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Are Kenyan Regulators Finally Changing Their Stance on Bitcoin in Kenya?

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Bitcoin in Kenya

Digital currencies have a come a long way since their inception almost a decade ago. From operating on the fringe of the financial ecosystem they are now becoming an accepted medium of exchange.

Bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency with no ties to any central bank or financial institution, is slowly making its way into the African financial ecosystem. The peer-to-peer nature of the currency and it not being susceptible to inflation and political upheavals, that have plagued fiat currencies, makes it an attractive value proposition for the continent. That being said, there are still hurdles for bitcoin adoption with Kenya being a prime example of that.

The crypto-debate in Kenya

The African country has a sizable bitcoin community with fintech companies, such as BitPesa using bitcoin for international money transfers. However, local market regulators are yet to see bitcoin as an acceptable medium for transactions. In 2015, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) joined its peers in Nigeria, and other parts of the world, in sounding warnings about the dangers of bitcoin, saying the risks far outweigh any benefits that could be gained. Furthermore, Kenya’s central bank instructed local banks in Kenya not to provide banking services to bitcoin startups.

While their position has remained unchanged, recently, another market regulator is reading from a different script. In April, the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA) announced plans to holds a forum that will give fintech players an opportunity to interrogate regulators on the current regulations as well as allow regulators to understand the unique challenges faced by these companies.

Paul Muthaura, the CEO of the authority said in a statement:

“The ultimate objective of the authority is to provide Fintechs in the capital markets such as; finance smartphone ‘apps’; equity crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending platforms; Robo-advice for investment; blockchain technology; big data; crypto-currency and other finance focused technology products, with a conducive environment where they can test their innovations in a relaxed regulatory environment before taking them to the market.”

New Opportunities

While market regulators are sending mixed messages, the World Bank recently revealed its plan to partner with the Kenyan government in using blockchain technology to sell government bonds. The blockchain is the underlying technology on which bitcoin is built on. Blockchain technology provides a distributed ledger that can be augmented to enable limitless possibilities in terms of applicability. Examples of where blockchain technology can be used include digital identity verification, proof of ownership of assets and intellectual property just to name a few.

The CBK is one of the collaborators in this project and this has the potential to soften their stance on digital currencies in the future. According to the CEO of BitPesa, Ms. Elizabeth Rossiello the resistance by a section of market regulators is similar to other situations in Europe, Asia, and the US. But with more awareness and information, she believes things are looking up for cryptocurrency in the country.

“Internationally, all of the largest financial institutions have Bitcoin and blockchain programmes, investments and even patent applications. Visa Europe commented that working with bitcoin “is no longer a choice anymore,” proving that the technology has moved from the fringes towards the mainstream of financial innovation. Bank of America filed applications for 10 different patents using Bitcoin and blockchain technology,” Rossiello stated.

While regulatory approval for bitcoin as a legal payment method in Kenya may still be a long way off, the debate shows people are beginning to see bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as an agent of change and innovation when it comes to financial services.

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November 30, 2019: OKEX and BitcoinKE Partner for a FREE Crypto Margin Trading Class

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FREE Crypto Margin Trading Class

After a full-house event in Nairobi for the CrypTour through Africa, OKEx is back again to host its popular Genesis Trading Classe, titled “Crypto Margin Trading.”

The class will cover the following:

  • Basics of crypto trading
  • Trading tools
  • Margin trading
  • Reading of trading charts
  • Trading psychology
  • among other topics.

You don’t want to miss this exciting class!

Come and network with other crypto enthusiasts over drinks and snacks. There will be a jam-packed list of speakers who will also be joining for this class.

forex trading indicators

EVENT DETAILS:

DATE: SATURDAY, 30TH, NOVEMBER 2019

TIME: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

VENUE: MARBLE ARCH HOTEL, LAGOS RD, OFF TOM MBOYA STREET, NAIROBI, KENYA

REGISTER: http://bit.ly/BITCOINKEOKEX2019

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Retired NBA Player Allegedly Scammed Ghanaian Company Out of $825,000 in Bitcoin

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NBA Player

Retired NBA player, Isaac Edward Austin, has allegedly scammed a Ghanaian Company out of $825,000 in bitcoin (BTC). The money was reportedly acquired with the promise of investing it in a bitcoin automated trading programme.

Bitcoin Investment Scam

bitcoin doublerThrough the Isaac Edward Austin (IEA) and Tudor Trust, Austin reportedly masqueraded as a trustee with the ability to help a Ghanaian company make a profit on a bitcoin investment. The two parties signed a contract on July 3, 2019. This contract is among other documents that have been shared on mynewsgh.com indicating the scam took place.

The company sent to a bitcoin investment at a strike price of $11,000 per bitcoin, totaling to $825,000, to Austin expecting to receive back the original investment plus profits. However, Austin failed to make the payment at the close of trading as per the agreement.

A victim of Austin’s scam shared his experience as follows: “He will take your BTC and you will never get your investment back or your returns. On the day of payment, he will tell you story after story filled with lies of issues why the BTC could not be delivered on the day of payment. From him having a heart attack, to the coin being sent to the wrong wallet, to him being in a queue at the bank, to him waiting for the trade to conclude, to the funds being held by the bank. Week after week after week of unresolved issues even when he has confirmed the day before that all is set 1000 percent to deliver and conclude the transaction. He is a fraudster of the highest order. Stay away from him. We have all the proof – contracts, letters, and messages.”

One of the other documents mynewsgh.com obtained is a letter sent to Austin notifying him of his failure to meet the agreed terms of the contract. The Ghanaian company expected their money back on the same day they signed the contract with Austin. The funds expected should have been 75 BTC going for a strike price of $11,000.

In the letter, the company gave Austin 48 hours to pay them their money – failure to which they were going to take legal action.

Is the Scammer an Imposter?

According to the documents shared on Ghana Web, the bitcoin scammer’s date of birth and height is similar to the former NBA player, Isaac Edward “Ike” Austin as indicated on Wikipedia. So, could this be a case of a retired basketball player turning into a scammer or is someone impersonating him? The answer to this question is unclear.

This LinkedIn profile of an Isaac Austin, who has been the Finance Director and Trustee of Tudor Trust and Finance Society LLC since June 2012, does not seem authentic. Although this profile has some similarities to the former NBA player’s personal information as written on Wikipedia, the years he attended Arizona State do not coincide.

Furthermore, the profile on LinkedIn says Isaac Austin took a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences for one year which is not the usual study period for a degree course. There is also no mention of the former NBA player being a trustee of IEA and Tudor Trust.

The upturn of the crypto market experienced in mid-2019 appears to have spurred scammers into action. This scam comes after another bitcoin investment deal in Nairobi went wrong between December 2018 and May 2019.

That said, these scam stories are a lesson to potential bitcoin investors that they are better off managing their own investments as opposed to handing funds to someone to manage them. If the Ghanaian company had carried out thorough research, perhaps they would have noticed the obvious red flags.

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The Golix Controversy: Has the African Exchange “Exit Scammed” Users And Investors?

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Golix exit scam

Prior to May 2018, Zimbabwe-based bitcoin exchange Golix was bullish about its future prospects. The startup claimed it had raised $32 million from a token sale and had plans to set up operations in several other African countries. However, more than a year later, the digital asset exchange has had a reversal of fortunes and, after its forced shutdown in Zimbabwe, some of Golix’s former clients are struggling to get their funds reimbursed despite promises and frantic efforts to recover these. 

Embezzlement Allegations

Former Golix users now point to possible embezzlement of funds by Golix executives while one investor in the startup blames the hostile operating environment as the reason for the company’s general failure.

Tawanda Kembo was the chief executive officer (CEO) of Golix when it was shut down in Zimbabwe. Bitcoin Africa reached out to him to get his side of the story but he had not responded to our questions at the time of publishing.

However, Bitcoin Africa still managed to contact Taurai Chinyamakubvu, an individual who says he was an investor in the company. Chinyamakubvu claimed he is not aware if client funds had been reimbursed or not since he was not involved in the day to day affairs of the crypto startup.

“On funds, you can check with the CEO, he was doing the day to day stuff. I was just an investor,” Chinyamakubvu pushed back when asked if they had recovered client funds that were reportedly locked in banks.

In May 2018, Zimbabwe’s central bank issued a directive that forbade financial institutions from dealing with crypto exchanges. According to Golix, this led to banks blocking access to client funds and the company from using the financial system.

Central Bank Defiance And Crypto Adoption

GolixWhen asked why Golix had not resumed operations following a High Court ruling that set aside the central bank order, Chinyamakubvu suggested that Golix’s Zimbabwe operations remain hamstrung by the central bank’s reluctance to lift the order.

“They (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) did not lift the order they sent to banks. So no bank wants to defy a regulator. But that said, you muddy the water once, that’s enough to change its colour for a while,” he stated.

Chinyamakubvu is convinced that the central bank’s apparent defiance of a court ruling continues to hinder the growth of the crypto space in a country that should be embracing privately-issued cryptocurrencies.

Zimbabwe has been plagued by hyperinflation for the past two decades, which is spurred on by a volatile fiat currency. Critics point to the central bank’s penchant for unrestrained printing of money as the main cause of the country’s currency troubles.

The Golix investor called the central bank’s decision to shut down the crypto exchange ‘retrogressive’.

Ironically, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recently announced the setting up of a committee to study financial technologies such as bitcoin. The regulator now says it wants to come up with what it calls a “National Fintech Strategy.”

Disappeared Client Funds

Bitcoin Africa also reached out to former Golix clients as it tried to establish what happened with their funds. Some did not respond but a few did – although they requested anonymity. One lady, in particular, expressed exasperation with the way Golix has been handling the issue.

“I do not know about others but I still have not been reimbursed. Tawanda (CEO of Golix) has made several promises to settle but nothing has happened,” claimed the lady who preferred to remain anonymous.

She further explained that currently there is nothing noteworthy happening but promised to reveal more details as and when they become known. 

Kembo on the Run?

Following the central bank decision to stifle cryptocurrency trading, some crypto traders have gone on to create informal trading platforms using social media networks like Whatsapp, Telegram, and Facebook.

Bitcoin Africa was also able to get access to one such Whatsapp chat group feed wherein clients are discussing strategies of recovering funds from Golix. In a discussion that occurred in July 2019, one member of the group asks fellow members to furnish her with information that includes Kembo’s personal identification number or even a vehicle registration number. This could then be used to help a hired tracing agent to locate him.

Tawanda Kembo

Tawanda Kembo, Golix CEO

It is apparent from the discussions that Kembo has made several promises – including re-payment plans – to reimburse but nothing has happened to date. Adding intrigue to the controversy, this client claims Tawanda told them he had lost the key to the cold storage wallet. Thus, he could not access the bitcoin.

Keys to a crypto wallet are essentially a passcode that grants access to funds and without them, the funds are lost and cannot be recovered.

In the meantime, another post on the same thread suggests that Chinyamakubvu was being disingenuous when he expressed ignorance about the status of client funds. In the post, another member insists that prior to the central bank order, Golix was asked to remove all funds before accounts were closed.

The anonymous member was referring to a part of the central bank circular to banks which states the following:

“Exit any existing relationships with virtual currency exchanges within sixty days of the date of this Circular and proceed to liquidate and restitute existing account balances.”

This central bank circular was issued on May 11, 2018, and Golix seemingly had enough time to exit from banks as well as to reimburse clients.

No Consumer Protection

The anonymous member suggests that since this did not happen, the issue should now be treated as a criminal case.

It is apparent from the rest of the discussion that members were aware of the risks involved with crypto businesses. The central bank had warned the public of risks of dealing with cryptocurrencies and associated businesses prior to Golix’s demise.

Zimbabwe does not have consumer protection laws that specifically deal cryptocurrencies and those dealing with such digital currencies do so at own risk, a point clearly articulated by the central bank circular. Perhaps it is with this in mind that some Golix clients are now pursuing fraud charges against Golix executives.

Lack of legal protection is another factor inhibiting the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies but that may yet change as the central bank is now having a change of heart.

Bitcoin Africa will continue to follow the events surrounding the alleged exit scam of Golix and update our readers when new information surfaces.

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