On behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) signed an MoU with the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) with the goal of deepening the collaboration across multiple financial services areas between Qatar and Hong Kong including digital assets.

The Hong Kong and Mainland China delegates to Qatar have had numerous group meetings and networking opportunities with the local Qatar stakeholders – QFC, QIA, QDB ( Qatar Development Bank), Invest Qatar, Qatar Foundation, QSTP, regulators, investors, family offices, channel partners in digital assets, fintech, wealth management, to deepen the collaboration and uncover concrete business opportunities.

This MoU signing is a follow-up from an earlier visit to Qatar by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hui, in 2023. Since then, Qatar leaders also visited Hong Kong during the Asian Financial Forum in early 2024.

King Leung, Global Head of Financial Services and Fintech, InvestHK told Qatar Pennisula media, that “Qatar can leverage Hong Kong’s strengths to its advantage. In Hong Kong, we have been experimenting lots of innovation such as tokenization and digital assets and would like to work more closely with Qatar.”

Sharing his perspectives on the intersection between fintech and AI, Global Head of Financial Services and Fintech Leung stated, “We are seeing the intersection of AI, big data, blockchain, and cloud. A lot of the financial institutions are now using fintech, which with that AI capability can help streamline a lot of the internal processes. We have seen a lot of AI innovation in the fintech space that are empowering the financial institutions to transform their operation, to raise their ability to service their clients.”

There have been regular follow-ups by both organizations, as well as InvestHK. We are committed to deepen our collaboration in key financial services areas – asset and wealth management, fintech, digital assets, and family offices.

The Undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Joseph Chan, the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC), InvestHK, and Cyberport led a delegation of over 30 Hong Kong and Mainland China business leaders to Doha on May 5-6.

Highlighting some of the key sectors of interest for investors from Hong Kong, Leung added, “The senior officials have been making our stance very clear in terms of our positioning as a major green finance and green tech hub. We would love to work with investors around the world to promote these movements. It could be new energy, new materials, or any of the technology layers that can promote a better tracking of the green behaviour. We see quite a lot of green fintechs using different technologies and access to different data.”

Layer 1 blockchain, MANTRA has announced that it has applied for a license in both the UAE and HongKong as it aims towards making real world asset tokenization mainstream.

MANTRA’s layer1 blockchain, known as MANTRA Chain, is designed to facilitate the issuance and trading of tokenized RWAs. MANTRA is on a mission to onboard financial organizations and other commercial enterprises that seek to tap into the many benefits tokenized RWAs have to offer.

As per the press release, by obtaining its first financial licenses in the UAE, MANTRA aims to position itself at the forefront of the rapidly evolving RWA sector throughout the Middle East and Asia.  MANTRA’s 2024 goal is to tokenize a diverse portfolio of assets including real estate, private market funds, private equity, art, and treasuries.

MANTRA CEO John Patrick Mullin stated, “Our vision is to spearhead the tokenization of Real-World Assets and set a global standard for security, compliance, and innovation. This will create a sustainable ecosystem for developers and institutions. By securing our foothold in strategic, crypto-friendly markets like Asia and the UAE, we’re not just navigating the future but actively building it. MANTRA will bridge the longstanding divide between traditional financial systems and the blockchain space, democratizing access to wealth and opportunity on a scale never seen before.”

In recent weeks, MANTRA has made headway in decentralizing its network, securing worldwide validator support. The imminent launch of the final MANTRA testnet, known as Hongbai, symbolizes a synergistic blend of Hong Kong and Dubai influences. Its deployment will be a pivotal step towards MANTRA Chain becoming the first RWA layer 1 on Cosmos.

The UAE is set to witness the launch of a large scale real estate blockchain tokenization project called Desert Pearl. Dubai based tokenization consultancy company, DDX, which is involved in both real estate and gold tokenization projects announced Desert Pearl.

OneDegree a Hong Kong based digital asset insurance provider has expanded its offering to the UAE through a local partnership with a 33 year old insurance company.

Both UAE local entity and OneDegree will insure digital asset firms in the UAE using its OneInFinity product offering.

As per Alvin Kwock Yin Iun speaking to the post, “ OneDegree is also in the process of setting up a new entity in Dubai and bringing on new hires in the city, according to Kwock. The move comes after the UAE’s economy minister Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri met with OneDegree during his visit to Hong Kong for the Belt and Road Summit in September. At this time he expressed interest in bringing OneDegree’s digital asset expertise to the UAE and more broadly to the Middle East and North Africa region.”

OneDegree and Dubai Insurance Company will offer several types of insurance required by the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority’s (VARA) new cryptocurrency regulatory regime in Dubai, including commercial crime insurance, professional indemnity insurance, and directors and officers insurance.

OneInfinity by OneDegree, took part in the Dubai Future Blockchain Summit 2023. Alvin Kwock, co-founder of OneInfinity, was one of the panel speaker of the discussion on “Crypto Trading & Digital Asset – Redefining Custody in Web3 World”, where he stressed the importance of using a qualified custodian and highlighted the growing interest of banks in the crypto world.

Seven-year-old OneDegree launched its digital-asset insurance service OneInfinity in November 2021, which offers insurance to digital-asset businesses such as cryptocurrency exchanges, custodians and wallet providers.

Prior to this OneDegree Hong Kong Limited entered into a three-year strategic partnership with Munich Re to launch OneInfinity, a digital asset insurance product, making OneDegree the first licensed insurer in Asia to collaborate with a global leading reinsurer in offering digital asset insurance.

Cactus Custody™,  the qualified institutional digital assets custodian service provider of Matrixport, upgraded its USD 50 million insurance for its customers with protection now extended to include crime coverage, specifically for warm wallets.

The insurance is issued by OneInfinity by OneDegree, the first and only direct insurer for digital assets in Asia. In addition to enjoying additional insurance coverage, clients have the assurance of the group having passed and met the due diligence standards to be insured by one of the world’s largest crypto insurers.

As Hong Kong police investigate allegations of fraud against cryptocurrency trading platform JPEX after investors complained of HK$1.3bn ($166m; £134m) in losses, Dubai’s virtual asset regulator VARA has alerted the public to the fact that JPEX is not regulated nor under VARA supervision.

JPEX on its website states, “At present, the JPEX operating headquarters is located in Dubai. As the financial hub of the Middle East, Dubai is the only global economy with an independent regulatory environment. Its newly established Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) is bound by the international regulatory framework. Under the supervision of VARA, The trading system established by JPEX has stricter regulatory standards and more transparency and openness in cross-border transactions, thereby ensuring the integrity of the global market.”

Eleven people, including popular influencers, were arrested this week after complaints filed by 2,000 people. The case could be one of Hong Kong’s biggest fraud cases, local media say.

Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) is issuing this Alert to call the attention of all investors and market participants, to recent media coverage of regulatory action that is being considered and/or has been initiated against the Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) JPEX and/or associated companies within the holding group [operational through www.jp-ex.io] and specific individuals associated with these entities.

VARA clarifies that JPEX is an unregulated operation. As VARA states, “JPEX is not regulated by or registered with VARA, and any VA Activity being carried out or offered by this entity, whether in/from the Emirate of Dubai or otherwise, has not been permitted or otherwise authorised by VARA.

False claims: Any claims by JPEX and any responsible individuals that it is regulated by VARA, or that it is subject to VARA’s oversight, are entirely false and inaccurate. Further, Law No. 4 of 2022 deems all VA activities in/from the Emirate to be are fully regulated, and under the purview of VARA – as such, should JPEX be performing any of these activities, it is operating in breach of Dubai Law.”

The notice adds that JPEX has also not been approved by VARA, and JPEX is hence not permitted to offer, promote or advertise any of its products or services, or solicit any client participation, in or from the Emirate of Dubai.

Customers may wish to notify VARA at  if they have been (i) the subject of any of JPEX’s solicitation/promotional activities; or (ii) if any of JPEX’s services have been made available to them specifically from Dubai.

VARA concludes that it will monitor the situation and may take enforcement actions against JPEX and any responsible individuals as may be warranted subject to evidenced wrongdoing.

This is the second time VARA takes action against a crypto exchange, OPNX was the first.

In a recent Forbes piece, it was noted that the virtual asset regulatory authority in Dubai expects to see several hundred virtual assets exchanges and service providers enter its licensing regime. This comes as CEOs of major crypto exchanges laud both UAE and Hong Kong as crypto hubs.

As per Henson Orser CEO of VARA, speaking to Forbes, “VARA makes Dubai one of a handful of global jurisdictions implementing a mature framework for crypto and virtual assets. The VARA framework expects to see several hundred virtual asset exchanges and service providers in Dubai start to come into its licensing regime in 2023.”

At the same time Hong Kong is also competing to get a piece of the crypto and digital asset market with the launch of new crypto licensing regime. In addition Hong Kong’s banking regulator is pressuring financial institutions including HSBC and Standard Chartered to take on crypto exchanges as clients.

In parallel the Central Bank of UAE came out with its new guidance on anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) for Licensed Financial Institutions (LFIs), banks, finance companies, exchange houses, payment service providers, towards virtual assets and Virtual asset service providers. While VARA came out with its virtual asset rulebook for, the virtual assets transfer,  and settlement service. 

Both countries are showing digital asset entities that they are serious for business. In a Yahoo article, Ben Caselin, CEO of Maskex states Dubai and Hong Kong are establishing themselves as crypto hubs by recognizing the potential for virtual assets and blockchain technology.

He explains, “Much of the discussion has focused on whether Dubai, Hong Kong or indeed some other jurisdiction will come out on top. However, the debate is much more nuanced than that. The emergence of Dubai and Hong Kong as crypto centers is really a testament to the power of healthy competition in spurring innovation in the Web3 space.”

He believes that as the U.S. grapples with crypto regulation, there is a real opportunity for other countries to assert themselves on the more level playing field provided by a digital-first global economy. With favorable yet robust regulatory environments, both Dubai and Hong Kong are well-positioned to lead the way.

Despite being on similar paths, Dubai and Hong Kong have different motivations for their push into crypto and the Web3 space. To him Hong Kong wants to reinvigorate the greater Chinese economy, while Dubai seeks to shift its dependence on oil.

Yet he contends that both have recognized the scale of opportunity and understand that by pooling resources they could be at the forefront of a new wave of digital innovation leading advancements in the scalability, privacy and interoperability of blockchains, therefore benefiting the entire crypto ecosystem.

The 2022 Worldwide crypto readiness report looks into the number of crypto ATMs, legislations, taxes surrounding cryptocurrencies, as well as the number of blockchain start-ups and the level of interest in crypto in order to find the most crypto ready countries. The 2022 report revealed that the UAE ranks third globally when it comes to the number of blockchain start-ups. The UAE has close to 120 blockchain start-ups or 1.2 blockchain startups per 100,000 people.

As per the 2022 report, Hong Kong was number one on the list in terms of crypto readiness, The country was crowned the most crypto-ready as it ranked in the top three for three of the categories looked at, including the number of blockchain start-ups per 100,00 people and the number of crypto ATMs proportional to the population. Hong Kong also doesn’t tax capital gains on crypto, making it appealing to investors.

Next up was the United States; the US took second place thanks to the huge number of crypto ATMs in the country, more than ten times that of its closest competitor, or 3.6 more per 100,000 people.

In third place was Switzerland. Switzerland ranked high due to its high number of crypto ATMs per 100,000 people and no capital gains tax, ranking in the top five for both factors. The country is also one of the most enterprising, took number one place for the number of blockchain start-ups.

Switzerland was crowned as the country with the most blockchain start-ups, boasting 12.9 blockchain start-ups per 100,000 residents, or 1,128 in total.  This has been due to the proactive approach taken by the Swiss financial authorities, which has lead to a booming blockchain industry with 14 of its start-ups worth over $1 billion.

While the United Arab Emirates took fourth place globally in the overall crypto readiness ranking, it also grabbed 3rd place with regards to the number of Blockchains start-ups. The UAE boasted of 1.2 blockchain start-ups per 100,000 people. UAE has a population of approximately 10 million which would mean that the UAE has 120 blockchain start-ups residing in the country.

UAE was preceded by Hong Kong who took second place with three blockchain start-ups per 100,000 people.

In terms of the countries which have the most interest in cryptocurrencies, Australia took first place, with 4,579 “cryptocurrency” searches per 100,000 people, just under 18% of Australia’s population owning crypto in 2021.

Second place went to Ireland which has 3,472 “cryptocurrency” searches per 100,000 people, followed by United Kingdom in third place with 3,409 “cryptocurrency” searches per 100,000 people. UAE took fourth place with 3, 342 ‘cryptocurrency’ searches per 100,000 people.