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.

Tokinvest marketplace for real-world asset tokenization, has been granted a provisional broker-dealer license by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA).

As per the press release this license underscores Tokinvest’s commitment to compliance and innovation in the real-world asset tokenization industry.

The company will continue to build its scalable and regulated platform that simplifies buying, selling, and managing real-world asset investments. It offers comprehensive services that cover every aspect of the digital token lifecycle, from ideation to trading to asset servicing.

Scott Thiel, CEO of Tokinvest, says, “Obtaining regulated status in the region is crucial for us. It shows our dedication to complying with international standards and establishing robust, transparent processes prioritizing investor protection. Receiving the provisional broker-dealer license from VARA is a significant validation of our mission to create the leading regulated marketplace that connects real-world asset issuers with investors on a global scale. This provisional license sets us on the path to serving our clients with the highest standards of regulatory assurance.”

Tokinvest advisory board includes Ralf Glabischnig Founder of Inacta Ventures, and founder of UAE based Crypto Oasis and Swiss based Crypto Valley. 

He says: “Tokinvest is leading the charge in real-world asset tokenization with a first focus on Middle East. I’m excited to offer my expertise to support their ambitious goals and connect it with our other securitization and tokenization portfolio companies in Europe and beyond.”

Hex Trust Group, a provider of digital asset solutions for institutional finance, protocols, foundations, and the Web3 ecosystem, has secured its fully operational Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license, for crypto brokerage, management, investment and crypto staking from the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) in Dubai. This second license extends to its VA Broker-Dealer and VA Management and Investment arm, HT Markets MENA FZE. VARA had announced on its website previously that Hext Trust had received this license but it was pending full fulfillment of all requirements.

Hex Trust received its first VASP license back in November 2023, allowing it to provide virtual asset (crypto) custodial services to institutional clients and sophisticated investors.

With this second license Hex Trust will be able to offer comprehensive Virtual Asset services covering Broker-Dealer and Management and Investment Services, which includes regulated Staking Services.

When asked by Lara on the Block, why Hex Trust has chosen the UAE and Dubai to be licensed, Filippo Buzzi, Regional Director for MENA noted, “Hex Trust operates within jurisdictions known for their robust investor protections and progressive regulatory environments, spanning across Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Italy, and France. In the UAE and Dubai, Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) benefit from an environment characterized by supportive regulations, strategic positioning, tax advantages, an investor-friendly atmosphere, and advanced technology. As the crypto industry continues to develop, the UAE’s proactive stance towards growth positions it as an attractive destination for crypto businesses, offering significant opportunities in this rapidly evolving sector.”

As per the press release, Hex Trust Markets offers safe access to the DeFi ecosystem, where clients can generate yield with native on-chain staking solutions and execute trades with the support of Hex Trust’s dedicated Markets team. Key offerings include:

  • A global trading team with dedicated client support providing 24/7 trading coverage.
  • OTC trading solutions across the full spectrum of Virtual Assets, including tailored sales / purchase programs to optimize across Price, Time Horizon and Market Impact, employing proprietary execution algorithms to support bespoke execution strategies.
  • Deep liquidity and broad access within the Virtual Asset Markets.
  • Risk Management solutions catering to corporate treasury risk management requirements.
  • Fiat Solutions facilitating on-ramp / off-ramp services.

Filippo Buzzi adds, “The approval of this additional VASP license demonstrates Hex Trust’s commitment to fostering crypto ecosystem innovation and enabling safe market access in the Middle East. We are fully committed to expanding into the region and see enormous potential for digital asset growth given the progressive regulations, welcoming governments, and thriving crypto ecosystem.”

Speaking to Lara on the Block on the growth of crypto assets market in MENA, Buzzi stated, “UAE, GCC, and the broader MENA region represents a promising market for Hex Trust, largely due to a growing ecosystem supported by a clear regulatory framework and a forward-thinking approach to digital finance. Dubai, in particular, has established itself as a global blockchain hub, supporting the growth of the crypto assets industry. VARA, the first independent regulator for virtual assets, played a key role to position Dubai as a regional and international hub for Virtual Assets.”

“Hex Trust’s commitment to compliance and regulation has always been a priority, and this has earned us a reputable standing as a reliable partner for both crypto-native and traditional finance institutions. There is so much potential in the Emirate of Dubai and the issuance of the VASP license for Hex Trust Markets demonstrates the evolution of our digital asset service provision to meet the demands of our clients and the market.” – Alessio Quaglini, Co-Founder and CEO of Hex Trust.

So far VARA has licensed 12 crypto broker VASPs, and only one VASP which offers custody services and that is Hex Trust. Noteworthy that only Komainu offers custodial staking services.

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.”

DKK partner, an emerging markets FX liquidity specialist firm, which recently received initial approval for digital asset broker license from Dubai’s Virtual asset regulatory authority, has partnered with UAE Seed Group, a company of the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, based in Dubai.

As per the press release, the partnership offers a significant step towards achieving seamless financial interoperability across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the broader Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The companies will work together to enable transparent and efficient transactions and processes for global financial institutions, promoting digital solutions and financial inclusivity.

DKK Partners was recently granted initial approval to offer digital asset broker dealer services by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). The initial approval allows DKK FZE to move forward in the licensing process and offer customers in Dubai and the UAE access to stablecoin blockchain technology, utilizing USDT and USDC.

The Seed Group specializes in diversified business interests and operates across a group of companies, within different sectors such as technology, real estate, healthcare and more. Fostering innovation is what the Seed Group strives for, focusing on investment activities and strategic partnerships.

Hisham Al Gurg, the CEO of Seed Group stated, “We are pleased to work alongside DKK Partners in delivering forex risk management, liquidity solutions, and expedited collections to the rapidly growing markets across Dubai and the MENA region. This joint alliance will allow DKK Partners to deliver seamless interoperability customised to the growing demands of local businesses and government institutions. We are optimistic about how this partnership will unfold in the coming months.”

Khalid Talukder, Co-Founder and CEO of DKK Partners commented, “It is an extremely exciting time for us at DKK Partners as the new partnership grants us access to the offices of key decision-makers in Dubai and the UAE’s largest and most prestigious businesses. We were looking for a key strategic partner based in Dubai that has wide-reaching access in the UAE and GCC, and Seed Group was absolutely the ideal match. This partnership will enable us to showcase our business model and the immediate advantages we offer, perfectly aligning with our three-year growth and expansion strategy.”

WadzPay, a fintech blockchain based technology for virtual asset payment solutions, has announced its entrance into the Stablecoin business. According to the press release, this will shift Wadzpay’s strategy from one of being a virtual asset payments company to a blockchain financial services solutions provider. The new solutions will be organized as a new business and new brand. To ensure regulatory compliance, WadzPay will set up a new entity and will pursue approvals in UAE, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

WadzPay recently was granted a license for crypto brokerage by Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority, pending finalizing some requirements.

The decision to venture into the Stablecoin market comes as a response to the increasing demand for secure, transparent, and efficient digital payment solutions worldwide. WadzPay will introduce two main products: Stable Coin as a Service and its own regulated USD$ Stablecoin, designed for local and international payments, cross border remittances, and settlements of on-chain transactions related to RWA.

According to recent market research by Bernstein, the global market for stablecoins is projected to grow from $125 billion to almost $3 trillion in next 5 years. This growth is fueled by factors such as the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, cross-border remittances, and the need for stable digital assets to mitigate volatility risks in cryptocurrency markets.

By leveraging blockchain technology, WadzPay aims to provide users with a reliable alternative to traditional fiat currencies, offering stability, convenience, and speed at lower cost in transactions for merchants, businesses and individuals worldwide. With a focus on compliance and regulations, WadzPay is poised to address the growing demand for stablecoins while ensuring security and regulatory compliance in its operations. Apart from the traditional use cases, WadzPay will add some new and innovative uses of stablecoins to the mix.

With this strategic move, WadzPay aims to innovate in solving foreign exchange problems and will introduce an innovative first-in-market business model, setting itself apart from competitors. WadzPay will build a world class team under the new leadership to drive this business.

Founder & Group CEO of WadzPay, Mr. Anish Jain, emphasized the strategic significance of this expansion, stating, “Our entry into the stablecoin business reflects our dedication to meeting the evolving needs of our customers and staying at the forefront of technological innovation. With the growing adoption of virtual assets, particularly stablecoins, we see tremendous potential for growth and are excited to offer our expertise in this space, while remaining committed to compliance and regulations.”

Leading the initiative is Mr. Jason Sarria-Solis as the President – Emerging & New Business in charge of the stablecoin business. With over 20 years of experience in the technology and fintech industry, Mr. Jason brings a wealth of knowledge and a proven track record of driving business growth and innovation. He has led multiple projects spanning from founding and scaling a successful telecom startup in the UK to leading digital banking, embedded finance, and blockchain projects in Asia.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr. Jason Sarria-Solis expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “I am thrilled to join WadzPay at such a pivotal moment in the company’s journey. The stablecoin market presents immense opportunities for disruption and advancement in the payments, remittance, and on-chain settlement space, and I look forward to leading our team in delivering innovative solutions that meet the needs of our users and drive the company’s growth.”

WadzPay remains committed to its mission of revolutionizing the virtual asset financial services landscape with blockchain technology, and the expansion into the stablecoin business marks a significant milestone in this journey. With a focus on technological excellence, customer satisfaction, and strategic partnerships, the company is poised to emerge as a key player in the financial services ecosystem.

Binance FZE, the Dubai entity of the biggest global virtual assets services provider and crypto exchange, has received the Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license from Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). This license, subsequent to the previous issuance of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) License in July 2023, marks a significant milestone for Binance.

Binance CEO Richard Teng stated, “As we secure the esteemed full market VASP License, it notably amplifies our unwavering commitment to advancing the financial landscape through compliance and innovation. This achievement embodies our dedication to transparency, regulatory compliance, and responsible growth in the dynamic digital assets domain.

Furthermore, it bears testimony to the innovative spirit of the UAE, as it continues to embrace the transformative economic implications of blockchain technology for its residents.”

The transition from an MVP License to a VASP License allows Binance FZE to extend its product offering and expand its services to the retail market, in addition to qualified and institutional investors. Binance FZE can now offer individual customers a broad portfolio of virtual asset products that includes spot trading, margin trading (for qualified users), and staking products.

Binance FZE General Manager Alex Chehade said, “This is a major milestone that validates our commitment to providing secure, compliant, and top-tier services to our users. It underlines Dubai’s position as a forward-thinking city – acknowledging and embracing the
financial potential that blockchain technology brings.”

Upon initiating operations under the new VASP License, Binance FZE will significantly enhance its current services beyond spot trading and fiat services. This license allows diversifying trading services exclusively for qualified and institutional investors only, where these segments are eligible to engage in margin and derivatives products, including futures and options. Presently, these services are strictly restricted to those that meet the qualified investor criteria.

Binance already has a license in Bahrain. Its license in UAE, follows the licensing of several other crypto exchanges including international players such as OKX, and Crypto.com. The competition just got fiercer in the UAE.

This announcement also comes as Binance sets to return to India.

During the Paris Blockchain Week, at the Global regulatory Landscape Panel session, Mathew White, CEO of Dubai’s VARA (Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority) discussed the cost of compliance for smaller crypto and Blockchain firms and the solution he is proposing where big players sponsor the cost of compliance for smaller ones.

White in his contribution during the panel made several points with regards to how he views VARA’s regulatory standpoint.

Firstly, VARA wants to regulate without damaging the presence of nearly 2000 Web3 and crypto companies already present in Dubai UAE. He states, “We seek to set a regulation that we feel anybody can be part of and is not exclusive by nature. We engage with the industry, governments, and continue to do that. While it is still not perfect, there are a number of things we are looking into to make the regime fit for everybody, one of which is how we deal with cost of compliance for small entities.”

According to White, compliance is a costly exercise and not many players have the resources to go and get regulated. His proposal is “looking towards a structure where larger market participants host smaller ones, where the cost of compliance can be borne by the large players.” He adds, “We are on this journey of allowing innovation whilst being able to regulate it.”

White explains that two years ago when he was part of the team building VARA, the Dubai government decided as part of their economic diversification project to prioritize technology and in specific virtual assets.

VARA was established to be able to position Dubai as a hub with financial stability and investor protection in mind.

When the topic of self-regulation through technology came up White acknowledge that he believes that this will one day be possible. He also stated he would be looking into piloting this idea at VARA.

He stated, “No doubt some point in the future it will be available. For the short to medium there will be regulation and it will be significant.”

Earlier this week, Crypto.com became the first international crypto exchange to receive a full license from VARA, while OKX is still awaiting final requirements to receive its full VASP operational license.

Crypto.com is now fully operational in the UAE after receiving the final approval from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority VARA. It is the first international crypto exchange to receive a full operational license.

Crypto.com announced this achievement on X formerly Twitter stating that it would now be able to serve institutional investors.

The post stated, “We’re excited to announce our full operational approval from Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority. Crypto․com Exchange will be available for institutional investors as our first launch in the region.”

Crypto.com, has announced that its Dubai entity, CRO DAX Middle East FZE, has received full operational approval from Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) and is launching the Crypto.com Exchange for institutional investors as its first operational milestone.

This operational approval follows Crypto.com’s fulfillment of the pre-operational conditions stipulated in the Virtual Asset Service Provider Licence granted to CRO DAX Middle East FZE in November 2023, and marks a first for a global crypto operator to be operational with fiat in the UAE.

Crypto.com will be able to offer exchange Services, broker-Dealer Services, management and Investment Services and lending and Borrowing Services to institutional and retail clients.

Available to institutional clients and qualified retail investors, the Crypto.com Exchange, which has deep liquidity and a state-of-the-art matching engine, offers spot trading, staking brokerage and other OTC offerings around settlements for selected markets. With this full operational approval, Crypto.com has also initiated plans for further in-market product launches expected in the coming months, including the Crypto.com App and additional retail-user focused products.

“We are thrilled to expand our presence and offering in the UAE with the support of VARA,” said Eric Anziani, President and Chief Operating Officer of Crypto.com. “Launching with our world-class Crypto.com Exchange institutional services will be fundamental to our continued growth and success in such a key market for our company.”

“We are incredibly supportive of the steps Dubai is taking to progress the crypto industry, both in-market and abroad,” said Stuart Isted, General Manager, Middle East and Africa of Crypto.com. “But this is still just the beginning, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with VARA in our collective efforts to effectively and responsibly advance the sector.”

In November 2023, Crypto.com received its license but was not operational until all requirements were met. Prior to this OKX received its license which is still non-operational.

BrickLayer DAO a tokenized RWA platform built on Blockchain, and AI, for real estate has set up in the UAE and is seeking a license from FSRA in ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) as well as a license in VARA (Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory Authority).

According to their website, Bricklayer platform is fueled by AI and virtual assets, providing a decentralized Blockchain access to institutional grade real estate. It also offers over-leverage crypto holders with access to institutional real estate without sacrificing the speculative gains, providing consistent change to real yield dividends in ‘$MORTAR’.

As per their website and linkedIn post, Bricklayer DAO is in the process of being regulating under FRSA, VARA and UAE common law, giving a legal layer of protection to investors.

Nick Prescott one of the founders who was a former executive at Amazon and now the co-founder of BrickLayer explored blockchain but faced uncertainty in picking genuine projects. Nick’s frustration with corporate hierarchies fueleda quest for a blended solution—a platform combining blockchain’s speculative nature with REIT’s stability, all while giving investors a voice.

Nick delved into DAOs, decentralized environments where everyone’s voice matters. After completing a cryptocurrency course at MIT, he left Amazon and founded Bricklayer. This real estate fund, powered by Ethereum blockchain, adopted a decentralized strategy influenced by $BRICKS token holders. It offered a unique blend of speculation, hedged with one of the safest of asset classes.

Bricklayer is now incorporated the UAE. Bricklayer aspires to become the Robinhood of real estate, reshaping the traditional landlord-occupier dynamic. As stated, “We’re committed to increasing leasehold flexibility and reducing occupational costs, forging partnerships with occupiers to create a more equitable and flexible real estate ecosystem. Bricklayer is dedicated to advancing blockchain adoption within the real estate industry. We’re on a mission to persuade vendors to embrace virtual assets as a valid form of exchange in real estate transactions, ushering in a new era of efficiency and transparency.”

Tokenization of real estate in UAE is picking up with recent Desert Pearl project.