Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Bill (Bill No. 43), Virtual Financial Assets Bill (bill No. 44), and the Malta Digital Innovation Authority Bill (Bill No. 45). 

This is how Joseph Muscat, Malta's Prime Minister, announced the news on Twitter:

The man he refers to in this tweet, Hon. Silvio Schembri, is the Junior Minister (or Parliamentary Secretary) for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation.

Before these bills were approved, several crypto exchanges, including Binance, BitBay, and OKEx, had announced their intention to move their base of operations to Malta.

Silvio Schembri said in a press release:

"This marks an important milestone through which companies will be provided with the necessary tools to operate in a regulated environment. This will put minds at rest for investors and whoever uses this new technology that is likely to change the world. I am optimistic that further companies will choose Malta to operate from with a system that offers stability and that will eventually result in further economic growth."

Jean-Ph Chetcuti, the co-founder and managing partner at Chetcuti Cauchi, a Maltese law firm, said in an interview:

"We now have a comprehensive framework for the blockchain industry to grow and flourish in Malta. This is a momentous milestone for Malta as a forward-looking economy, truly confirming Malta as the 'Blockchain Island'. We now have ample legal certainty for existing and new DLT projects. The larger crypto operators we have been speaking to in the last months are more comfortable committing to further investment and they are setting up in Malta."

 

Featured Image Credit: Photo by "Giuseppe Milo" via Flickr; licensed under "CC BY 2.0"

Could President Trump Ban Bitcoin? Experts Weigh In

  • Experts weigh in on the possibility of President Trump banning bitcoin.
  • Increasing concern over libra and large platform digital currencies is driving political agenda. 

Following last week’s attack on bitcoin and Facebook’s libra, experts have voiced their opinion on whether US President Donald Trump could realistically impose a ban on cryptocurrency. 

Not a Fan of Bitcoin

On July 11, President Donald Trump published a series of tweets attacking bitcoin and digital currencies, while championing the dollar. 

President Trump’s comments come in the midst of growing concern over Facebook’s libra, as political regulators around the world scramble to enact policies to deal with the rise of digital currencies. 

Members of the crypto community have questioned the impact of the US President taking an unfavorable stance towards bitcoin. Some crypto pundits predicted the tweets would be good for the price of BTC and ultimately increase exposure to cryptoassets. However, others worry that political influence may lead to a crackdown on cryptocurrency usage. 

Scenarios for Banning Crypto

Alex Kruger, economist and market analyst, published a tweet thread examining the legality and possibility of President Trump banning bitcoin. 

According to Kruger, It would be almost impossible for the US government to outlaw bitcoin as a technological instrument. Aside from the Herculean task of eradicating a decentralized, digital technology, bitcoin is code, which is protected under the first amendment.

However, that same protection is not extended to third-party operators, including cryptocurrency exchanges. 

Kruger quoted Abra CEO and Founder BIll Barhydt, who explained in a Forbes article how the government could target fiat onramps to exchanges, 

“You can’t prevent people from holding ones and zeroes on a device in their pocket. That ship has sailed. We already know that. The question is: What can they do at the edge of the network -- the onramps and offramps, the places where they exert control over the banking system, the exchanges, [and the] stablecoins.”

The US government could prevent retail investors from having access to crypto-assets through exchanges and prevent banks from allowing transfer of funds. Users would still be able to buy crypto through alternative channels, but the current ease of investing would be severely hampered. 

Unlikely, But Not Impossible

President Trump could also issue an executive order banning citizens from dealing in bitcoin, similar to the one he issued against the Petro. While there is a precedent for this route, Kruger claims the order could be easily overturned by Congress, 

Ultimately, Kruger believes that it is unlikley the President or Congress would move to ban bitcoin, and it would be difficult to enact fool-proof policy. However, it's worth considering the political landscape as regulatory concerns mount over Facebook's libra.

Just last week, a copy of a bill reportedly drafted by the House Financial Services Committee surfaced online, under the title "Keep Big Tech Out of Finance." The bill would put an end to Facebook and other large platforms from issuing digital currencies without incurring a severe penalty.

The same could be extended to bitcoin in the event the government finds crypto-assets no longer tolerable for the general public.