Crime, Funding, Partnership: All this in this Week’s Crypto News Edition

March 20, 2020

The ongoing chaos ravaging global markets has not cast a blind eye to the emerging crypto sector, which has always argued that bitcoin is a safe-haven asset. South Korea’s government moves to support and promote local blockchain technology through a multi-million funding initiative. Binance rewards India for reversing the crypto ban with a huge investment in the local blockchain sector. Scams creep up amid the coronavirus pandemic scare. 

Thieves make off $2 million in cryptocurrency from coronavirus scam

The blockchain security firm AnChain.AI announced that cybercriminals have made off with $2 million in cryptocurrency by ‘appearing to sell’ essential medical equipment to consumers desperate to curb the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak, first reported in Wuhan in late December last year, has already claimed more than 8,000 lives from more than 200,000 confirmed cases. Hospitals across Europe and the US are recording high inflow of patients and their medical supply reserves may not be enough to meet the demand. 

As the concern around the coronavirus increases, many people are hoarding hand sanitizers, face masks, and even toilet paper to get through the pandemic. However, in times of panics, pandemic, and chaos, innovative criminals tend to come with new ideas to take advantage of desperate people.

The scammers used e-commerce websites such as Amazon to sell non-existent products. Customers are lured to messaging platforms where there is no third-party oversight. After making the payment, the customers do not receive any shipment of the goods they purchased. AnChain.AI Marketing Director Steven Yang noted that cryptocurrencies are being used to facilitate the scams.

Yang further explained that the money is laundered through tumblers and mixers (to obscure the sources of the funds) before they are liquidated on exchanges. The scams originated in Southeast Asia but have expanded to other parts of the world. Asia is the final destination for the stolen cryptocurrency.

Binance sets up $50 million blockchain fund in India

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has set up a $50-million blockchain fund in India, hardly a month after the country’s Supreme Court overturned a cryptocurrency trading ban enacted by the central bank.

The initiative, dubbed the “Blockchain for India,” is meant to promote and support the use and adoption of the emerging blockchain technology in the country. Announced on March 16, the Blockchain for India is a joint venture between Binance and local cryptocurrency exchange WazirX, which was acquired by Binance in November 2019.

The fund is expected to attract crypto startups and entrepreneurs in the areas of remittance solutions, stablecoins, Dapps, DeFi, digital asset wallets, trading platforms, payments, fiat-to-digital assets gateway solutions, and more.

WazirX founder and CEO Nischal Shetty said this initiative shows “the incredible potential” of India’s blockchain industry. Shetty added that “Apart from the transformative blockchain projects in India, we look forward to collaborating with other investment funds to grow the ecosystem even further.

The initiative will invest anywhere between US$100,000 and US$5 million in equity and tokens. The selected startups will be given access to Binance’s ecosystem comprising of Binance Chain, Binance Cloud, Binance DEX, Binance Launchpad, Binance Academy, Binance X, and Binance companies that include WazirX.

Thai Fintech DeeMoney deepens partnership with Ripple

DeeMoney, a Thailand fintech company specializing in cross-border money transfers, has cemented its partnership with Ripple, a blockchain startup facilitating global financial payments. DeeMoney is the first local non-bank entity to partner with Ripple.

The Thai startup has already been using Ripple’s RippleNet technology to process inbound payments from South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Israel, the Middle East, and the Gulf regions. It is estimated that about 1 million Thai expatriates working around the world send money home. 

The startup provides same-day settlements into all local bank accounts, making it an effective and convenient method of sending money home. 

DeeMoney CEO Aswin Phlaphonghanich said Ripple is at the ‘forefront of technology,’ which is evidenced by the 300 partners it has. “We are excited to partner with Ripple, as together, we aim to democratize finance in Thailand by bringing a new level of efficiency and accessibility for cross-border transactions to and from the nation,” said Phlaphongphanich.

South Korean avails $3.2 million to local crypto startups to support blockchain technology

The South Korean government – through the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Information and Communication Industry – has allocated $3.2 million for local blockchain startups in an effort to promote the emerging technology.

The joint pilot project by the two ministries, called “Blockchain Technology Validation Support 2020), was announced on March 16.

The plan is to fund nine projects, with each expected to receive about $360,000 in funding. The selection criteria for the funding include current performance, solid business plan, number of jobs expected to be created, the feasibility of technology verification, and feasibility of future performance. 

The selected companies must be able to create social and economic value through the use of blockchain technology. South Korea’s Minister of ICT Park Yoon-kyu said

“We plan to support domestic specialized companies to rapidly grow and activate the ecosystem in the early stage of the blockchain market.”

Apart from blockchain, the initiative encourages startups to create businesses based on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and big data. 

The announcement of the fund comes at a time when South Korea is making great strides in developing the blockchain sector. South Korea recently passed new laws governing cryptocurrency exchanges.

Will bitcoin survive the crash?

The world is in turmoil due to the coronavirus outbreak that has plunged financial markets to their lowest levels in many years. Bitcoin, a decentralized and independent digital currency system, has failed spectacularly despite earlier claims that it was specifically built for this. To survive anything of this sort. But this has not been the case.

However, this isn’t the defining moment for bitcoin. Its success or failure will be decided by its scarcity at a time when central banks have turned to quantitative easing (QE) and rate cuts to stimulate the economy.

Bitcoin opened the year trading around $7,000 per unit, rose to more than $10,000 in mid-February but has now, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, tumbled to its current price (at the time of writing) of $6,200.

Bitcoin proponents claim that this is just a phase. But when the ‘coronavirus crisis’ dust has settled, then bitcoin will show the world that it was built for this. 

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