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U.S. Regulators Crack Down on Yet Another Crypto Ponzi Scheme

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Crypto-based Ponzi schemes are one of the most prominent blemishes on the industry’s name. However, regulators in the United States have ramped up their crackdown of these criminal organizations. In the latest development, the United States Justice Department (DOJ) announced that it had arrested the operators behind a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Scammers Lived The Classic Criminals’ Life

Per a press release from earlier today, the DoJ claimed that it had closed down Airbit Club, a crypto Ponzi scheme that defrauded tens of millions from customers across several years. After an investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, four of the company’s five top officials have faced a court date.

Airbit Club started operating in late 2015, according to the DoJ. The company functioned as a multilevel marketing scheme, with operators hosting elaborate presentations to encourage investors to join in and invite more people.

Incentives included significant daily returns from crypto mining and trading — operations that Airbit’s operators were never involved in. The company also had an online portal where investors could see their “returns,” but everything was staged. The operators took investments and spent them on luxury goods, properties, and more elaborate presentations for other investors. 

Club members started to suspect the company’s true nature in 2016, when many were unable to withdraw their funds. The company soon locked many of them out of their accounts and told them to recruit more investors if they wanted their funds. They additionally mandated investors to pay up in cash, instead of bank transfers. They launched aggressive campaigns to scrub their social media profiles of any negative reviews as well.

In total, they laundered about $20 million. Homeland Security investigators eventually picked up the four operators earlier this month, and they faced their court date yesterday. The fifth club operator was arrested in Panama and is currently awaiting extradition.

Ponzi Schemes on the Prowl

Regulators have been especially busy recently, with Ponzi schemes cropping up from seemingly every corner. Last month, Romanian programmer Silviu Catalin Bacali pled guilty to running BitClub, a fraud scheme that duped investors of over $720 million.

Bacali and three accomplices ran the operation between December 2014 and 2019. They took money from investors in exchange for shares in crypto mining pools. Investors also got bonuses for recruiting others to join.  He was eventually arrested last December and charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to offer and sell unregistered securities. He’s now facing a $250,000 fine and a maximum of five years behind bars.

With the threat of fraud schemes almost everywhere, members of the crypto space have also stepped in to help out. Yesterday, the Ukrainian Cyber Police announced that it had taken down a local ransomware and money laundering operation that had moved over $40 million in funds in the past two years.

The police credited Binance, claiming that it had used the exchange’s in-house “Sentry” division and blockchain analytics firm TRM Labs to detect and identify the group. Per the release, the police arrested the suspects in June. In a raid, they seized $200,000 in ammunition, computer equipment, cash, and digital evidence that linked three individuals to the operation.

Source: https://insidebitcoins.com/news/u-s-regulators-crack-down-on-yet-another-crypto-ponzi-scheme

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Ethereum Transaction Volumes Hit $41 Billion in November

Decentralized finance platforms were responsible for 99% of Ethereum transaction volume last month, says DappRadar.

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In brief

  • Ethereum transaction volume amounted to $41 billion in November, according to DappRadar’s monthly report.
  • The total value locked in decentralized finance projects surpassed $13 billion.
  • At the same time, Ethereum users’ activity declined compared to October.

November has been a turbulent month for Ethereum’s (ETH) decentralized applications (dapps) as all public attention was riveted to the long-awaited launch of ETH 2.0.

On one hand, the total value locked (TVL) in dapps surged to more than $13 billion, on the other—user activity declined in comparison to October, according to DappRadar’s monthly report published yesterday.

Per the report, while the TVL surpassed $13 billion, it was in big part due to the price volatility of Ethereum and other altcoins. The adjusted TVL (where price increases weren’t taken into account) amounted to around $11 billion in November.

Ethereum transaction volume increased by 1,784% year-on-year (i.e. compared to the same time period in 2019) but have dropped by 12% since October, amounting to over $41 billion. Decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms were responsible for 99% of this volume.

Ethereum transaction volume reached $41 billion in November. Image: DappRadar

Simultaneously, the price of ETH token reached its highest level this year, rising to nearly $600 by the end of November. However, despite the positive backdrop on the eve of Ethereum 2.0 launch, gas prices remained a “major network issue” for Ethereum, averaging to around 55 Gwei, the report noted.

Likewise, the total number of active daily wallets dropped by 19% compared to October—from 54,000 to 45,600.

“While overall activity mostly decreased in the DeFi dapp ecosystem in terms of headline figures there were still important events taking place. Important mergers happened during November,” the researchers noted.

The number of daily active wallets decreased in November. Image: DappRadar

Namely, popular DeFi platform Yearn Finance partnered or merged with several other projects in the space, including SushiSwap, Akropolis, Cover, Cream, and Pickle. DappRadar asserted that “the merge might result in increased activity within the category in the future.”

Technical vulnerabilities proved to be another pain point of DeFi, “undermining confidence in the sector’s security.” As Decrypt has noted, several DeFi projects have become victims of hackers recently, including Pickle Finance (hacked for $20 million) and Value DeFi (hacked for $6 million). And such flash loan attacks will only get worse, experts warn.

DappRadar said, “To conclude, November was all about Ethereum 2.0 news and speculation, token price growth, and increased TVL. Although transaction volume and daily active wallets decreased during November. We believe that improved results lie ahead for Ethereum.”

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Audio Streaming Mogul Spotify Considering Cryptocurrency Payments

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Joining the tech and financial services bigwigs in the payments revolution, Spotify too is going the crypto way. The Swedish audio streaming and music services giant just put up a job offer for an Associate Director, Payments Strategy & Innovation. The desired candidate will play a key role in ‘navigating the company’s payments rudder’ through the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Spotify Looking To Be A ‘Leading Player In The Cryptocurrency Space’

As per an official job opening that Spotify just posted, the company is looking for an Associate Director for their Payments Strategy & Innovation Team. The said individual would report to the Director of the same team. And will be instrumental in Spotify gaining a considerable foothold wrt integration of cryptocurrency payments. According to the description:

We are now looking for an outstanding Associate Director to join our Payments Strategy & Innovation team. This role will report to the Director, Payments Strategy & Innovation and will play a key part in defining and implementing Spotify’s payments strategy as well as leading Spotify’s activity within the Libra stablecoin project and wider digital asset & cryptocurrency space.

The objective is to address the company’s plan of ‘enabling new monetization opportunities’ for music creators. Also, Spotify wants its platform to become accessible to a larger section of potential users.

Spotify intends to inculcate all the latest fintech trends in their payments strategy, including cryptocurrencies. So that users from all sections of the society can access the music streaming platform.

Crypto Agenda Involves Libra As Well

One of the designated roles of the incoming Associate Payments Strategy Director would be to lead ‘Spotify’s day-to-day engagement with the Libra Association.’ This is due to the ongoing alliance of the company with Facebook’s digital currency project.

Along with this, the company is looking to leverage all the blue-chip aspects of the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. This includes stablecoins and Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). It is to streamline its transition to the most advanced payment methods available in finance at the moment.

The Associate Payments Strategy Director would be required to fulfill the above roadmap by making use of

Spotify’s global footprint to seek out innovation in the payments domain globally as well as emerging regulatory & market trends that could influence Spotify’s approach to payments.

Through all the above, the company actually intends to elevate its ‘reputation as a market leader in payments’, the website said. And give giant payments players like PayPal a run for their money.

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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/audio-streaming-mogul-spotify-considering-cryptocurrency-payments/

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India Reportedly Plans to Tax Crypto Investors As Bitcoin Price and Trading Activities Soar

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Barely ten months after the Indian Supreme Court lifted the RBI’s ban on cryptocurrency transactions, fresh reports from yesterday revealed that the country’s tax authority is now keeping a close watch on crypto traders as Bitcoin’s price continues its bullish trend.

Taxing Crypto Gains

According to local media, the Indian Tax Department is already in possession of data belonging to investors who invested in Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies through banking channels before the RBI’s ban in 2018. 

This development is coming after data shows a tremendous increase in crypto trading activities in India. Since the crypto ban was lifted earlier this year, retail investors between the ages of 25 and 40 have been spending millions of dollars on crypto trading every day. 

Over $25 Million Daily

Two of India’s largest crypto trading platforms, Binance-acquired WazirX and CoinDCX, saw a significant increase in activities over the last six months. According to an earlier report, WazirX recorded a massive 125% increase in user signups in the last two quarters. The exchange also has a daily trading volume of $19-26 million, with more than 85% of the transaction coming from Indian traders. 

Some experts believe it will be difficult for the country to tax crypto because there’s no regulation in place for crypto dealings. They feel a regulatory framework will provide the needed clarity to make taxation easier. While India is yet to release its crypto regulation, an earlier report suggests that the country may regulate crypto as commodities.

Declaring Bitcoin Profits As Capital Gains

Although it is unclear how India plans to implement the tax law, sources familiar with the matter claimed that the country’s taxman is already preparing to collect tax on the gains made from Bitcoin. And notice may be sent out to investors if “something goes out of this.”

Experts believe that the tax authorities may classify crypto gains as business income, and investors may have to pay up to 30% tax on profits made from selling cryptocurrencies. 

However, some tax experts are advising their clients to declare their Bitcoin earnings as capital gains, which is similar to profits generated from shares.

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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/india-reportedly-plans-to-tax-crypto-investors-as-bitcoin-price-and-trading-activities-soar/

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