As per a recent PWC Crypto regulation report 2023, the UAE has finalized its crypto regulation, includes AML/ CTF Money laundering and counter terrorist financing rules as well as its travel rule and has already prepared the stablecoin regulation for payments which is awaiting final legislation. ( refer to graph page 8 of report).
For those not familiar with the travel rule, it is a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) rule [31 CFR 103.33) which requires all financial institutions to pass on certain information to the next financial institution, in certain funds transmittals involving more than one financial institution.
This PwC Global Crypto Regulation 2023 report provides an overview of the crypto regulation landscape, with a focus on financial services. It offers insights into how the regulatory frameworks are developing across the world and seeks to identify how this may impact relevant industry participants and virtual service providers within the financial services sector.
The report notes that UAE authorities are assessing their approach to areas including stablecoins and wider DeFi.
In addition as per the report, the Central Bank of UAE is establishing its position in communicating permissible virtual asset activities to local banks. These include opening accounts for Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) better known as crypto exchanges.
UAE Securities Commodities Authority with its Decision on Crypto Assets Activities Regulation (CAAR), regulates the offering, issuing, listing and trading of crypto assets in onshore UAE. This includes the initial coin offering exchanges, marketplaces, crowdfunding platforms, custodian services and related financial services based upon or leveraging crypto assets.
In December 2022 the UAE Cabinet updates some of its legislations including those pertaining to virtual business and virtual assets allowing them to be regulated onshore.
As for the rest of the GCC and Arab countries, the report notes that Bahrain has implemented crypto regulations and AML/CTF yet has not implemented neither the travel rule nor stablecoin regulations for payments.
Jordan, Kuwait, and Oman have not initiated a crypto regulation process, while KSA and Qatar have prohibited cryptocurrencies.
It is interesting that while the report for example considers that Oman has not initiated the crypto regulation process, Oman had announced in 2021 that it was launching through the Central Bank a high level Oman cryptocurrency task force to study the economic advantages and disadvantages of authorizing the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.
In January 2022 Oman capital markets Authority announced a tender for specialized companies to assist in setting up a legislative and regulatory framework for virtual assets and licensing supervision and regulations of Virtual assets service providers within the Sultanate of Oman. Since then no other announcements have been made.
Both Bahrain and Oman have allowed crypto payments to be made in the country through virtual asset providers. Oman based, cryptocurrency broker, Easy Coins launched its trial of Tether USDT on the Tron Blockchain. Accordingly Easy Coin users in Oman can now purchase TRC20 USDT. At the end of 2021 there were 43 thousand registered crypto wallet addresses in Oman.
In the meantime even stablecoins are being trialled in Oman. The Oman Water and Waste Water Services Company (OWWSC), member of Nama Group, to trial a stablecoin linked to the Oman Riyal. The company signed an MOU with Oman based Digital Digits, the creators of Easy coins and Connected Chains to trial “ Hasalah” a stablecoin Wallet.
While in Bahrain EazyPay, a payments solution provider partnered with Binance’s Binance Pay to launch a regulated and approved crypto payments service offering in the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia crypto traders and investors are growing despite the ban on cryptocurrencies and the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia has created a division to study implementation of virtual assets and CBDCs. In 2022, Qatar announced the introduction of its blockchain blueprint for the country.
So while regulations are essential for the growth of crypto ecosystem, and the UAE is leading in this regards, it doesn’t mean that crypto is not being utilized in other countries regardless of their regulatory status.