According to a recent news release, The UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) has received licensing requests and inquiries from companies intending to provide Virtual Asset services following the issuance of the necessary regulations. The UAE SCA also announced that those who do not apply for a license either to VARA or SCA will be fined $2.7 million.

The move aims to ensure that all companies that provide products and services related to the Virtual Assets sector in the country are fully regulated, as the SCA’s Board of Directors, chaired by Muhammad Ali Al-Shorafa seeks to strengthen the country’s position by ensuring that the local financial markets are among the best globally.

Dr. Maryam Al Suwaidi, CEO of the SCA, stated that pursuant to Cabinet Resolution No. (111) of 2022 regarding the regulation of Virtual Assets and their service providers, which gave the SCA the mandate to issue regulatory decisions for Virtual Asset transactions and license its service providers; the SCA’s Board of Directors issued the necessary decisions, which requires all companies providing Virtual Asset services based in the country (except for companies licensed in Financial Free Zones) to obtain a license from the SCA.

All companies operating in Dubai must only obtain a license from the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), which will inform the SCA to have a unified register of all licensed Virtual Asset service providers in the UAE.

She added that the Virtual Assets sector is among the modern technological industries included in the SCA’s strategy as one of the pillars for sustainable growth of the UAE’s financial markets.

The SCA called upon all companies that practice any of the Virtual Assets services to submit a request immediately to obtain the necessary approval to avoid being subjected to appropriate legal measures, which the Authority will initiate during the next stage, which may include one or more of the following: a warning, a fine not exceeding (AED10 million) equivalent to $2.7 million, or referring the violator to the Public Prosecution.

The SCA also urged all investors to refrain from dealing with any company that provides Virtual Assets services before ensuring that it has the necessary licenses and approvals to protect their investments and not expose them to any risks.

CZ the Co-Founder of Binance has taken to twitter after word came out that the U.S. SEC ( Securities and Commodities Authority) has sued Binance US and its founder for providing trading for securities such as BNB, BUSD, SOL, ADA, MATIC, FIL, ATOM, SAND, MANA, ALGO, AXS, and COTI. The U.S. summarizes the case as a blatant disregard of the federal securities law and the investor and market protections these laws provide. The SEC states that Binance has enriched itself by billions of U.S. dollars while placing investors’ assets at significant risk.

The 13 charges come after the CFTC unveiled a similar complaint against Binance and Zhao earlier this year.

CZ on twitter stated, “4. Our team is all standing by; ensuring systems are stable, including withdrawals, and deposits.  We will issue a response once we see the complaint. Haven’t seen it yet. Media gets the info before we do.”

 Charles Hoskinson of IOHK, who had tweeted, “With respect to Binance, I’m reading through the SEC complaint. It’s over 130 pages, but seems like the next in a series of steps to implement chokepoint 2.0 in the United States. The end goal is an agenda based CBDC partnered with a handful of massive banks and end-to-end control.”

To that CZ replies, “a perfect opportunity for the entire industry to set aside it’s fragmented nature and unite for a common sense set of rules and guidelines”

Binance issued a statement expressing its disappointment with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, stating that they have actively cooperated with SEC’s investigations and have worked hard to answer their questions and address their concerns.

The statement reads, “Most recently, we have engaged in extensive good-faith discussions to reach a negotiated settlement to resolve their investigations.  But despite our efforts, with its complaint today the SEC abandoned that process and instead chose to act unilaterally and litigate.  We are disheartened by that choice. “

They add, “We intend to defend our platform vigorously.  Unfortunately, the SEC’s refusal to productively engage with us is just another example of the Commission’s misguided and conscious refusal to provide much-needed clarity and guidance to the digital asset industry.”

According to Binance, an effective regulatory framework demands collaborative, transparent, and thoughtful policy engagement, a path the SEC has abandoned. Because of our size and global name recognition, Binance is an easy target now caught in the middle of a U.S. regulatory tug-of-war.”

It also explains that because Binance is not a U.S. exchange, the SEC’s actions are limited in reach.  Still, we stand with digital asset market participants in the U.S. in opposition to the SEC’s latest overreach, and we are prepared to fight it to the full extent of the law.

Talal Tabaa, Co-Founder of CoinMENA a crypto broker exchange, told LaraontheBlock, “Honestly, I am not surprised. The SEC has had Binance and CZ in their sights for a while now. Binance operations and ownership structure have always been opaque when compared to others. We will have to wait and see the extent of these charges because the SEC has been on a quite aggressive path with crypto and is pushing many onshore exchanges offshore.”

As for the bright side Tabaa adds, “Ethereum wasn’t listed as part of the assets that are centralized in nature which is a huge win.”

Waseem Mamlouk, Founder of NMB Fintech,  believes that the USA is going after crypto and SEC is the working end of that very focused policy. the USA via the SEC sees alternative assets such as Bitcoin as a threat to fiat currencies especially the US dollar which is the most hegemonic currency, and used in trade deals taking place 24 hours a day.

He adds, “Maintaining that portion size of global market is really big deal for the USA. In absolute terms the USA is biggest money printer in the world, making its product highly diluted which makes them go after all alternative assets and shut them down.

He explains, If you look at late 2021 BTC had a I trillion dollar market cap while today the entire crypto market is under a trillion, so things have changed.

The positive thing according to Mamlouk is that companies are looking to set up in crypto friendly jurisdictions. He notes that a company he is acquainted with which has a 100 million dollar hedge fund that includes stablecoins, early venture startups, Web3 and crypto companies are interested in seeking regulation in markets such as Bahrain.

He finally explains that if the US were to diversify large transactions could be settled in alternative assets, this would be good for US economy. For him the world is changing and as such we have to change with it. This is the natural evolution of economic systems and financial markets.

In conclusion he believes that if you put more things on blockchain, you will achieve more transparency, and trace transactions. Gone are the days where banks such as HSBC can launder money for drug cartels in Mexico. Blockchain and crypto bring more accountability traceability and transparency so the banking structure needs to evolve into this world.

So despite the bad news with SEC versus Binance, there is always a bright side. 

UAE Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA ) publishes the Cabinet Resolution No. (111)of 2022 regarding the regulation of virtual assets and their service providers and has noted which entities it will regulate and the penalties that can reach $2.7 million. 

As per the resolution, the regulation of virtual assets and their providers will be overseen in the UAE by the Securities and Commodities Authority, as well as the Central Bank of the UAE. It will also include local licensing authorities that include free zones, and financial free zones. 

As per the resolution virtual assets are defined as a digital representation of the value that can be traded or transferred digitally, can be used for investment purposes, and does not include digital representations of paper currencies, securities or other funds.

The activities that fall under virtual assets include the provision of virtual asset services in the UAE. 

As for virtual assets service providers , they are any legal person practicing one or more activities related to virtual assets or the related processes for the benefit or on behalf of a person, such as the operator of the virtual assets platform, the broker of virtual assets and the custodian of virtual assets, and any other activities in accordance with the provisions of this Resolution.

The resolution defined Virtual Assets Platform as a digital platform for listing, trading and transferring ownership of virtual assets, conducting related clearing and settlement processes, and storing and saving information and data through distributed ledger technology or any other similar technology.

According to the resolution it aims to develop the legislative system of the virtual assets sector in the State, its related activities and service providers in a way that defines and guarantees the rights and duties of all related parties. 

The resolution will also regulate the virtual assets sector in the State and its related activities and service providers and will be compliant with all all provisions of the Federal Decree-Law No. (20) of 2018 concerning Combating Money Laundering Crimes, Combating Financing of Terrorism and Financing of Illegal Organizations, as amended, and its executive regulations and applicable legislations related to the sector.

The resolution also seeks to protect investors in virtual assets from illegal practices.

The virtual asset regulation will cover all entities within the UAE including free zones, except for those within financial free zones such as ADGM and DIFC, which work with entities offering digital securities and digital commodity contracts. 

There is an exception for entities working in the virtual assets for payment purposes, and stored value facilities. They will fall under the jurisdiction of the Central Bank of UAE. However virtual asset platforms are not included under Central Bank jurisdiction.

As per the decision no one can engage in virtual asset activities unless they are licensed. The UAE Securities and Commodities Authority will offer licenses for the following activities:

a. provision of Virtual Asset Platform operation and management services;

b. provision of exchange services between one or more forms of virtual assets;

c. provision of Virtual Asset transfer services;

d. provision of brokerage services in trading operations in Virtual Assets;

e. provision of Virtual Asset custody, management, and control services; and

f. provision of financial services related to offering and/or selling by the issuer to the Virtual assets, or participating in providing those services.

Licensed entities must meet minimum requirements such as not being a sanctioned or on terrorism lists especially those concerned with combating money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and illegal organizations, and not be subject to any criminal investigations within or outside the State during the submission or study of the application for registration, and that no final judicial judgment has been rendered against him in the crime of money laundering, financing terrorism, or financing illegal organizations;

In addition the entities seeking license need to implement technical systems that are able to protect investor data in accordance with international best practices, current technology and/or cybersecurity standards. 

These entities also need to meet the capital requirements and conditions, credit guarantees, insurances, compliance management systems and other rules in accordance with the executive resolutions issued by the Authority.

Finally the UAE SCA has the authority to suspend listing or trading virtual assets, or the technologies used by these services providers, or the operation of virtual asset platforms. 

The authority can impose financial fines not exceeding AED (10,000,000) ten million AED equivalent to $2.7 million.

This is the first time that the UAE has endorsed its onshore virtual asset regulations, it will now be time to see who can meet these regulations and who will not.