Justin Sun, the 26-year-old founder of the Tron crypto-currency. Photo: Twitter
When self-acclaimed crypto pioneer Justin Sun canceled a charity lunch with Warren Buffet, Chinese media assumed he had been arrested. Photo: Twitter

Crypto asset markets have been mostly consolidating this week, although the overall trend is still down. Bitcoin has kept dipping below the US$10,000 mark, but there seems to be enough buyers to keep pushing prices back up again. Bitcoin’s current price hovers just below $9,800, while total market capitalization has remained stable for the past week, at about $280 billion.

According to newly-published research, cybercrime involving crypto assets is showing no signs of abating. The research, from American cybersecurity company CipherTrace, claims that crypto exchanges have already lost $1.2 billion between January and March this year. The figure, however, is down a little from the same period last year, when a whopping $1.7 billion was stolen.

The major hacks have been on Asian exchanges, with 4.5 billion yen ($41 million) stolen from the Hong Kong-based Binance exchange in May, $4.3 million taken in June from Bitrue in Singapore and another 3 billion yen ($27.5 million) was lifted earlier in July from Tokyo’s Bitpoint exchange. All of the thefts involved hot wallets, which are stored facilities housed online at exchanges. Changpeng Zhao, the CEO from the world’s largest exchange, Binance, told CNBC that he thinks the crypto industry is more transparent than banks, which cover up any scandals relating to money laundering. Binance, says Zhao, refunds all user funds and provided full details on any incursions. 

Iran is now reportedly such a popular cryptocurrency mining destination – thanks to cheap electricity and official tolerance for Bitcoin as a way of sidestepping Washington sanctions – that the Energy Ministry claims the country’s energy consumption has increased by 7% as a result of digital mining operations. So now, instead of blaming the crypto miners for the frequent electricity brownouts, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), Abdolnaser Hemmati, announced that the government’s economic committee has approved a mechanism for mining digital coins which will be put up for discussion at a later cabinet meeting. It also passed a proposal for applying export rates for the electricity used by the domestic digital miners and Iran’s customs administration has also now joined the debate, saying the CBI needs to approve the import of digital currency mining machinery as licenses. “Mining these currencies inside Iran will not only prevent money from leaving the country, it will also create currency under the difficult conditions of sanctions,” the head of Iran’s Bitcoin Society, Mohammad Shargi, reportedly told the official government news agency IRNA earlier this month.  

South Korea’s leading blockchain platform ICONLOOP says it has developed a blockchain-based self-sovereign identity authentication service. The DPASS system has been dubbed a decentralized passport that aims to allow citizens to store their personally identifying information on the blockchain app and log in to various linked services without reconfirmation of identity. ICONLOOP has close ties with the South Korean government and recently the Financial Services Commission added the firm’s ‘my-ID’ service into its ‘Innovative Financial Services and Regulations Sandbox.’ ICON’s native crypto token, ICX, has shown no movement in price, however, and is still more than 90% down from its peak.

A panel reporting to India’s Finance Ministry has come down hard on cryptocurrencies, and is proposing a blanket ban on them. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Reserve Bank of India have jointly created the panel, which concluded that crypto assets are a risk to India because they are “non-sovereign.” The committee recommended that all private cryptocurrencies, except any cryptocurrency issued by the state, be banned in India, and this endorses the stand already taken by the RBI that prevents any institution regulated by the RBI from dealing in cryptocurrencies. The committee also proposed the criminalization of crypto and this could leave more than $100 million in Indian initial coin offering investments in limbo.

Finally, the oddest story of the week must be about Chinese crypto entrepreneur Justin Sun, founder of the 11th largest crypto token, Tron, and his apology for canceling a much-hyped meeting with billionaire Warren BuffettSun, a self-acclaimed Chinese crypto pioneer, paid $4.57 million for a lunch with the US billionaire who had previously called Bitcoin ‘rat poison.’ Sun said his goal for the lunch was to change Buffett’s mind about cryptocurrencies. Sun cancelled the lunch and then posted an apology for over-hyping of his crypto project and the stream of tweets and also added a tribute to socialism. “I was really fortunate to grow up alongside the rapid development of socialism with Chinese characteristics in our country, as well as reaping dividends from the development of the global blockchain industry,” wrote Sun in Chinese. “I could say, without the caring and guidance from the regulators, the blockchain industry would not flourish as it does today.” This caused online gossip, mainly centered around an unsubstantiated rumor that the PRC had imposed a travel ban on Sun, who according to the rumor has been on a border control list since June 2018. Other rumors claimed he was under financial investigation and that he was being detained by Chinese authorities. Sun characteristically took to social media to deny the rumors and later posted photos and a video of himself with San Francisco landmarks in the background. It was not enough, however, to stop his TRX token tumbling 23% this week.

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