Central Bank of China imposes Bitcoin restrictions for financial institutions, price falls

The PBOC said explicitly that it’s now forbidden for financial institutions to develop any business related to Bitcoin.  But they left it open that the public is free to participate in such transactions, so long as they bear the risk.

FT adds:

The Chinese regulators noted three main risks. First, they said Bitcoin was an unsafe investment because the amount in circulation is small and can be easily controlled by speculators, making it highly volatile.

Second, because it is a largely anonymous product with few controls on it, they said that Bitcoin makes money laundering easy and can be used to support terrorism.

Third, they said there was a risk that it could be used by criminal organisations, noting that Bitcoin had been used internationally for the purchase of drugs and weapons.

“We have clearly stipulated that at the present moment all financial institutions and payment institutions cannot develop any business related to Bitcoin,” the central bank said. The regulators said that any websites serving as platforms for Bitcoin transactions would have to provide detailed information about their users and report any suspicious activity.

The central bank said it would continue to monitor Bitcoin trends and risks, adding that it would also focus on educating the public. “We will guide people to correctly understand the concept of a currency as well as investment theory,” it said.

However, as noted, the ban was not outright, and the PBOC did allow an option for continuing the use of Bitcoin. That said, with increasingly more central banks rejecting BTC and outright warning about its usage, one can expect that the main draw of Bitcoin, its independence from the legacy fiat system, will be increasingly more scrutizinied until it too is institutionalized, or until the BIS creates its own Bitcoin slamdown trading desk.

The Chinese government stopped short of banning Bitcoin altogether, saying that as an online product people were free to buy and sell it at their own risk. But it highlighted many dangers associated with it, including money laundering and criminality. From a systemic perspective, it noted that the one saving grace was that the amount circulating in the economy was too limited to pose a real threat.

“Although there are people calling it a ‘currency’, it is not issued by the monetary authority, it does not possess the attributes of a currency such as legal repayment and enforcement abilities,” the central bank said in a statement explaining the notice.

“Judged by its nature, Bitcoin is one particular kind of a virtual product. It does not have the legal status of a currency, and it cannot and moreover should not be allowed to circulate in the market as a currency.”

About a third of global Bitcoin transactions have been taking place in China and BTCChina became the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange by trading volume last month.

No major financial institutions have yet been involved in the Bitcoin trade in China, but online vendors on ecommerce group Alibaba’s platforms have started using it, as has Baidu, the internet search engine leader.

So that’s that. Next, we hope to provide shortly the latest monthly total gold import number by China, where the PBOC has yet to provide an update of its total holdings since 2009.

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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies flash-crashed Saturday night, one day after the US Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) sent subpoenas four cryptocurrency exchanges in an ongoing probe into bitcoin manipulation that began in late July - following the launch of bitcoin futures on the CME, according to the Wall Street Journal
CME’s bitcoin futures derive their final value from prices at four bitcoin exchangesBitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and KrakenManipulative trading in those markets could skew the price of bitcoin futures that the government directly regulates.
In delay reaction, Bitcoin fell as much as $433 or 5.6% in Saturday night trading, with some noting that the flash crash happened shortly after a 90th ranked crypto exchange, Coinrail, had suffered a "cyber intrusion", and was likely the more relevant catalyst for the crypto price drop.
While major Cryptocurrencies were down from 4.5 - 5.5%, Bitcoin Cash dropped over 8.4%. 
The CTFC subpoenas were issued after several of the exchanges refused to voluntarily share trading data with the CME after being asked last December. Of note, the CFTC regulates the CTC. 
According to the WSJ, the CME, which launched bitcoin futures in December, asked the four exchanges to share reams of trading data after its first contract settled in January, people familiar with the matter said. But several of the exchanges declined to comply, arguing the request was intrusive. The exchanges ultimately provided some data, but only after CME limited its request to a few hours of activity, instead of a full day, and restricted to a few market participants, the people added.
What is curious, is that if there was indeed manipulation since the launch of bitcoin futures, it was to the downside, as the price of cryptos peaked around the time the crypto futures were launched, and are down well over 50% in the 6 months since.
Coinbase in particular has been under the watch government regulators. On February 23, Coinbase sent an official notice to around 13,000 customers to notify them they were legally required to turn over their information to the IRS
The IRS had initially asked Coinbase in July 2017 to hand over even more detailed information on every one of its then over 500,000 users in an attempt catch those cheating on their taxes. However, another court order in Nov. 2017 reduced this number to around 14,000 “high-transacting” users, which the platform now reports as 13,000, in what Coinbase calls a “partial, but still significant, victory for Coinbase and its customers.”
Coinbase told the around 13,000 affected customers that the company would be providing their taxpayer ID, name, birth date, address, and historical transaction records from 2013-2015 to the IRS within 21 days. Coinbase’s letter to these customers encourages them “to seek legal advice from an attorney promptly” if they have any questions. Their website also states that concerns may also be addressed on Coinbase’s Taxes FAQ. The ongoing legal battle between Coinbase and the US government dates back to November, 2016, when the IRS filed a “John Doe summons” in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
On Feb. 13, personal finance service Credit Karma released data showing that only 0.04 percent of their customers had reported cryptocurrencies on their federal tax returns. 
And in April, former New York Attorney General, Eric "we could rarely have sex without him beating me" Schneiderman, launched a probe of 13 major cryptocurrency exchanges according to the Wall Street Journal - claiming that investors dealing in the fast-growing markets often don’t have the basic facts needed to protect themselves.
Former AG Schneiderman’s office said the program, called Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative,  is part of its responsibility to protect consumers and ensure the integrity of financial markets, and its goal is to ensure that investors can have a better understanding of the risks and protections afforded them on these sites.
CFTC Commissioner: Crypto is a "modern miracle"
While the CFTC, IRS and New York Attorney General's office are all cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges, it seems to all be part of the government's embrace of virtual currencies.  Last week CFTC Commissioner Rostin Benham called cryptocurrencies a "modern miracleat the Blockchain For Impact Summit held at the UN in New York last week. 
But virtual currencies may – will – become part of the economic practices of any country, anywhere.  Let me repeat that:  these currencies are not going away and they will proliferate to every economy and every part of the planet.  Some places, small economies, may become dependent on virtual assets for survival.  And, these currencies will be outside traditional monetary intermediaries, like government, banks, investors, ministries, or international organizations.
We are witnessing a technological revolution.  Perhaps we are witnessing a modern miracle. -Rostin Benham
Rostin hinted at the upcoming legal action against the exchanges during his speech:
Under the CEA and Commission regulations and related guidance, exchanges have the responsibility to ensure that their Bitcoin futures products and their cash-settlement process are not readily susceptible to manipulation and the entity has sufficient capital to protect itself.  The CFTC has the authority to ensure compliance. In addition, the CFTC has legal authority over virtual currency derivatives in support of anti-fraud and manipulation including enforcement authority in the underlying markets.

Meanwhile, the official Bitcoin website removed references to Coinbase, Blockchain.com and Bitpay, according to Crypto News - only one of which, Coinbase, was subpoenaed. 
http://Bitcoin.org  just removed/censored the 2 largest US Bitcoin companies (@BitPay Payment processing and @coinbase Bitcoin Exchange). It’s a good move: Bitcoin Core is obviously no longer Bitcoin, and should ideally be removed from both @BitPay and @coinbase too.

The CFTC officially recognized bitcoin as a commodity in September of 2015 when it went after Coinflip for operating a platform for trading bitcoin options without the proper authorization. Since the agency effectively asserted its dominance over the bitcoin market with that decision, this is the first time it has given its blessing to an bitcoin options trading platform. Expect a burst of institutional trading activity to follow - especially since they approved institutional options trading in July
This post sponsored by Total Cryptos @ www.totalcryptos.com  

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