'Terminates' Archives -
The alleged operator of the infamous BTC-e exchange, Alexander Vinnik, has terminated his hunger strike more than 80 days after he started the protest against his detention in Greece. Vinnik’s condition is serious and he needs specialized medical attention to recuperate.
Russia’s Ombudsman Visits Vinnik in Hospital
The Russian-born IT specialist took the decision to temporarily stop the hunger strike after meeting with Russia’s ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova. She visited him on Thursday in a Greek hospital, where he is placed under doctors’ care, and later shared the news with journalists.
Moskalkova told Russian media that Vinnik looks absolutely exhausted by the hunger strike and requires professional medical care. “From the last conclusion of the doctors in February, it is quite clear that he needs emergency help, otherwise he may die,” she warned.
Alexander Vinnik has been in detention since July 2017 when he was arrested in Thessaloniki on a U.S. warrant. Prosecutors in the United States believe he is one of the owners of BTC-e and accuse him of laundering between $ 4 billion and $ 9 billion through the crypto trading platform, including funds presumed stolen in the Mt Gox hack.
The Russian national went on hunger strike on Nov. 26, 2018 to protest prison conditions and violations of his rights to a fair trial as well as what he believes is an unlawful detention. The Greek constitution states that citizens should not be in preliminary detention for more than one year. As an exception, the court may extend the period by another six months.
Vinnik Kept in Prison Longer Than the Law Allows
Alexander Vinnik has been in prison for 18 months, waiting for the decision of the Greek judiciary on three extradition requests. Besides the Unites States, he is also wanted in his native Russia and in France, where he is accused of various other crimes.
Quoted in a press release, Tatyana Moskalkova promised to work with the Greek Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Healthcare towards his return to the Russian Federation. She believes there are both legal and moral grounds for such a decision.
“Firstly, because he is a Russian citizen, and secondly, because there’s a criminal case against him that’s being investigated in Russia. It is impossible to complete it with a fair decision if he is in another country,” Russia’s human rights commissioner said.
Another possible violation was exposed by Russian media in January. Greece has handed the U.S. phones and computers confiscated from Vinnik after his arrest, RIA Novosti reported, quoting documents issued by the prosecutor’s office in Thessaloniki. That happened despite a decision by the Supreme Court in Athens that the data storing devices, which were later returned to Greece, can be transferred only in the case of an extradition.
Where do you think Alexander Vinnik should be extradited? Share your thoughts on his case in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia.
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Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has informed Belarusian customers that its services will no longer be available in their country. The announcement follows reports of similar restrictions for residents of other nations under economic sanctions, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and Zimbabwe.
Belarusians Lose Access to Global Exchange
Under “Prohibition of Use” on the ToU page, the exchange explains that by accessing and using any of its services, customers acknowledge and declare they are not on any trade or economic sanctions lists, such as those prepared by the U.N. Security Council and the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department (OFAC).
Binance says that it “maintains the right to select its markets and jurisdictions to operate and may restrict or deny its services to certain countries.” The exchange also insists on its stance that “prohibited users are not to use or access Binance and any of its services” and reserves the right to modify or change the terms and conditions of its user agreement at any time and at its sole discretion.
The announcement comes shortly after Binance imposed restrictions on other countries under Western sanctions. In November, several global exchanges, including Binance, cut ties with Iran, according to members of the local crypto community. Zimbabweans have also been informed that the exchange is unable to provide services in their country and have been told to withdraw their funds.
Gleb Kostarev, a representative of Binance in the Russian Federation, has confirmed the authenticity of the Belarus announcement. Speaking to Forklog, he also noted that the new restrictions would not affect Russian residents. But the different treatment of the two countries raises questions about the rationale behind the decision.
The two nations are both members of the Eurasian Economic Union, which forms a common market. They are also subject to U.S. sanctions. But while Washington is constantly expanding its measures regarding Russia, sanctions relief has been granted for nine major Belarusian companies in the past three years. In October, OFAC extended the waivers for another year. The move is part of a policy aimed at encouraging reforms in the country, which is a traditional ally of Moscow.
Belarusians Can Still Buy Cryptocurrencies
Belarus is one of only a few jurisdictions in Europe that have adopted crypto-friendly regulations. The number of fintech entities operating in the country has been growing since President Alexander Lukashenko’s Decree No. 8 entered into force in March. The order legalized the business activities of crypto and blockchain companies registered with the Belarus High Technologies Park (HTP) in Minsk.
The circulation and exchange of cryptocurrencies, however, remain largely unregulated. There are no cryptocurrency exchanges in the HTP and Binance’s decision to restrict services in the country will make it even harder for Belarusians to buy, sell and trade coins.
Fortunately, other options are available. A number of online platforms offer exchange services in the post-Soviet space. Best Change, for example, lists dozens of verified online exchanges where crypto-enthusiasts can acquire and trade digital currencies, regardless of sanctions imposed by foreign powers or bans introduced by their own governments.
Many platforms support popular payment methods such as Qiwi and Yandex Money, but credit/debit card purchases are also possible. Belarusians can order prepaid Mastercards from Belarusbank, a leading commercial bank in the country. Its Carte Blanche card supports deposits in four currencies — Belarusian rubles, Russian rubles, euros and U.S. dollars. The fiat funds can then be used to buy digital money on any of the Best Change-listed platforms supporting such transactions.
Peer-to-peer exchanges such as Localbitcoins are also available to Belarusians who want to trade their coins. And Crexby, a platform recently launched by Belarusians in the U.S. as the first Belarusian crypto exchange, recently told news.Bitcoin.com that it plans to introduce support for Belarusian ruble trades. The company is already in contact with government officials in Minsk to ensure compliance with local regulations.
What do you think about Binance’s move to stop services in Belarus? Tell us in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Belarusbank.
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Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $ 3.9-billion deal to acquire Tribune Media is dead.
Tribune announced Thursday that it is terminating the merger agreement. The companies had the option to kill the sale if it had not closed by Aug. 8. The deal was first announced in May 2017.
Tribune also said…
Cheapair.com is asking for customer feedback on using Bitpay to process bitcoin payments as its existing processor, Coinbase, is getting out of that business at the end of the month. Cheapair.com has also revealed additional plans for cryptocurrencies.
Travel booking website Cheapair.com has been accepting bitcoin as a payment option for flights and hotel bookings since 2013. The company currently uses Coinbase to process its bitcoin payments. However, CEO Jeff Klee announced on Friday:
We were recently informed by our processing partner, Coinbase, that they will no longer support ‘custodial’ solutions for merchants, and are removing a number of the tools and features that we rely on to accept bitcoin from Cheapair.com shoppers. These changes are scheduled to occur in a matter of weeks.
He explained that bitcoins received by Cheapair.com are immediately converted to fiat because the company has to immediately transfer them to its travel supplier partners such as airlines and hotels. “Coinbase has been providing that service for us, but at the end of the month they are getting out of that business, leaving us scrambling for an alternative.”
Cheapair.com’s rival, Expedia, also accepts bitcoin payments via Coinbase, with a disclaimer on its Terms and Conditions page. “We do not guarantee and are not responsible for the availability of Coinbase’s services.” While Cheapair.com allows bitcoin payments for flights and hotels, Expedia only offers the payment option for hotel bookings.
Migrating to Coinbase Commerce
Coinbase first announced the launch of its new service for merchants in March. With the launch of Coinbase Commerce, the company is “retiring Coinbase’s Merchant Tools product to focus on making Coinbase Commerce the best possible solution for online retailers,” Coinbase detailed at the time.
The new service “enables merchants to accept multiple cryptocurrencies directly into a user-controlled wallet,” the company described, adding that:
We’ve designed Coinbase Commerce to be a free non-custodial solution for accepting cryptocurrency so merchants can maintain full control over their funds.
Specifically, Coinbase says that on April 30, “Merchants will no longer be able to generate new orders using Coinbase Merchant Tools. Merchant Tool users will still be able to process refunds.” May 31 will be the “Final date for Coinbase Merchant Tool users to migrate to Coinbase Commerce,” the exchange warned, admitting that “We recognize that this decision may be disruptive to Coinbase Merchant Tool customers.”
Cheapair.com’s Future Crypto Plans
Klee proceeded to outline the company’s additional plans for cryptocurrencies. “In the coming weeks, we hope to..Begin accepting additional digital currencies like bitcoin cash, dash, and litecoin. We have already begun testing these,” he wrote.
At the time of this writing, the “Bitcoin and Altcoins” payment option on Cheapair.com includes four cryptocurrencies: bitcoin, bitcoin cash, litecoin and dash. Payments are facilitated by Gocoin.
The CEO also detailed Cheapair.com’s plans to establish “a dedicated customer service phone line and email inbox staffed with advisors who have a deeper understanding of digital currencies and how they work.” Furthermore, some processes will be automated that are currently “semi-manual, so we can issue refunds more quickly.”
According to Klee, Cheapair.com’s “intention at this point is to use Bitpay as a processor,” noting that the company has “had a great experience with them so far and our integration is largely complete.”
However, he pointed out:
But our one giant concern is that Bitpay does not support “non-payment protocol wallets” (wallets that aren’t BIP-70 compliant). So if you do not have a compatible wallet, you would have to get one and use it as an intermediate stage for your Bitcoin payment.
BIP-70, a controversial upgrade for bitcoin wallets written by Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn in 2013, has had vociferous fans and detractors debating its use publicly since its introduction.
While designed to make bitcoin payments more secure and nearly foolproof, it limits the number of wallets that can be used to only the six that do support the upgrade. Anyone attempting to pay a merchant that uses Bitpay without coins in one of those wallets will have to download and install a BIP-70 compliant wallet first. This means an additional transaction from their wallet to the new wallet, thereby incurring a second transaction fee and delay.
While empathizing with Bitpay’s goal “to address–delayed or incorrect payments–are real and were especially rampant back in December and January when transaction volumes spiked,” Klee said:
I am not keen on the idea of asking our customers to, in many cases, do more work or change wallets just to be able to transact with us.
The CEO is now asking customers for their input. “Do you buy from other Bitpay merchants? Do you find the BIP-70 wallet requirement to be reasonable or too onerous? Candidly, would this make you more or less likely to do business with us?”
Do you think Cheapair.com should go with Bitpay? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Bitpay, and Cheapair.com.
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A major bank in Thailand has reportedly terminated the bank account of a local cryptocurrency exchange, following an announcement by the central bank prohibiting financial institutions from five cryptocurrency-related activities. Meanwhile, the Thai government is actively working on providing a legal framework for cryptocurrencies.
Bank Halting Crypto Transactions
One of Thailand’s largest banks, Bangkok Bank, has “become the first domestic financial institution to halt transactions involving trading of cryptocurrencies,” the Bangkok Post reported.
The bank suspended transactions of the Thai Digital Asset Exchange (TDAX), a major crypto exchange in the country, “on the grounds that TDAX’s business operations are not in accordance with its business purpose registered with the Commerce Ministry,” the news outlet detailed.
TDAX is a local cryptocurrency exchange with 5.5 million baht (~USD$ 175,000) worth of registered capital, the publication noted. The exchange’s founder and CEO, Poramin Insom, told the news outlet that the company “plans to increase capital soon in order to apply for an initial coin offering (ICO) licence with the [Thai] Securities and Exchange Commission.”
Regarding the exchange’s bank account with Bangkok Bank, the CEO clarified:
The bank called and asked whether there was an operating licence for proof, but I answered that this business was not under legal jurisdiction, so the bank said it would terminate the company’s bank account, as this business had no licence.
A source close to the matter at the bank told the news outlet that TDAX had opened a savings account at the bank. However, bank officials claimed that some documents were missing, “therefore the bank decided to block all transactions through the account,” the publication noted, citing the announcement by the central bank a week prior.
With all transactions through TDAX’s bank account blocked, the source said the exchange “also asked for its bank account to be closed,” claiming that the “bank has no mandate to force customers to open or close any account.”
Last week, the Bank of Thailand issued a circular asking financial institutions to not get involved in five different crypto-related activities, none of which involves opening accounts for crypto exchanges, however. Meanwhile, the government is actively working on cryptocurrency regulations, which are expected to be finalized this month.
Exchange Says Trading Unaffected
Despite Bangkok Bank’s action, Insom indicated that the “termination of TDAX’s bank account with Bangkok Bank has not affected the trading of bitcoin and 10 other cryptocurrencies,” the publication conveyed.
“Daily trading value remains normal, driven by demand from investors for digital currencies,” the CEO further explained. “Investors are able to conduct transactions with three other banks, namely Kasikornbank (KBank), Siam Commercial Bank and Krungthai Bank.”
While Bangkok Bank has closed TDAX’s account, there are other banks still providing service to the exchange. Another major Thai bank, Kbank, clarified in a statement:
The bank [Kbank] is still facilitating TDAX financial transactions through its account after the bank discussed the matter with the central bank and found that such an account is not regarded as supporting customers in making virtual currency transactions.
Do you think other banks will follow suit? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Bank of Thailand, and Kasikornbank.
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Drugstore operator Walgreen formally ended a strained alliance with Theranos, as regulators near a decision on whether to impose sanctions against the embattled Silicon Valley blood-testing firm.
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