In a recent press release, Bahrain has granted its first five Golden licenses and Whampoa Group, a multi-family office with investments in global tech firms, and its digital bank has received one of these licenses. The holders of Golden licenses are eligible if they will create more than 500 local jobs, or make an investment of over $50 million in their first years in the Kingdom while contributing to strengthening the Kingdom’s overall development.

The Kingdom of Bahrain has granted the first five Golden Licenses to projects presented by Citi, Eagle Hills Diyar W.L.L, Infracorp, Saudi Telecommunication Company (stc), and Whampoa Group. With a collective investment of upwards of USD 1.4 billion into Bahrain, the greenfield projects and expansions are expected to create more than 1,400 job opportunities within the next three years in support of the Kingdom’s Economic Recovery Plan goals.

The licenses were presented at the headquarters of each company to Michel Sawaya, Bahrain CEO for Citi; Dr. Maher Al Shaer, Managing Director of Eagle Hills Diyar W.L.L.; Majed AlKhan, CEO of Infracorp; Nezar Banabeela, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of stc Bahrain; and Shawn Chan, Group CEO of Whampoa Group. and a virtual signing event was organised for Singapore-based Whampoa Group.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board had welcomed Singapore based digital asset bank part of Whampoa Group to Bahrain earlier this year. The digital bank, which offers integrated financial solutions to serve institutions, innovators, and sophisticated investors globally, including digital banking services and the trading, custody, and asset management of digital assets, will open its operations in Bahrain by the end of year.

In 2022, Singapore’s Whampoa Group deployed about $100 million through a venture capital fund in start-ups in the burgeoning digital assets segment in Web3, digital assets, stablecoins and NFT. 

Whampoa Digital, the group’s digital assets investment arm, will invest in and incubate early stage startups in Web3 – a utopian vision of the internet where users, rather than shareholders, own websites and other online services.

In recognition of the Golden licenses’ launch, HE Abdulla Adel Fakhro, Minister of Industry and Commerce, said, “The Golden License is a pivotal step towards successfully achieving the objectives of Bahrain’s Economic Recovery Plan, which aims to attract $2.5 billion in foreign investment by the end of 2023.”

HE Khalid Humaidan, Chief Executive at the (Bahrain EDB), said, “The Golden License is a successful public-private partnership that has created bespoke solutions for investors and start-up companies. It has provided them with fast-tracked approvals and several features and facilities that have enabled them to secure a global footprint from Bahrain.”

UAE based WadzPay, an interoperable blockchain-based technology provider, has launched the WadzPay 2.0 which it believes will redefine the landscape of virtual asset-based transactions. WadzPay 2.0 provides a unique new architecture primarily based on the Algorand blockchain with inbuilt support for several others such as Ethereum, Tron, Avalanche and several others to be added. WadzPay 2.0 construct is designed in line with evolving regulations and needs of banks, financial institutions, telcos and central banks.

Anish Jain, founder and group CEO of WadzPay, stated, “Blockchain is already disrupting global finance, and with WadzPay 2.0, we are bringing a slew of capabilities that will transform digital currency payments. This enhanced product line encompasses issuance, acquiring, remittance, central bank digital currency (CBDC) and tokenization, providing a true one-stop solution for the industry. This is a leap forward in the blockchain payments ecosystem. WadzPay customers can rest assured of an elevated experience for its end users.”

Designed with an API-first approach, a robust compliance framework and customer-friendly dashboards, it enables payments in the metaverse, point of sale, in-app, e-commerce, etc. It also serves as the foundation for the future launch of the WadzPay Chain. It leverages the Algorand blockchain for transaction processing, standard assets for on-chain storage of funds, and a ledger for wallet management and bookkeeping. The platform also incorporates Gap 600’s expertise to manage transaction finality for Bitcoin and Ether -based transactions, and Bosonic to convert funds at the point of sale (POS).

WadzPay 2.0 boasts several integration options and features such as:

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E-Know Your Customer (KYC) solution with biometric verification for seamless user onboarding

Real-time fraud detection, customer screening and transaction monitoring

Multisignature custodial wallet with multiple-level hierarchy and password management

Internal and external wallet transfers

Push/pull payment options with transaction notifications

Customized reports in various formats

Issuer and merchant dashboard with seven layers of hierarchy control

Multicurrency acceptance at POS terminals and e-commerce portals with QR code support

Settlement in digital or fiat currency of choice, based on market regulation

On-chain refunds, including multiple refunds on a single transaction

Inbuilt volatility management solutions

Improved transaction speeds on Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchains

Recently a press release came out discussing the launch of the Gulf Crypto bank which is espoused to be an integrated banking system for both fiat currencies and digital currencies.

As per the release users can withdraw, deposit, swap, do external and internal transfers immediately, securely and with minimal fees. Users will also be provided with a visa or mastercard that can be used at any ATM or online. Another noteworthy feature is the ability to withdraw  crypto assets to any external wallet by creating a wallet inside your bank account. The Bank will also offer personal and corporate loans based on the Islamic laws.

They state that they are participating in the Fintech Crypto Summit in Bahrain as a diamond sponsor and are seeking investment for their coin, GulfCoin. The only summit being mentioned in Bahrain on February 15th is the Fintech and Crypto Summit. Their website doesn’t mention any speakers or sponsors and the event is supposedly only two weeks away!

Looking further into their whitepaper they claim that they are licensed and registered in England, Georgia, Estonia, UAE and Singapore! As they state “Indeed, it is an actual bank project with all the licenses and capital officially registered in England. The Gulf Crypto Bank is registered and licensed in all countries that allow the exchange and circulation of cryptocurrency, such as Georgia,  Estonia, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore.”

Red signs, first they are definitely not regulated in the UAE because the UAE has not regulated crypto banks as of yet! Secondly in their whitepaper and on their website there are no mentioning of who the team members are which is a big red flag! Finally they don’t have any social media channels! But most importantly where are their financials for this project!?

There is another GulfCoin project that also seems iffy.  The CEO of that project is Hani Asfar. Yet even this project has the last dated press release as March 2022. In an interview he notes that GulfCoin is being used in 500 locations in the UAE! As stated in the article Asfar says, “Speaking specifically of Dubai, there will be more than 500 locations where token holders can spend Gulf Coin. Plans are underway to make Gulf Coin available in other countries very soon.”

Always do your research because scammers are everywhere! Just because they can pay for a press release or a story on a media outlet does not mean they are legit. Plus just because they say they are licensed in certain countries does not mean they are. Check the licensing authorities ask around.

Singaporean ChainUp Group, a global blockchain technology solutions provider, has expanded its operations into the UAE and MENA region with a sales office in Dubai. The company aims to provide blockchain solutions to businesses across the Middle East region.

The new sales office in Dubai has since begun operations and seeks to form new partnerships with enterprises in the region. The team will work to curate blockchain solutions to fulfill the needs of prospective clients for them to operate more efficiently and securely.

ChainUp Group has a foothold across multiple locations around the world including Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and the United States.

The company  offers a suite of blockchain solutions covering infrastructure development and ecosystem support including digital asset trading systems, NFT trading systems, wallet solutions, liquidity solutions, Web3 infrastructure, digital assets custody, and more.

Ms. Tan Bin Ru, Deputy CEO & COO of ChainUp Group commented, “The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has one of the fastest growing cryptocurrency ecosystems in the world and is a key strategic region of our global expansion plan. We are excited as ChainUp has a complete suite of Digital Assets Exchange Solutions to support the needs of these business requirements.”

The company has served more than 1,000 clients in 30 countries, reaching over 60 million end-users.

Animoca’s brand, the Sandbox announced during the 62 edition of the True Global Ventures Conference that it will be bringing its metaverse strategy to Dubai, with the ‘Dubaiverse’. It will work with local partners including Khaleej Times media outlet. 

Animoca Brand’s Dubai-themed metaverse will follow the blueprint of its subsidiary Sandbox’s Hong Kong “Mega City,’ a gaming metaverse and virtual cultural hub based on the Asian financial hub of Hong Kong.

As per the news on Forkast, the  Dubaiverse will be built through local partnerships, In doing so, the Hong Kong-based blockchain game specialist will partner with firms in the film, music, entertainment, acting, finance, real estate, and gaming industries.

Sebastien Borget, cofounder and chief operating officer (COO) of Sandbox Paris, added, “Other planned location-based metaverses are in the works for Singapore, Korea, and Turkey.”

Dubai’s virtual asset regulator was the first regulator in the world to purchase a piece of land in Sandbox. Borget noted, “It’s been a key moment, and from there, we’ve been able to attract other major local partners and brands.”

Mehtap Onder, Managing Director for Dubai at GCEX, a digital brokerage firm, said they will also enter Animoca’s metaverse, offering virtual asset education in a way that couldn’t be accomplished before. 

The Dubaiverse will also have a local news partner, in Khaleej Times following a similar partnership between Hong Kong’s Sandbox and local newspaper the South China Morning Post.

“As publishers, business models are being challenged all over the world, and new business models come into this space, it’s a really important strategic move for us,” said Sohail Nawaz, Chief Digital Officer of Khaleej Times. 

True Global Ventures with a presence in the UAE announced its total investments in Animoca Brands have reached US$38 million.

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, crypto.com, 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.