A prominent Blockchain and cryptocurrency figure in UAE, Saeed Al Darmaki is backing GC Exchange FZE part of the GCEX Group. He has not only been appointed as a Non-Executive Director for the UAE region, but will focus on driving growth of GCEX, which recently received a VASP crypto brokerage license from Dubai’s regulator VARA.

He is CEO of Sheesha Finance and co-founder of the Alphabit investment fund. He began his career in traditional finance, working at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) for nine years, and has subsequently held a number of advisory and Board Director roles, playing a key role in helping innovative businesses scale.

Mehtap Önder, Managing Director, GCEX Dubai stated, “We are delighted to welcome Saeed to our Board. With his extensive network, industry expertise and regional experience, he will be a huge asset to GCEX, enabling us to maximize growth opportunities and reach our potential in the region.”

Saeed Al Darmaki, Non-Executive Director, GCEX MENA added, “This is a great opportunity for me to extend my contribution to the crypto ecosystem in the region. I have known the team at GCEX and their investors, True Global Ventures, for a while, and they tick all the boxes for me regarding their credibility and integrity, the experience of their team, their growth ambitions and their commitment to VARA and the UAE I feel confident that I can add value to the business, using my trad-fi and de-fi experience and network, as well as my in-depth understanding of the local infrastructure.”

the crypto broker opened its Dubai office in July 2022, empowering institutional and professional clients to access deep liquidity on digital assets, alongside trading and conversion of digital assets. It accepts AED and SAR, alongside many other fiat and cryptocurrencies. With a strong focus on client protection, GCEX has only partnered with regulated institutional digital custodians and staking providers and segregates all client money in Client Money Accounts.

True Global Ventures are investors in GCEX.

UAE-headquartered digital asset exchange Fasset gained recognition as the best crypto and blockchain company at Best in Business Awards by Inc Arabia. The annual prestigious award aims to celebrate outstanding achievements, innovation, and impactful contributions of GCC-based business platforms across 31 categories.

Inc. Arabia Best in Business Awards highlight businesses with significant contribution to the economic growth and development of the GCC region. It aims to showcase the best practices, leadership, and groundbreaking initiatives that shape the future of business across a number of categories from e-commerce and real estate, to AI and fintech. All nominees go through a rigorous selection process by Inc.’s judging committee made up of decision–makers and thought leaders from across industries.

Co-founded in 2019 by Mohammad Raafi Hossain (CEO) and Daniel Ahmed (COO), both ex-advisors to the UAE’s Prime Minister’s Office where they contributed to the UAE’s vision of technological excellence, Fasset is on a mission to democratize access to innovative financial management tools for the next billion people globally.

Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Co-Founder and CEO, commented: “Fasset’s recognition at the Best in Business Awards is testament to our company’s vision, as well as hard work of the 86 member team across our 3 offices to deliver the best possible product to our users and to empower them with innovative yet transparent and safe investment and money management solutions. We launched in the UAE earlier this year, and I can assure you that we are just getting started. I am excited for Fasset’s future plans across the region and beyond”.

Fasset’s platform allows secure and seamless transactions involving digital and tokenized real-world assets[1]from any location and in the user’s preferred currency. Users can buy and invest in digital and tokenized real-world assets, take part in spot exchange transactions, and transfer funds, all in a blockchain environment. Among available investment options are cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, as well as bundles.

Launched in the UAE in March 2024 after getting a fully operational VASP license from VARA in a rigorous multi-stage approval process, Fasset has been making rapid progress since then.

In April 2024, the company announced its plans to launch in Malaysia after signing a Letter of Intent with MBSB Bank Berhad at the KL20 Summit. The partnership was marked by Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar bin Ibrahim as proof the country is ready for innovative transformation. The company plans to further expand its operations in the region and beyond in the near future, having accumulated a large digital assets licensing portfolio in emerging markets, connecting places like the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Türkiye.

Paxos International, a UAE-based affiliate of Paxos, announced the launch of Lift Dollar (USDL) – a yield-bearing stablecoin issued under regulatory supervision of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in UAE. The Lift dollar (USDL) stablecoin is now available to consumers in Argentina via distribution partners Ripio, Buenbit, Manteca and Plus Crypto. 

As per Paxos International press release, USDL is unmatched in the market as holders earn overnight yield from short-term, minimal-risk US government securities and cash equivalent assets held under the safe protection and custody requirements of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Under the FSRA’s license Paxos International is required to hold only high-quality liquid assets to back USDL – US dollar deposits, short duration US treasuries and cash equivalents. It is required to ensure that USDL will maintain 1:1 parity with the US dollar and consumers can redeem their tokens for fiat at all times. 

This reserve structure is like other Paxos-issued US dollar stablecoins that are backed 1:1. USDL is issued permissionlessly on Ethereum and pays yield programmatically on a daily basis to token holders.

According to the press release, USDL marks an important innovation in democratizing overnight yield by shifting interest earned on stablecoin reserve holdings directly to eligible end holders from the central issuer.

Using an Ethereum smart contract, USDL distributes the yield generated from its reserves to eligible wallet addresses daily without requiring any additional steps by the token holder.

Paxos will retain an issuer fee and pay out the remaining yield earned based on prevailing daily market conditions. Companies in permitted jurisdictions interested in enabling USDL on their platforms can onboard with Paxos International.

Ronak Daya, Head of Product of Paxos International, said, “Lift Dollar is the first stablecoin designed to benefit token holders. Token holders and distribution partners receive daily yield, through an Ethereum smart contract, with all the benefits of a regulated, trusted stablecoin platform. Paxos International has partnered with leaders Ripio, Buenbit, Manteca and Plus Crypto to ensure customers in Argentina are receiving tokens from safe and secure channels. Our targeted launch in this market will ensure millions of token holders will now have safe access to US dollars that enables them to not only save and transact, but also earn daily yield. We are pleased to work with these trusted platforms and look forward to growing our partnerships throughout the year.” 

Sebastián Serrano, CEO and co-founder of Ripio, commented: “The launch of USDL by Paxos represents another significant step in the commitment to offering users robust and reliable options in the world of cryptocurrencies. We are excited to list USDL on our app and continue to provide access to innovative financial tools that promote inclusion and economic freedom for all.” 

Federico Ogue, Chief Executive Officer of Buenbit, added: “We are very happy to partner with Paxos in the launch of USDL. Yield bearing stablecoins are the future of stablecoins as they share revenue generated with the end user. We are glad that Paxos was the first big stablecoin issuer to take this step forward as it is one of the most reputable companies in the field.”

Federico Goldberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Manteca, added: “The launch of USDL in Argentina with Paxos International, whose affiliate already provides services to giants like PayPal, MercadoPago and Nubank, is excellent news for retail customers, our corporate clients in Manteca and the local crypto ecosystem. The fact that USDL allows holders to seamlessly generate income is an incredible differential compared to other alternatives that currently exist. It’s like ‘putting dollars under the mattress’, but modern.” 

UAE regulated GCEX crypto has partnered with DV Chain a provider of liquidity and market-making services in the dynamic world of cryptocurrencies allowing GCEX clients to benefit from DV Chain’s exceptional crypto liquidity offering, with even tighter spreads and reduced execution costs.

Through this partnership, GCEX will provide enhanced brokerage services for spot cryptocurrency transactions, delivering unparalleled access to deep liquidity through its professional 24/7 service. Designed specifically for institutional clients, this offering is accessible through GCEX’s crypto-native platform – XplorSpot – or via API, facilitating the wider adoption of digital assets across institutions and professional traders.

Michael Aagaard, Managing Director, GCEX commented, “We are thrilled to expand our liquidity offering in digital assets through our partnership with DV Chain, one of the most advanced, globally recognized crypto market makers. As demand for deep liquidity in digital assets from institutional clients continues to rise, this partnership reinforces GCEX’s position as a leading regulated brokerage, delivering superior global crypto CFDs liquidity.”

Michael Rabkin, Global Head of Business Development, DV Chain commented, “We are excited to be working with GCEX, a leading global crypto brokerage, to enhance liquidity for their institutional clients. This collaboration allows us to bring our advanced crypto liquidity solutions to a broader audience, helping provide tighter spreads and reduced execution costs. Together with GCEX, we are committed to supporting the growing demand for efficient and reliable digital asset trading.”

According to ZachXBT, an internet sleuth with over 500 hundred thousand followers on Twitter, Bahrain and UAE regulated crypto broker, RAIN, has been likely exploited for $14.8 million. The exploit happened on April 29th and according to ZacHxbt no statement was made by RAIN on the incident.

On the contrary on May 6th RAIN Bahrain tweeted “It was our pleasure to have our General Manager of Bahrain Mohamed Ateeq speak at the Sixth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, organized by the University of Bahrain as part of the Manama week events by the Southern Municipality. It is always a pleasure for us to share Rain’s journey that lay the foundations for the crypto sector in the MENA region.”

According to ZachXBT on TME, “It appears the crypto exchange Rain was likely exploited for $14.8M on April 29, 2024 after their BTC, ETH, SOL, and XRP wallets saw suspicious outflows. Funds were quickly transferred to instant exchanges and swapped for BTC and ETH.”

He added, “As of now Rain has yet to make any statement about the incident.”

He noted that the stolen funds currently sit on these addresses

137.9 BTC

bc1q53aawrkpt5lvk2e30z36unvmhqqdru7q4rprp2 (https://mempool.space/address/bc1q53aawrkpt5lvk2e30z36unvmhqqdru7q4rprp2)

1881 ETH

0x197bc094f990261fd6841342901c451858756c28 (https://etherscan.io/address/0x197bc094f990261fd6841342901c451858756c28)

RAIN crypto exchange had received a license both from the Central Bank of Bahrain as well as ADGM in Abu Dhabi. In Bahrain Rain Management W.L.L. is licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain as a Category 3 Crypto-Asset Services Provider. It received its license back in 2019.

In 2022, RAIN Crypto exchange raised $110 in a Series B funding round. The round was co-led by Paradigm and Kleiner Perkins with participation from multiple parties including Coinbase Ventures, Global Founders Capital, MEVP, Cadenza Ventures, and CMT Digital.

As per RAIN’s website it is backed by MEVP (Middle East Venture Partners), Dubai International Financial Centre, Coinbase, Paradigm, and KleinerPerkins.

In July 2023 RAIN received a fully regulated crypto broker license in UAE through ADGM.

Lara on the Block tried to get in touch with executives from RAIN but without avail. UAE ADGM also has no official statement to make at this time. The Central Bank of Bahrain could not be reached at this time.

Touting itself as “The most trusted cryptocurrency platform” if this turns out to be true it will have negative effects on crypto sentiments in the region. Crypto investors lost $2 billion to hacks and exploits last year and $333 million in Q1 of 2024. 

UAE and Bahrain regulated CoinMENA crypto broker has added Telegram’s The Open Network (TON) to its platform, allowing users to send USDT via the TON blockchain. According to the announcement CoinMENA becomes the first regional platform to enable USDT withdrawals via the TON network.

TON joins Ethereum’s ERC-20 and TRON’s TRC-20 as the third blockchain available to CoinMENA users for sending USDT.

CoinMENA Co-Founder and Managing Director Dina Sam’an expressed her excitement in a LinkedIn post saying “Users can seamlessly swap their local currencies to USDT at the most competitive market rates and send them to over 900 million Telegram users. I am extremely excited and proud of the team for mobilizing quickly and becoming the first regional platform to enable USDT withdrawals via TON just 10 days after Tether announced launching USDT on TON.”

CoinMENA Co-Founder and CEO Talal Tabbaa added “Stablecoins, particularly USDT, stand out as crypto’s “killer app,” constituting approximately 70% of on-chain transactions and providing access to U.S. dollars for millions worldwide. The rapid adoption of USDT regionally is unsurprising, given its superior and more convenient experience compared to traditional USD wire transfers. Additionally, with many regional currencies pegged to the dollar, using USDT as a medium of exchange mitigates exposure to FX risk. I’m thrilled about this addition and proud that CoinMENA is leading the charge as the first crypto company to offer this in the region”

The announcement adds that this aligns with CoinMENA’s mission to become the simplest and safest way to onboard people onto crypto by providing a reliable onramp to stablecoins, the most popular use case thus far.

CoinMENA has had a string of partnership announcements with formidable players over the past months. The crypto broker recently partnered with Zodia Markets, enhancing liquidity for its platform. It also partnered with Network international to offer secure onramp from Fiat to crypto, and even partnered with Onramp Bitcoin.

Built on Tezos blockchain, Bahrain based Real World Tokenization entity INABLR Middle East recently graduated from the Central Bank of Bahrain’s regulatory sandbox having piloted the first blockchain enabled fractional Sukuk Investment platform. Once INABLR receives its license in around six months, it will become the first global entity to offer fractionalized Sukuk (Islamic Bonds).

Speaking to Lara on the Block Anver Jalaldeen, Founder & Executive Chairman of INABLR, explained that after three years in the Central Bank of Bahrain’s regulatory sandbox he is proud of the accomplishment.

Jalaldeen who previously held the position of Senior Vice President Head of Investment Banking at Sharjah Islamic Bank, came up with the idea of democratizing Islamic Sukuks to allow not only those who held $1000 to invest but also those who had just a $100.

For INABLR and its team, the fractional tokenization of Sukuk aims to empower retail investors by providing them with opportunities to diversify their portfolios and participate in previously inaccessible markets.

Jalaldeen explains, “Once we get the license, which should be in six months, we will become the first entity in the world to offer fractionalized Sukuk. This means clients with even $100 will be able to participate in a Sukuk offering. We are democratizing this Islamic financial product so that retailers across the globe can be part of this.”

Being part of the regulatory sandbox and working the Central Bank allowed INABLR to prove that tokenization of Sukuk on blockchain was safe.

He says, “We worked on everything, KYC, AML, security, custody and other elements that are involved in the process we built a platform that is dedicated to compliance, transparency, and regulatory excellence.”

Tezos Blockchain provided INABLR with a grant. This does not mean that in the future INABLR cannot be built on other blockchain platforms.

Jalaldeen adds that Bahrain was the best location to carry out a real-world assets tokenization pilot as well as receive a license. He notes, “Bahrain has been at the forefront of digital assets and blockchain regulation, and we are very happy to have started our journey here. Bahrain offers a clear licensing for VASPs in terms of categories.”

He is interested in also setting up in Qatar and other GCC and MENA countries in the future. He explains, “We are looking to expand globally either by offering our solution as a B2B, B2C or white labelled solution.”

It is noteworthy that Qatar has shown strong interest in tokenization and the development of digital assets.

With a Sukuk market size of $10 billion in GCC, the tokenization of real-world assets and sukuks in particular will be a significant feat. Next could be the tokenization of real estate and maybe one day sovereign Sukuks.

For Jalaldeen “The CBB’s commitment to fostering innovation has been instrumental in our success. INABLR is not only focused on fractionalizing Sukuk but also aims to revolutionize access to a wide range of real-world assets that are traditionally available only to institutional investors.”

UAE regulated crypto digital asset exchange Fasset has launched its official application in the UAE. Fasset received a VARA (Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority) license in November 2023.

The app’s launch in the UAE is a strategic step for Fasset, following a successful launch in Indonesia last year, where it attracted over one million users within the first week. Fasset allows users to carry out spot trading and investment services in cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and tokenized real-world assets.

On the educational front the application includes Fasset Play, designed to offer a risk-free learning environment for users to hone their investment skills. This initiative aligns with Fasset’s mission to democratize access to financial services, enabling a wider audience to explore and manage their wealth.

Fasset CEO Mohammad Raafi Hossain commented, “UAE is experiencing a surge in digital asset investment as the government promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. We are happy to extend our secure and transparent platform to customers in the UAE. Our goal is to empower people to have universal access to financial services, so they have more opportunities to build and manage their wealth.”

Fasset’s strategic partnerships have been instrumental in its rapid growth. In Indonesia, the company partnered with Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison to launch the world’s first embedded digital asset exchange in a telco app, reaching over 100 million users. Additionally, Fasset collaborated with Mastercard to introduce a crypto card for users in the region.

Fasset has raised a total of $26.7 million in funding. This includes a significant $22 million raised in a Series A funding round in April 2022, led by Liberty City Ventures from New York and Fatima Gobi Ventures from Pakistan, with additional participation from Soma Capital and MyAsiaVC. Before this, Fasset raised $4.7 million across two rounds, including seed funding from Dubai’s Ceras Ventures in May 2021.

Tungsten headquartered in UAE has officially launched the first home grown and regulated crypto custodian after receiving a license from UAE’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) to operate at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). The platform is designed to store digital assets securely for institutional investors.

Over 12 months to July 2023, the value of digital assets received by the UAE was over US$34.9 billion (Chainalysis). Approximately 67%, or around US$23 billion in transactions, was carried out by institutional investors, demonstrating a significant opportunity for specialist digital assets custody.

As a regulated custodian, Tungsten aims to provide peace of mind for institutions investing in digital assets, including cryptocurrency. 

Arvind Ramamurthy, Chief of Market Development at ADGM said, “We congratulate and welcome Tungsten to Abu Dhabi’s international financial centre, ADGM. As much as the ever-evolving digital asset space needs regulatory controls to protect investors, it also needs risk management services that enable them to understand and invest securely. The concept of Tungsten revolves around this and allows it to harness the opportunities within this industry. As custodian of virtual assets, Tungsten’s offerings, coupled with ADGM’s vibrant ecosystem and progressive regulations for digital assets, will empower investors and maintain market integrity with robust solutions.”

Chris Desjardins, Tungsten Founder and Senior Executive Officer said: Digital assets present unprecedented opportunities across generations, yet the cornerstone of realising their potential lies in establishing a trusted investment environment. The UAE is at the forefront of this transformation, crafting a robust framework for digital assets that not only sets a global benchmark but also positions it as a pioneering force in the finance sector of tomorrow. Our immense pride stems from being developed and regulated within the UAE, a testament to our commitment to excellence and innovation in this dynamic landscape.”

Tungsten provides secure, regulated crypto custody so clients can confidently invest in digital assets. It is led by Chris Desjardins, an industry veteran with deep knowledge and experience in building and growing digital assets and cryptocurrency solutions. Previously, he co-founded Big Index, a Canadian institutional crypto wallet technology provider successfully acquired by Brane Inc., where he became Head of Product. Through his leadership, Tungsten sets an unparalleled benchmark for digital asset custody.

Tungsten is independent and segregated from other digital asset services, such as the trading of crypto assets, focusing purely on safeguarding clients’ digital assets. The business ensures secure online and offline procedures, including bank-grade physical vaults, enterprise-grade wallet management and world-class network hardware. Additionally, clients benefit from strong governance and high insurance coverage, providing utmost reassurance to institutional investors.

Over 2024, Tungsten, the UAE homegrown crypto custodian will scale customer acquisition, catering to a growing demand from regional institutional investors, family offices, asset managers, and high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs).

Tungsten had previously started hiring for key positions and as per their press release will continue to.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Talal Tabbaa, Co-Founder and CEO at CoinMENA, a regulated crypto broker in both UAE and Bahrain noted that the crypto exchange witnessed all-time high in crypto trading volume in February 2024.

As he stated, “CoinMENA hit an all-time high in trading volume this February, surpassing January by 80%. January itself set a record with a 64% increase from December.”

Interestingly he added that the majority of this volume came from institutions, family offices, and high net worth individuals. He adds, “The majority of this volume came from institutions, family offices, and high-net worth individuals. Retail is picking up, but nowhere near 2021 levels. Google Trends and Coinbase App Store ranking confirm similar trends. 2024 could be the biggest year in bitcoin yet because this is unprecedented in the history of finance.”

His comments on increased institutional interest is backed up by Philippe Bekhazi, CEO of XBTO global who recently told Fastcompany ME media platform that there’s a clear uptake in institutional investments in the international and UAE cryptocurrency markets, with 64% of institutions planning to increase their digital asset allocations in the next three years.

“This maturing market environment influences institutional investors by offering a diversified and technologically advanced investment landscape, enabled by the entry of specialized and regulated digital asset players in the UAE ecosystem,” says Philippe Bekhazi, CEO at XBTO Global.

Tabbaa believes that for the first time, increasing demand is meeting fixed supply. He gives example of ETFs which are alone purchasing over 11,000 BTC, while the daily issuance of Bitcoin is 900 BTC. So there is an obvious shortage.  

This is not just happening in the MENA region, rising bitcoin (BTC) prices have revived a crypto trading frenzy in South Korea, with volumes on local exchanges crossing those in the local stock market. Local media reported that trading volumes on South Korea-based crypto exchanges totalled a record 11.8 trillion won (KRW) on Sunday, or $9 billion at the going USD-KRW exchange rate. These topped Friday’s South Korean stock trading volume of 11.47 trillion won, or $8.7 billion.

CC Data noted that In February, the combined spot and derivatives trading volume on centralized exchanges rose 2.28% to $4.73tn as trading activity remains at a heightened level with Bitcoin nearing new all-time highs.

Tabbaa explains, “ETFs are buying up 12x the daily supply of bitcoin. The halving coming up in April will cut the daily issuance to 450 BTC. Bitcoin price is 9% away from an all-time high. Eventually, everyone will want access to the best-performing asset class in the world.”

He believes that given that Bitcoin price is at an all-time high, and the halving is 36 days away, increasing demand will meet decreasing supply.

With Bitcoin at $73,000 it seems he just might be right!