The Swiss based Crypto Valley Association; a nonprofit crypto and blockchain ecosystem announced that the Bahrain Economic Development Board, which focuses on attracting investments to Bahrain, has become its latest member.

As per the announcement, the association noted, “We are beyond excited to announce Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) as our newest corporate member!”

Bahrain Economic Development Board collaborates with government bodies and investors globally to identify and cultivate mutually beneficial opportunities, actively contributing to Bahrain’s economic diversification and sustainable growth.

The Crypto Valley Association is known as Switzerland’s leading blockchain & crypto ecosystem. It has been fostering collaboration and growth in the global blockchain ecosystem since 2017.

Bahrain was the first country in the GCC to incorporate crypto exchanges under a regulatory regime. It currently has three licensed crypto exchanges and brokers, including RAIN, Binance and CoinMENA.

It seems Bahrain is gearing towards attracting more crypto and blockchain companies to the country in 2024.

IMF discussed its new draft methodology for the supervision of virtual assets during a recent fintech roundtable organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff, in collaboration with the UAE Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing. Interestingly the methodology project was financed by a number of countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In attendance were participants from 15 countries including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Hamid Al Zaabi, Director-General of the EO AMLCTF, stated, “The UAE continues to raise the effectiveness of its regulatory framework for VAs and VASPs to attract innovative firms and keep out illicit actors seeking to exploit the global financial system. We are delighted to partner with the IMF team to give supervisory authorities across the world the opportunity to strengthen international cooperation and be part of the design process of an important new methodology for VA/VASP supervision”.

Chady El Khoury, Deputy-Division Chief of the Financial Integrity Group within the Legal Department at the IMF, noted the broad consensus among participants on the need for urgent actions to mitigate the potentially significant ML/TF risks emerging from VA and VASPs.

He explained, “It is critically important that countries carry out robust AML/CFT risk-based supervision of VASPs, and that assessing the associated ML/TF risks is the starting point of an effective AML/CFT supervisory regime.”

Participants at the workshop identified a range of issues, including a lack of capacity and resources for supervisory agencies and data collection/analysis gaps. They agreed on the need for strong collaboration among AML/CFT supervisory agencies and upgrading existing ML/TF supervisory risk assessment models to accurately assess VA and VASPs.

In the absence of a clear solution to deal with data collection and related gaps, supervisors may need to rely on models that are more tuned into the inherent risks that VASPs pose with the decision on whether to incorporate data (e.g., transaction level analysis on VA flows) on a case-by-case basis. Finally, a more connected and active community for collaboration between AML/CFT VA and VASP supervisors would help countries to better understand and address cross-border ML/TF risks.

Over the coming months, IMF staff will follow up with participants and incorporate feedback on the methodology. Once finalised, the methodology will form part of the Legal Department of the IMF’s CD toolkit that the organisation will start providing to countries by mid-year 2025.

The methodology was developed under a project that is financed by a donor-supported Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland trust fund to finance CD in AML/CFT at the IMF with excellent support from the UAE to host the event.

R3 Blockchain is establishing itself more in the GCC and MENA region, with Bryan D’Souza announcing his move to Abu Dhabi as Business Development and Partnerships Manager in the Middle East.

As D’Souza noted on Linkedin, “I’m delighted to finally announce my move to Abu Dhabi with R3, where I will lead Business Development and Partnerships in the Middle East. After extensive travel between London and the GCC, the prospect of making Abu Dhabi my home is thrilling as I embark on this exciting new chapter.

He adds that he is excited to collaborate with GCC’s thriving financial services ecosystem. According to D’Souza, the GCC stands out as a forward-thinking hub of progress due to its dynamic blend of tradition and innovation, as well as a remarkable ability to execute on transformation.

He will be working to flourish digital economies and align with national visions of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan, helping these countries to realize their financial sector developments including banking and capital markets transformation.

R3 will be working with Central banks, FMIs, commercial banks, FinTech, providing practical groundbreaking solutions for digital assets tokenization and regulated digital currencies, including CBDCs.

Last month Bryan D’Souza discussed his fruitful visit to Kuwait.

R3 has been a strong proponent in the Middle East and GCC region working with governments and enterprise on several projects, most prominently the CBDC projects in Saudi Arabia and UAE.

In addition the Qatar Financial Centre Authority and R3 signed an MOU to develop and grow Qatar’s fintech industry using technologies such as DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) back in April 2023.

D’Souza stated after his visit to Kuwait, “I am thrilled to have experienced my first trip to Kuwait over the last couple of days as part of a mini GCC tour. I am grateful for the warm welcome from our great partners and potential clients. The hospitality of the Kuwaiti people left a lasting impression; warm, friendly, and eager to collaborate.”

He added, “Exciting opportunities ahead and looking forward to returning back to Kuwait soon!”

CoinMENA has just become one of the first crypto broker from the MENA region to receive a full VASP (Virtual asset service provider license from VARA). As per the license CoinMENA can offer crypto broker services to institutional investors, qualified investors and retail clients.

With this CoinMENA becomes the 10th VASP to receive a license from Dubai’s regulator. CoinMENA already has a license in Bahrain and serves clients across the MENA region.

In August 2023 MENA CoinMENA came out with a new marketing campaign announcing that as a licensed exchange it is serving more than 250,000 users across 8 countries including Bahrain, UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Iraq and Egypt, stating its intentions to expand its base.

Still not to receive are Binance, Bybit, and, while BitOasis has been removed totally from VARA’s registered VASP list.

This comes after M2 launched its operations out of Abu Dhabi.

UK headquartered Luminous Group, which provides immersive training programs, using metaverse technologies has raised $1.2 million from North East venture fund, and Mercia as its sets up a presence in the Middle East.

As per the release, the funding will enable the Luminous Group to roll its technology out to a wider audience and create 10 new jobs in the year ahead. It comes as the company is set to open a third office in the Middle East to support its growing client base in the region.

Luminous has already won a major contract from a leading Middle East energy company and recently opened an international office in Bahrain. It plans to open an office in Saudi Arabia later this year, and launch a global marketing campaign. The funding will also enable it to further enhance its platform to make it fully ‘self service’, enabling companies to create their own training programmes, and to launch a new marketplace where training providers can sell their own content.

The Luminous XR (extended reality) platform – which incorporates augmented, mixed and virtual reality – enables users to create training programs quickly and efficiently and track students’ progress. The system, which is ideal for energy companies and manufacturers, can recreate real-life situations including hazardous environments in a safe and repeatable way.

Luminous is run by Ben Bennett, CEO, and Nigel Hope.. Mercia Ventures first invested in 2017 to help it develop the platform. The latest round is the third to date and brings the total received by the company to over £1.9m, which includes funding from the NEVF and Mercia’s EIS funds.

Ben Bennett said: “While it is still early days for the ‘metaverse’, VR and XR technologies have matured significantly and the launch of Apple’s first mixed-reality headset next year is expected to boost awareness and drive global demand. The funding received from Mercia puts Luminous in a strong position to capitalize on that.”

Chris McCourt of Mercia Ventures said: “Current training techniques used in industry are expensive and outdated. Immersive training in a virtual environment could significantly improve performance but creating such programs has been challenging until now. The Luminous XR platform is enabling much wider adoption. This latest investment will enable the company to scale its business and become a global leader in XR training.”

Binance Pay has announced that it is now offering its cryptocurrency transaction platform with over 3,000 Bahrain retailers. Binance pay is working with online as well as physical store to offer secure crypto payments.

The Bahrain retailers include names such as Sharaf DG, the electronic retailer in Bahrain. In addition to local fast food chain Jasmis, as well as STC Bahrain, LuLu HyperMarket, Dose Café, Al Zin Jewellry, Salmabad, Wadi Al Sail and Hawar, petrol stations, Pet Arabia, Premier Motors Showroom, Reebok store and many more.

As per the announcement, “With the continuously growing adoption of blockchain technology and digital currencies, this revolution is just the beginning. Be part of it by supporting these merchants and making a transaction the Binance way!”

In January 2023 Binance celebrated its official entrance into Bahrain. Binance received its official license in October 2022. On entrance Binance Pay partnered with Bahrain Eazy Pay to introduce crypto payments for Bahrain real estate developer Bin Faqeeh Real estate Investment.

Binance also launched crypto futures products in Bahrain after receiving regulatory permission.  With this Binance Bahrain BSC became the first regulated exchange in the region to offer these services and the only exchange with a CAT4 license.

This came after Binance suspended its crypto debit card services in Latin America and the Middle East from Aug. 25. The crypto debit card services in Latin America and the Middle East were terminated Sept. 21, but the exchange claimed refunds and disputes could still be processed until Dec. 20, 2023.

Bahrain based ABC bank after two years of piloting, J.P. Morgan’s Coin Systems, a blockchain based permissioned system that serves as a payment rail and deposit account ledger and sits within Onyx by J.P. Morgan has gone live with the blockchain payments solution.

Prior to this ABC bank had been piloting GCC region’s first blockchain based cross border instant payment solutions as well as CBDC project with the Central Bank of Bahrain. In 2020 The Central Bank of Bahrain collaborated with J P Morgan and Bank ABC in a pilot scheme to introduce instantaneous cross border payment solution leveraging state of the art technology and digital currency. The pilot was successfully completed in 2022. 

As such the soft launch of the new blockchain payment service by ABC Bank, is in close collaboration with the Central Bank of Bahrain.  The Central Bank of Bahrain has supported the project by integrating and scaling the blockchain payments solution within the Kingddom’s payments landscape.

On this occasion, His Excellency the Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, Mr. Rasheed AlMaraj, stated, “After working closely with JP Morgan and Bank ABC over the past two years to experiment the execution of cross-border commercial transactions between Bahrain and the U.S., leveraging the J.P. Morgan Coin System, we are pleased to witness the soft launch of this innovative banking solution by a Bahraini-based bank.  This initiative aligns with the CBB’s strategic vision to embrace innovation and digitalize the Kingdom’s financial services sector by eliminating inefficiencies that exist in traditional cross-border payment railways, facilitating trade between Bahrain and the U.S., and thereby inducing economic activity. We commend Bank ABC on their commitment to enhance their banking offerings by leveraging advanced global technologies.”

Mr. Sael Al Waary, Bank ABC Group CEO, said: “As an international bank operating across five continents, Bank ABC Group is committed to introducing innovative products to our home market and across our wider network. Offering high-value cross-border payments via the J.P. Morgan Coin Systems service, allows us to reduce traditional settlement periods considerably as well as being more cost-effective for our clients. We remain steadfast as a key enabler of Bahrain’s vision for a digital economy. We would like to thank our partners the Central Bank of Bahrain for their commitment and leadership and J.P. Morgan for their leading role in advancing cross-border payments for banking services.”

Naveen Mallela, Global Head of Onyx Coin Systems, said “Bank ABC has been one of the earliest adopters of the JPM Coin offering and we are delighted to launch the first of its kind commercial payment offering between J.P. Morgan and Bank ABC using distributed ledger rails. This enables cross-border commercial transactions to be executed between Bahrain and US corridors instantly, atomically and with certainty.”

While the offering has been launched with USD and locations involving Bahrain, US, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, additional locations and currencies, notably Euro, are in the pipeline. Going forward with the planned introduction of programmable payment offerings, it will enable mutual corporate clients to leverage event driven and automated payouts enabling a dynamic and real time treasury management.

The Singapore headquartered,MRHB Network which provides interest-free DeFi, NFT and halal crypto asset opportunities has partnered up with Shari’ah Review Bureau (“SRB”), a Bahrain-based Shari’ah advisory firm, to independently assess and review its new product EMPLIFAI (Earnings Amplified with Algorithms & AI) which aims to provide Sharia-compliant passive income.   

“The MRHB ecosystem aims for a wide array of crypto-based DeFi solutions”, explained Naquib Mohammed, Founder and CEO of MRHB Network. “After a successful launch of the Sahal Wallet app, a multichain self-custodial digital wallet, we are pleased to present our new product to the Muslim community – a liquidity harvester product, EMPLIFAI which incorporates a Sharia-compliant mechanism and structure for users to invest and generate passive income.”  

EMPLIFAI is designed to generate income mainly from DeFi activities such as yield farming, liquidity mining, bridge protocol fees and arbitrage opportunities. It will be rolled out in two phases, namely V1 and Version Pro. V1 will be for retail users whereas Version Pro (in the pipeline) will be catered to institutional participants.  

DeFi (decentralized finance) is a rapidly growing sector within the digital asset industry. The value locked in DeFi protocols has grown from billions to tens of billions of dollars in just a few years, and the space is expected to continue its growth in 2023. 

Commenting upon the engagement with SRB, Naquib Mohammed said, “Bringing SRB on board to review, assess and eventually audit EMPLIFAI’s processes, legal documents and the passive income mechanism in light of Shari’ah further strengthen our trust for our shareholders and the users. SRB is one of the few Shari’ah advisory firms that works with fintech companies with a diverse product offering and we leveraged on their experience.”   

Yasser S. Dahlawi, Founder and CEO of SRB added, “EMPLIFAI product exhibits a growing trend in the community that seeks an alternative investment and return from blockchain asset class. We will continue to help MRHB in its product enhancement and Shari’ah compliance as it scales its offering in the blockchain sphere with Version 2.”

With the growing development and success of MRHB Network halal crypto ecosystem, MRHB is currently closing its bridge to Series A round from strategic partners and expanding to the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia before the close of 2023. 

Naquib Mohammed speaking to Laraontheblock states, “ I am extremely proud of the MRHB Shariah Team and the Engineering Team, to have successfully launched an industry first liquidity harvesting protocol that is tailored to address the faith based crypto community. Testament to our efforts is the approval stamp of the Central Bank of Bahrain regulated SRB, who certified our product and architecture without a single correction remark. This itself proves the high quality of the deliverable that the teams have succeeded in creating. Emplifai is a gift of MRHB to the world, where the halal oriented community can reap the benefits of DeFi, just not with compromising their beliefs , but also their principal amount. The nature of Emplifai is such that it preserves the defi user from the volatility of the crypto market, hence a relief to a newbie.”

Binance crypto exchange has announced the launch of crypto futures products in Bahrain after receiving regulatory permission.  With this Binance Bahrain BSC becomes the  first regulated exchange in the region to offer these services and the only exchange with a CAT4 licence.

The launch of these products follows a comprehensive regulatory review and consultation period to ensure that Binance Bahrain BSC, which operates the regulated Binance Bahrain platform, has met the necessary compliance and governance requirements to offer futures products locally in a regulated manner.

Eligible local users must complete and pass a mandatory suitability assessment questionnaire in order to access the products.

Tameem Al-Moosawi, General Manager of Binance Bahrain, said: “Binance is committed to compliance and its users, and we are focused on building the local digital assets ecosystem that is sustainable for the long-term.”

This announcement comes after cryptocurrency exchange Binance announced it  will suspend its crypto debit card services in Latin America and the Middle East from Aug. 25. The crypto debit card services in Latin America and the Middle East will be terminated by Sept. 21, but the exchange claimed refunds and disputes can still be processed until Dec. 20, 2023.

Binance was working with Mastercard in Bahrain but the crypto card program has been ended. Mastercard and crypto exchange Binance  ended four crypto card programmes in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bahrain as of Sept. 22, a spokesperson for Mastercard said via email on Thursday.

The Binance cards allowed users to make payments in traditional currencies, funded by their cryptocurrency holdings on the exchange.

UAE based BitOasis crypto broker exchange has announced that it has secured an investment from CoinDCX, India’s biggest crypt exchange. This comes after BitOasis’s license was suspended by VARA for not meeting requirements. The latest investment will give BitOasis a new life line.

As per the news, the new capital injection will help to support BitOasis’s vision to amplify its regional presence and secure further licenses in the region.

Commenting on the news, Ola Doudin, Co-Founder and CEO of BitOasis said: “We are delighted to be working with CoinDCX, India’s leading crypto platform. From our first conversations, it was clear we share a common vision and synergies across our markets that we look forward to building towards. The investment will allow us to sharpen our focus on perfecting our existing products and expanding across our markets. We are very excited about the opportunities the funding will unlock for us.”

Sumit Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO of CoinDCX stated: “We are immensely excited about investing in BitOasis, the largest crypto trading platform in the Mena region. We have been impressed by BitOasis’s excellent product offering, strong leadership and their persistence to serve customers in the most secure and compliant manner.”

The investment comes after news that CoinDCX was in talks to acquire BitOasis. BitOasis in the past month had let go of more than 30 employees.

Prior to that VARA had freezed BitOasis’s MVP operational license for non compliance to requirements set by the Dubai virtual asset regulator.

With this an Indian crypto exchange now has a foothold in the MENA region with the investment in BitOasis.