Huobi Exchange’s Plans for Russia Go Well Beyond Crypto Trading

Huobi, the third-largest crypto exchange by trading volumes, is seeking to fill a void in Russia’s cryptocurrency community.

This month, the exchange opened an office in Moscow, the first major crypto trading platform to have a physical presence in the country, notably with a Russian-language call center. But Singapore-based Huobi’s ambitions go further, into lending and renting space for Russian miners, shaping the country’s regulations and training local blockchain talent.

The call center alone may be a significant differentiator, however. Even though leading crypto exchanges like Binance, OKEx and Bitfinex now have Russian-language interfaces, getting real-time support in case of tech problems have been a headache for many users in Russia who don’t speak English, Chinese or Korean.

“None of the big exchanges would answer your request in Russian,” a Russian trader named Anton, who didn’t want to disclose his full name, told CoinDesk.

For several years, the void was filled by the now-defunct exchange BTC-e, which had not only a Russian support staff but a network of local over-the-counter (OTC) dealers who had been facilitating the purchases of cryptocurrencies in absence of regulated fiat on-ramps in the country.

But BTC-e was shut down by the U.S. FBI in July 2017. Subsequently, a new platform named WEX picked up its job until July, when fiat and crypto withdrawals were frozen.

Since then, there has been no mainstream platform offering comprehensive support for users in Russia. So now Huobi is stepping in aggressively.

Concierge service

Huobi’s 30-person Moscow office opened November 12. In addition to the call center, this site provides back office support for OTC trading and listing, and personal managers for big clients, Andrew Grachev, the head of the Russian office, told CoinDesk.

“If someone wants to start trading with $1,000, he can come to the office and register with the help of a personal manager,” Grachev said.

To attract as many new users as possible, Huobi Russia is offering commissions lower than 0.1 percent for users who trade more than 50 bitcoin in two weeks during November, the company’s website says. Also, users will get a monthly “cash back” reward, Grachev said: 20 percent of trading fees users pay on the exchange will come back to their account in the form of Huobi tokens, which then can be used on the platform to pay for services, or cashed out.

Initially, Huobi’s plans were even more ambitious: the exchange wanted to enable deposits in Russian roubles, but the local experts said it’s a bad idea.

“They consulted with us a lot, and in the end, I think, we made them feel disappointed,” Vladimir Demin, head of the Center of Digital Transformations at the Russian government-owned development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), told CoinDesk. “They were interested in providing fiat operations, but we told them it’s impossible.”

However, Russian users will be able to buy cryptocurrency for roubles using the exchange’s Huobi OTC service, and seamlessly transfer it to their trading accounts, Grachev told CoinDesk. The OTC platform is online, but it has too few users from Russia so far, so Huobi plans to lure local OTC traders with commission rates lower than on other OTC platforms, Grachev said.

Regulatory consulting

With three bills related to blockchain, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs) currently stuck in the Russian parliament, the State Duma, the local regulatory environment is unclear and arguably unconducive to the industry’s growth.

However, government-backed institutions are watching the field closely and launching various local  blockchain pilots for government services, like distribution of government-sponsored prescription drugs or land registry.

“We started from projects on blockchain without using tokens or cryptocurrencies,” Demin said. “But we understand that using this technology only in a non-token way is like jumping half-way over the abyss.”

In August, Huobi signed up with the VEB’s Center of Digital Transformations and has been providing expertise that will be adapted for Russia by local experts and used in the development of future regulation in the country, Demin said.

“We were looking at this field and Huobi came out as the most suitable partner as they are already working with the governments of Australia, Singapore, China,” he said, adding:

“We are consulting the Bank of Russia and State Duma to add some practical elements to those bills.”

Further expansion

In addition to opening the Moscow office, Huobi will train blockchain entrepreneurs attending a special program for blockchain startups at Plekhanov University of Economics, one of the top Russian universities.

The university is in the process of finalizing a contract with Huobi, Nadezhda Surova, head of the University’s Department of Entrepreneurship and Logistics, told CoinDesk.

Initially, Huobi came to the university in search of tech professionals, she said, and later an expert committee within the Russian government’s Ministry of Digital Development approved the partnership.

Huobi’s further plans in Russia include offering loans for miners to buy specialized mining chips, or ASICs, and space for them to rent, Grachev said. According to him, these services might become available as soon as the first quarter of 2019.

Coming to Russia is a part of larger expansion plans by Huobi: in August, the exchange announced plans to open offices in the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Canada, South China Morning Post reported.

According to CoinMarketCap, Huobi’s total 24-hour volume (excluding no-fee trades and transaction mining) is $595 million, making it No. 3 among exchanges after Binance and OKEx.

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Photo via Shutterstock.

Source: Coindesk

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Binance Organizing Meetup in Gurgaon on 24th of November

Binance meetup Delhi

If you’ve not been to a great cryptocurrency event for quite some time, here’s your chance to go attend one next week. Binance, the global leader among cryptocurrency exchanges, is coming to New Delhi next week for organizing a meetup. The bad news, however, is that registrations for the event have closed already.

That’s right. Binance announced on its Twitter handle a short while ago that it’s organizing a meetup in Gurgaon’s Udyog Vihar Area. The venue of the meetup is COWRKS Gurgaon Central, RMZ Infinity. The speed with which registrations filled up shows how much interest people have shown in attending the event. In fact, many people who could not sign up immediately for the event are now requesting the company to increase the seats and open up registrations once more. There’re no signs of that thing happening, however.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

More details related to the event will be released on Binance India’s official Facebook page, the company said in its tweet. We’ll try to bring those details to you as they’re released, and we’ll also bring you the details of the event as it unfolds, so keep checking back.

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Bitfinex’s Parent Company Has a New Offshore Services Provider

iFinex, the parent company of controversial cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, appears to have hired a new offshore corporate services provider.

A trademark application dated Oct. 31 gives iFinex’s address as care of SHRM Trustees (BVI) Ltd., marking a change from prior trademark applications – including one filed in June 2017 – which gave the address as care of Estera Corporate Services (BVI) Ltd.

Both SHRM and Estera, the filings show, are located in Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands.

Recent trademark application showing iFinex’s address as “c/o SHRM Trustees (BVI) Ltd.”

Older trademark application showing iFinex’s address as “c/o Estera Corporate Services (BVI) Ltd.”

The change was first spotted by Jakal Intel, a pseudonymous sleuth who describes their focus as “OSINT [open-source intelligence] driven investigations into investment scams and Ponzi schemes.”

Estera, which changed its name from Appleby in April 2016, also served as a director of Tether Holdings Ltd., according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) database of offshore leaks. Tether is closely tied to Bitfinex, sharing directors and shareholders in common, and Tether Holdings was registered at the same Town Road address as iFinex.

Estera Corporate Services Managing Director Gareth Thomas confirmed to CoinDesk that iFinex is no longer a client of Estera.

CoinDesk reached out to Bitfinex, Tether and SHRM for comment, but did not receive a reply before press time.

Why SHRM?

According to SHRM’s website, the firm provides a number of services to corporations, funds, family offices and yacht enthusiasts. The site lists a number of these services, including “formation and administration of onshore and offshore companies” and “provision of directors and/or managers” – both standard offerings in the offshore services industry.

There are few publicly available clues to what might set SHRM apart from its rivals, including Estera. There is, however, one example of a company hiring SHRM, reported by the BBC in 2017.

Bridgewaters, an Isle of Man-based firm that the BBC described as being “involved in major deals involving Russian cash, including the purchase of significant stakes in Facebook,” had a number of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Bridgewaters had previously been a client of Mossack Fonseca, the now-defunct Panamanian law firm whose records formed the infamous Panama Papers leak.

Mossfon, as the firm was sometimes known, pushed to obtain additional information from Bridgewaters, including apparent links to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, according to the BBC. That push for increased transparency appears to have driven Bridgewaters to find a new provider.

“After Mossfon raised questions about compliance,” the BBC wrote, “Bridgewaters transferred most of its BVI companies to another financial services company, SHRM Trustees, in February 2015.”

Shopping offshore

iFinex’s change in offshore service providers recalls the months-long search for a stable banking partner that Bitfinex and Tether engaged in under significant public scrutiny.

The two firms lost access to Taiwanese banks in early 2017 as a result of intervention by Wells Fargo. Noble Bank, based in Puerto Rico, filled the gap, but that relationship ended around October.

For some time it was not clear where Bitfinex and Tether were banking, and the exchange was pushed to publicly deny that it was insolvent. Tether’s current banking partner is Deltec, based in the Bahamas.

The anxiety in the market around Bitfinex and Tether continues. Bitfinex recently introduced a 3 percent fee on large and frequent deposits, which many interpreted as being designed to slow the pace of withdrawals from the exchange, given that customers are complaining that they’ve been waiting weeks to receive fiat withdrawals.

Tether, meanwhile, has sought to produce convincing proof that the outstanding supply – which has shrunk markedly as the company has removed hundreds of millions of tokens from circulation – is backed by dollar deposits.

A recent letter from Deltec saying that Tether had sufficient deposits attracted skepticism from some quarters.

AltcoinToday.com

Photo via Shutterstock.

Source: Coindesk

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