OKEx Crypto Exchange Opens Office in Malta

Hong Kong-based exchange follows the steps of the largest player Binance

by Marin Marinov
12 April • 3 min
In Markets

Hong Kong-based crypto exchange OKEx said on Thursday it plans to open an office in Malta, hoping that its first European Union (EU) bureau will be “a foundation for further OKEx growth”.

The exchange chose the Mediterranean island because of its friendly blockchain plans.

“We look forward to working with the Malta government as it is forward thinking and shares many of our same values: the most important of which are protection of traders and the general public, compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) standards, and recognition of the innovation and importance of continued development in the blockchain ecosystem,” OKEx Chris Lee said in a statement after having discussed current and future legislation and regulation in Malta with government officials.

Malta and the crypto world

OKEx follows a similar move of the world’s largest crypto exchange by market volume, Hong Kong-based Binance, that announced a plan for a Maltese office in March.

Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat personally welcomed OKEx and Binance decisions: “We welcome @OKEx, a world-leading digital exchange, to our growing #blockchain ecosystem. #Malta🇲🇹 is fast becoming the jurisdiction of choice for Distributed Ledger Technology [DLT] companies in the European Union and globally,” Muscat tweeted after the Japanese crypto exchange announcement.


Malta wants to become a “blockchain island” by introducing friendly legislation and regulation. The country released a government strategy in February: “Malta - A leader in DLT Regulation”.

“We would like to be the first country to regulate crypto-currency and blockchain,” a Maltese PM spokesperson told local media. The EU country 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).

Malta or Japan?

Last year, Binance opened an office in Japan, a step that many analysts saw as a sign for future full relocation. But last month, the Japanese Financial Services Agency (FSA) warned the crypto exchange for operating in the country without a proper registration and license.

Japan has become a global hub for crypto trading after China and South Korea tightened grip on digital currencies. Some 16 crypto exchanges have registered in Japan after China banned cryptocurrency trading last year. Meanwhile, South Korea has changed an earlier decision to outlaw crypto trading and ICOs and now plans to introduce AML and transparency rules after public demand.

In 2017, Japan became the world’s first country to regulate crypto exchanges, obliging them to register and get an operating license. Following the USD 530 million Coincheck hack in January, it initiated inspections of crypto exchanges and ordered seven of them to make security improvements. A FSA report this week showed there are 3.5 million active crypto investors in the country.

On the other hand, Malta enters the crypto world with fast steps after Muscat revealed government cryptocurrency and blockchain plans last year. But the EU member state is also object of criticism for its anti-money laundering regulation and practices. On Thursday, the country presented its first-ever AML strategy. The European Parliament has urged the European Commission to launch money laundering investigation of Malta after the murder of investigative journalist Caruana Galizia in October 2017. Galizia was one of the few journalists who investigated corruption and money laundering practices in the smallest EU member state.

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