is now fully operational in the UAE after receiving the final approval from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority VARA. It is the first international crypto exchange to receive a full operational license. announced this achievement on X formerly Twitter stating that it would now be able to serve institutional investors.

The post stated, “We’re excited to announce our full operational approval from Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority. Crypto․com Exchange will be available for institutional investors as our first launch in the region.”, has announced that its Dubai entity, CRO DAX Middle East FZE, has received full operational approval from Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) and is launching the Exchange for institutional investors as its first operational milestone.

This operational approval follows’s fulfillment of the pre-operational conditions stipulated in the Virtual Asset Service Provider Licence granted to CRO DAX Middle East FZE in November 2023, and marks a first for a global crypto operator to be operational with fiat in the UAE. will be able to offer exchange Services, broker-Dealer Services, management and Investment Services and lending and Borrowing Services to institutional and retail clients.

Available to institutional clients and qualified retail investors, the Exchange, which has deep liquidity and a state-of-the-art matching engine, offers spot trading, staking brokerage and other OTC offerings around settlements for selected markets. With this full operational approval, has also initiated plans for further in-market product launches expected in the coming months, including the App and additional retail-user focused products.

“We are thrilled to expand our presence and offering in the UAE with the support of VARA,” said Eric Anziani, President and Chief Operating Officer of “Launching with our world-class Exchange institutional services will be fundamental to our continued growth and success in such a key market for our company.”

“We are incredibly supportive of the steps Dubai is taking to progress the crypto industry, both in-market and abroad,” said Stuart Isted, General Manager, Middle East and Africa of “But this is still just the beginning, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with VARA in our collective efforts to effectively and responsibly advance the sector.”

In November 2023, received its license but was not operational until all requirements were met. Prior to this OKX received its license which is still non-operational., a global crypto exchange with more than 50 million clients has announced that it will soon be operational in the UAE after receiving a license from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA).

As per the press release, the license is still subject to operational approval. This could be the reason why VARA’s registry still has under MVP preparatory (pending).

Once fully approved as operational, license will allow the company to offer virtual asset services to retail and institutional investors, such as exchange services, broker dealer services, services, investment services, and lending and borrowing services.

“Dubai continues to show it is a leading market when designing effective regulation for the crypto space while still supporting adoption and innovation,” Kris Marszalek, CEO of said.

In March 2022, five crypto exchanges made it to the status of having an MVP preparatory license, including, OKX, Bybit, Huobi, and Equiti. Yet out of those Huobi and Equiti have not been listed on registry showcasing they dropped out, while Bybit, OKX and even Binance have yet to receive their final licenses and operate.  

While homegrown BitOasis had its license frozen for not meeting all the requirements for license, and even after receiving investment from CoinDCX has yet to move out of the frozen position.

With this new license in place, will join BackPack exchange, Toko, and Laser Digital as licensed operational crypto exchanges in UAE.

It is expected that 15 licenses will be granted by VARA before the end of the year, as for the 1000 VASPs who applied to VARA, only two days are left for them to submit all requirements. The race is on!

It s no surprise that global crypto exchanges are flocking to the UAE, first it was Binance, then Kraken which left, then, coinbase, and now the second biggest global exchange OKX.

OKX announced unilaterally that it had received a minimal viable Preparatory license from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA). In 2022 OKX had received its provisional license and opened offices at the Dubai World Trade Centre. 

In the announcement they stressed that the UAE is a key strategic growth and business hub for OKX global with the company planning ot hire 30 staff locals and senior management.

OKX also added that it plans to extend its nine-figure brand partnerships to the UAE with customer and fan-focused activations and activities.

As per the announcement, once licensed to be operational, OKX Middle East will be able to extend its approved suite of duly regulated virtual assets activities and will provide spot, derivatives, and fiat services, including USD and AED deposits, withdrawals and spot-pairs, to institutional and qualified retail customers.

OKX Global Chief Commercial Officer Lennix Lai said, “We’re thrilled to receive the MVP preparatory licence from VARA. Regulated entities are the future of digital assets and capital markets and Dubai and VARA have succeeded in creating a unique environment where VASPs can thrive. With the expansion into a new office this year, we are focused on hiring local staff and senior management. The MENA region has incredible potential as a centre of excellence for Web3 and virtual assets, we look forward to the opportunity to expand the already growing ecosystem across the region.”

OKX Chief Marketing Officer Haider Rafique  added “We’ve been waiting to enter the UAE and we want people here to experience our products first hand. We’re different – we do things in a measured and transparent manner. May was our seventh consecutive month of publishing our proof of reserves, making us the only crypto exchange globally with that commitment. This attitude is consistent with the brand partners who represent us, Manchester City Football Club, McLaren Racing, and the Tribeca Festival. We take our time, and do things the right way.”

But on VARA’s website OKX is not listed in its public register, while, Binance, and BitOasis are. This is despite the fact that both and Binance have the same license approval as OKX.

This is not the first crypto exchange or virtual asset service provider to unilaterally announce they have received a license yet have never been put on VARA’s public register. Examples include, AquanowMaskex crypto exchange, Fasset tokenized assets exchange, and many others.

The question that is puzzling is why? Why put some names and not others, why highlight some companies in VARA press releases, like for example BitOasis,, GCEX, Enjinstarter, Binance, Hextrust, , but not Maskex, OKX and many more?

It might seem to be a small discrepancy, but to those who look at the VARA website as a legitimate source for knowing the status of VASP entities regulated in Dubai, it is a significant slip-up or maybe not!

As an update to this article, OKX has now been listed on VARA’s registry page on its website, still waiting to see Maskex, Aquanow and others, a global crypto exchange seems it will soon  become the second crypto exchange in Dubai UAE to receive MVP operational license after BitOasis.

VARA’s public register had listed CRO DAX Middle East better known as as having an MVP operational license authorized for specific activities and product types. As stated prior, is only authorized to serve qualified retail and institutional clients, but VARA website has since then removed it and now states it has an MVP preparatory license. 

Sources close to the matter state that this is a sign that an operational license is soon to come. This would make the first global exchange to receive an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) operational license from VARA. 

This comes after the UAE Central Bank recently announced its AML (Anti Money Laundering) and FTC for financial institutions dealing with VASPs.

Binance has also yet to receive its operational license and still holds the status of MVP preparatory license.

More and more global crypto exchanges are seeking to set up regulated licenses in UAE.

Visa the Official Payment Technology Partner of FIFA unveiled Visa Masters of Movement, a first-of its-kind hybrid experience featuring a pre-event NFT auction and immersive activation for fans at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

The Visa Masters of Movement auction features digital art inspired by iconic goals from five legendary footballers that have been minted into unique NFTs, available on

Later this month, the experience will come to life on an interactive pitch at the FIFA Fan Festival™ in Doha, Qatar and allow fans to create digital art inspired by their own signature movements. 

Eligible fans will have the option to mint this digital art into their own NFT in partnership with, the official cryptocurrency trading platform sponsor of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

Visa states, “As FIFA World Cup 2022™ approaches, we want to celebrate football, art and technology through the lens of what makes the FIFA World Cup™ so special – wildly impassioned fans, legendary athletes and for a few short weeks, the ability to bring the world together in a uniquely connected way”

Starting Wednesday 1st of November (12:00pm GMT) through November 8 (9:00pm GMT), football fans can bid on the Visa Masters of Movement NFTs on The auction brings together five unique works of art inspired by iconic FIFA World Cup™ and FIFA Women’s World Cup™ goals from legendary footballers: Jared Borgetti, Tim Cahill, Carli Lloyd, Michael Owen and Maxi Rodriguez minted into NFTs. The digital artwork was designed using an algorithm by award-winning XK Studios which transformed the iconic movements into dynamic works of art.

 A unique collector’s item, fans with the highest bid for each NFT at the close of the auction will receive the NFT in their wallet along with a high-quality printable art file and signed memorabilia from the legendary player featured in the NFT.

Visa will grant all auction proceeds to Street Child United, a charitable organization incorporated and operating in the United Kingdom, whose mission is to tackle the widespread stigma that street-connected children face globally.

“The FIFA World Cup™ is one of the most anticipated sporting events in the world, and we are incredibly excited to give fans a new way to engage with this epic event,” said Steven Kalifowitz, Chief Marketing Officer at “We are thrilled to partner with Visa in bringing Visa Masters of Movement to life and offering fans the opportunity to create and collect the most unique collectibles at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ that will live forever on the blockchain.”

Kevin O’ Leary, nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful”,  a Canadian businessman, entrepreneur, and television personality and an advocate of cryptocurrency stated that he recently became a UAE citizen because he wants to work freely in a region that has attracted investment by some of crypto’s heaviest hitters, including FTX, Binance and

This came as he announced at Converge22 Blockchain and cryptocurrency conference that he was launching a Web3.0 investment fund called Cipher with the lead investor coming from the UAE.

As he noted on stage, “We’ve got to get away from this speculative price of an asset here. We’ve got to find reasons that this technology gets embedded into the economy.”

He went on to say, “I recently became a citizen of the United Arab Emirates to work freely in a region that has attracted investment by some of crypto’s heaviest hitters, including exchanges FTX, Binance and The new all-Web3 fund’s lead investor comes from the United Arab Emirates.  There’s a tremendous amount of capital and interest there to invest in this space.”

The Shark Tank investor also commented on Jamie Dimon, the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., who called Bitcoin and some other cryptocurrencies as “decentralized Ponzi schemes” during the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services hearing.

“This is my interpretation. He feels threatened by some of this technology, particularly around payments,” O’Leary said. “This isn’t about speculation on asset price. This is about reducing the fees of how the world’s economies work more transparent, more productive, completely auditable, regulated, but less expensive.”

O’Leary is a vocal proponent of Web3 technology as a spokesperson for cryptocurrency exchange FTX and an investor in financial technology company Circle, the issuer of the USDC stablecoin and the organizer of the Converge22 conference.

According to a recent report by FDI markets published in FDI Intelligence, UAE topped the list of countries with most crypto related FDI projects. UAE had a whopping 15 projects making it number one. It was followed by the USA which attracted 11 crypto projects; Brazil came in third with 7 projects, followed by UK, Lithuania at 4th place with 5 crypto projects, then Singapore in fifth place with 4 projects, followed by Canada, Australia, ( 3 projects each) and France, Sweden with 2 projects 

Some 98 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects were announced in crypto related activities in the first half of 2022, an increase of 145% from the same period in 2021. This number was higher than any pre-recorded database since 2016. It was also double the figure for the whole of 2021.

Most of the companies who announced FDI projects in H1 of 2022 were those that involve crypto services, such as crypto exchanges, who set up new physical presence in foreign countries.

This is true of UAE which attracted the likes of Binance, OKx, Huobi,, FTX, and many others in 2022 since it announced its virtual assets regulatory authority. Today the UAE boasts of over 1200 crypto blockchain related entities and is seeking to attract 5000 Blockchain and metaverse companies in the next 5 years.

So while crypto exchanges flock and grow in the MENA region specifically in Bahrain and the UAE, RAIN crypto exchange has laid off more than 120 employees. Speculations loom as to the reasons, yet one thing is certain; the first regulated crypto exchange to launch in the MENA region is facing the heat and is shedding its employees like a snake sheds its skin. 

So while Binance and CoinMENA, both competitors of RAIN crypto exchange in Bahrain, were receiving upgrades on their licenses to category 4 and category 3 respectively, and while one of the biggest crypto exchanges globally received provisional approval for its virtual assets license from the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), RAIN was making no such announcements. On the contrary the only announcement it was making was that of layoffs.

On May 1st 2022, CoinMENA announced it had received an upgrade to its license from a category 2 to a category 3. As the company on LinkedIn stated, “We are proud to announce that CoinMENA’s license for Crypto-Asset Services has been upgraded from Category 2 to Category 3 by The Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, His Excellency Mr. Rasheed Al-Maraj. Thank you for your trust and support. We look forward to continuing to offer new services to our users.”

A week prior, Binance announced on its blog that it had received a Category 4 license, as a crypto asset service provider (CASP) from the Central Bank of Bahrain. With the license upgrade Binance Bahrain could now offer a wider range of crypto exchange services. The Category 4 license will allow Binance Bahrain to offer crypto-asset exchange services to customers under the supervision of the Bahrain regulators.

Despite its recent foray into Bahrain, Binance became the first exchange to be granted a category 4 license by the Central Bank of Bahrain. Richard Teng, Head of MENA Binance stated, “The upgrade to a Category 4 license in the Kingdom of Bahrain is a landmark achievement for Binance and further signifies our commitment to being a compliance-first exchange.”

The only one not to receive an upgrade was RAIN which already holds a category three license. On the contrary just days after CoinMENA announced its upgrade, RAIN announced layoffs. In a statement to Bloomberg Joseph Dallago, RAIN CEO stated, “We have had to make tough decisions to be able to navigate through this period of uncertainty and we can confirm we have downsized our Rain workforce.” However RAIN has been through turbulent crypto times before with crypto bear markets in both in 2021 and prior, so what is different today?

It is also interesting to note, that when looking at RAIN’s linkedIn page, RAIN had been on a hiring spree over the past 6 months since early 2022. The crypto market has been facing turbulent times since late December 2021, yet RAIN was continuing to hire. As per the linkedIn page RAIN saw an increase of 45 percent headcount growth in past 6 months.

So what else could it be? In January  2022 Bahrain based RAIN raised USD 110 million in its Series B funding. The round was co-led by Paradigm and Kleiner Perkins with participation from numerous parties including Coinbase Ventures, Global Founders Capital, MEVP (Middle East Venture Partners), Cadenza Ventures, JIMCOand CMT Digital.

Prior to that RAIN in January 2021,  had raised 6 million USD in a Series A funding also with the participation of MENA based MEVP as well as CoinBase ventures. At the time the founders of RAIN Abdullah Almoaiqel, AJ Nelson, Joseph Dallago, and Yehia Badawy, had stated that RAIN would continue to grow its team across the region hoping to double in size by 2022 while it expanded across the region.

So could RAIN’s decision to lay off employees be related to what is happening with one of its major investors, CoinBase?  CoinBase announced it was freezing new hires as well as cutting back on its work force.  In a blog post written by Chief People Officer L.J. Brock, Coinbase, he said, “We will extend our hiring pause for both new and backfill roles for the foreseeable future and rescind a number of accepted offers. The cutbacks come in response to the current market conditions and ongoing business prioritization efforts,”   This comes after Gemini exchange announced it was laying off 10% of its staff, or roughly 100 people.

Could CoinBase business prioritization efforts be affecting RAIN as a crypto exchange?

Some comments on social media platforms centered around the fact that RAIN had fired a number of employees within its Money Laundering Reporting Office as well as junior employees, while retaining its senior staff.

In addition, Bahrain based Cryptos Consultancy which operates Crypto Talents Middle East is offering RAIN employees effected by the layoffs  help in finding other employment. 

Regardless of the RAIN debacle, and how it will play out in the long term, it is obvious that the crypto ecosystem is still growing in GCC and MENA with more local and international players setting up operations.