Binance to start operations in Malta

Chinese crypto exchange sees the EU-member as pro-blockchain country.

by Marin Marinov
23 March • 4 min
In Markets

China’s Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, said on Friday it plans to start operations in Malta. The upcoming office will be the first in a EU member-state and will hire up to 200 people.

The announcement of the crypto exchange, which was founded in China but moved its servers to Japan after the Chinese government announced a ban on cryptocurrency trading last year, comes a few days after Binance received a warning from the Japanese Financial Services Agency (FSA) for operating in the country without a proper registration and license. The authorities in Hong Kong, where Binance’s business is registered, have also cautioned the exchange, hinting it might be banned. In an interview for Bloomberg, Binance CEO Zhao Changpeng said discussions with Hong Kong authorities were continuing, with the outcome remaining unclear.

Binance in Malta

Meanwhile, Binance found political support in the small European island of Malta, which has taken steps to set up a Digital Innovation Authority and formalize a Virtual Currency Act that will pave the way for a regulatory framework for distributed ledger technology (DLT) operations and blockchain-driven investment activities such as token sales.

“After reviewing several different locations, the company decided to invest in the European nation due to its existing pro-blockchain legislation and the stability that it offers financial technology companies through its regulatory framework,” Binance explained in its official blog.

a sea port with vessels and old buldings
Malta`s capital Valetta. 

It intends to launch a fiat-to-crypto exchange in Malta and is close to inking a deal with local banks to provide access to deposits and withdrawals, Changpeng told Bloomberg.

On its part, Malta’s parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri welcomed the Chinese crypto exchange, saying its presence in the country would sustains its vision of becoming ‘The Blockchain Island’.

Binance and regulation

Binance was one of the seven companies that Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) warned in February.

“The SFC has sent letters to seven cryptocurrency exchanges in Hong Kong or with connections to Hong Kong warning them that they should not trade cryptocurrencies which are “securities” as defined in the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO) without a license,” the warning stated.

In Japan, the FSA letter has warned Binance that it would face criminal charges if it continued to operate without a license. Another problem for the regulator was that that the Hong Kong-based exchange allowed residents of Japan to open trading accounts without appropriately confirming their identities.

Welcome to Malta”

Maltese prime minister joseph Muscat has praised Binance move: “Welcome to #Malta @binance. We aim to be the global trailblazers in the regulation of blockchain-based businesses and the jurisdiction of quality and choice for world class fintech companies”, Muscat has written in Twitter.

Malta is in a process of creating the so-called Digital Innovation Authority with the aim of certifying blockchain companies and set out a legal framework for initial coin offerings (ICOs).

a man in official suit in front of big European Union flag
Joseph Muscat speaking at the opening ceremony of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union/Image`s source: © European Union, 2017

“We would like to be the first country to regulate crypto-currency and blockchain” a Maltese PM spokesperson has said to local media.

Joseph Muscat revealed his idea of Europe as a “bitcoin continent” at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) Ideas Lab conference in Brussels in February 2017, at the beginning of Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.