Bitcoin Use Under Scrutiny In Indonesian Island Of Bali | The News Amed
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Bitcoin Use Under Scrutiny In Indonesian Island Of Bali

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JAKARTA/KUTA, Indonesia – Indonesian authorities are investigating the use of bitcoin in the holiday island of Bali, amid warnings by the central bank in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy over the risks posed by virtual currencies, an official said.

The probe started after the central bank on Dec. 7, 2017 issued a regulation banning the use of cryptocurrencies in payment systems, said Causa Iman Karana, head of Bank Indonesia’s representative office in Bali.

“We found out from some postings on social media that Bali appeared to have become a haven for bitcoin transactions,” said Karana.

Central bank officials and police went undercover at the end of 2017 to investigate scores of businesses in Bali advertising online that they offered bitcoin payment services, said Karana.

The team found two cafes still using bitcoin as a means of payment, but 44 businesses including car rental outlets, hotels, travel companies and jewelry stores, previously offering the service, had now stopped, he said.

One of the cafes used bitcoin only for transactions of more than 243,000 rupiah, or about 0.001 bitcoin. A single transaction took about 1 1/2 hours to be processed and included a fee of 123,000 rupiah so this had discouraged its wider use for payments, said Karana.

The official declined to name the businesses because he was still waiting for further instructions from Bank Indonesia in Jakarta.

“The next step is we will ban them as mandated by the law. We ask them not to use it anymore. Along with the Directorate of Special Crime Investigation unit, we will enforce the rule that all transactions in Indonesia must use rupiah.”

Some locals in Bali said bitcoin was being used mainly by foreigners on the island, which is Indonesia’s tourism hub and has a large expatriate community.

Bank Indonesia has called ownership of virtual currencies high risk and prone to speculation, because no authority takes responsibility or officially administers them and because there is no underlying asset to be the basis for the price.

Virtual currencies could also be used in money laundering and terrorism funding, and could have an impact on the stability of the financial system and causes losses for society, it has said.

While trading has not be regulated so far, the central bank has said it was looking into the issue.

Regulators around the world have been grappling with how to address risks posed by cryptocurrencies, as bitcoin, the world’s most popular virtual currency, soared more than 1,700 percent last year.

Prices have plummeted since South Korea said last week it may ban domestic cryptocurrency exchanges.

Bitcoin.co.id, an Indonesian online cryptocurrency exchange, said on its website that bitcoin was trading at 162.70 million rupiah ($12,247) per unit after losing around a quarter of it value this week.

($1 = 13,285.0000 rupiah)

Writing by Ed Davies;

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Japan Raps Coincheck Orders Broader Checks After 530 Million Cryptocurrency Theft

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TOKYO – Japan’s financial regulator said on Monday it would inspect all cryptocurrency exchanges and ordered Coincheck to get its act together after hackers stole $530 million worth of digital money from its exchange in one of the biggest cyber heists on record.

The theft highlights the vulnerabilities in trading an asset that global policymakers are struggling to regulate and the broader risks for Japan as it aims to leverage the fintech industry to stimulate economic growth.

The Financial Services Agency (FSA) on Monday ordered improvements to operations at Tokyo-based Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin after hackers stole 58 billion yen ($534 million) of NEM coins, among the most popular digital currencies in the world.

Coincheck said on Sunday it would return about 90 percent with internal funds, though it has yet to figure out how or when.

The NEM coins were stored in a “hot wallet” instead of the more secure “cold wallet”, outside the internet, Coincheck said. It also does not use an extra layer of security known as a multi-signature system.

The FSA said it ordered Coincheck to submit an incident report and measures for preventing a recurrence by Feb. 13.

If necessary, it will conduct on-site inspections of other exchanges, an official told a briefing.

The regulator said it has yet to confirm whether Coincheck had sufficient funds for the reimbursement.

Japan started to require cryptocurrency exchange operators to register with the government only in April 2017, allowing pre-existing operators such as Coincheck to continue offering services ahead of formal registration.

The FSA has registered 16 cryptocurrency exchanges so far, and another 16 or so are still awaiting clearance. Coincheck’s application was made in September.

“It’s been long said that cryptocurrencies are a solid system but cryptocurrency exchanges are not,” said Makoto Sakuma, research fellow at NLI Research Institute.

“This incident showed that the problem has not been solved at all. If Coincheck screws up its crisis management, that could deal a blow to the current cryptocurrency fever.”

NEM fell to $0.78 from $1.01 on Friday but recovered to $0.97 on Monday, according to CoinMarketCap. Crypto-currency related shares mostly rose in Tokyo, with GMO Internet, which offers cryptocurrency exchange service, gaining 5.7 pct.

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Singapore-based NEM Foundation said it had a tracing system on the NEM blockchain and that it had “a full account” of all of Coincheck’s lost NEM coins. It added that the hacker had not moved any of the funds to any exchange or personal accounts but that it had no way to return the stolen funds to its owners.

In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing around half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins. More recently, South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Youbit last month shut down and filed for bankruptcy after being hacked twice last year.

World leaders meeting in Davos last week issued fresh warnings about the dangers of cryptocurrencies, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin relating Washington’s concern about the money being used for illicit activity.

Many countries have clamped down on exchanges.

South Korea will ban cryptocurrency traders from using anonymous bank accounts to crack down on the criminal use of virtual coins. China has ordered some exchanges to close, with the aim of containing financial risks.

But Japan has taken a different tack, becoming last year the first country to introduce national-level regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges.

The move, intended to protect consumers and stymie money laundering, was praised by many traders and operators as progressive.

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Japans Rakuten To Acquire Asahi Fire For 45 Billion Yen

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TOKYO – Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten Inc said on Monday it would acquire Asahi Fire & Marine Insurance Co Ltd for 45 billion yen ($413.6 million), its latest move to diversify beyond its online shopping site.

Rakuten said it would launch a tender offer and pay 2,664 yen per share of Asahi Fire, a property insurance firm owned by Nomura Holdings and its subsidiary. Nomura confirmed the tender offer in a separate statement.

Reporting by Minami Funakoshi;

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Google Says Invests In Indonesian Ride-hailing Firm Go-jek

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SINGAPORE – Google has invested in Indonesian ride-hailing firm Go-Jek, as part of its strategy to support and participate in the growth of Indonesia’s internet economy, Caesar Sengupta, a vice president at Google said in a company blog.

“This investment lets us partner with a great local champion in Indonesia’s flourishing startup ecosystem, while also deepening our commitment to Indonesia’s internet economy,” Sengupta said in a post titled “Investing in Indonesia.” bit.ly/2nmqPAf

This month, sources told Reuters that Alphabet’s Google, Singapore state investor Temasek and others were investing in Go-Jek as part of a $1.2 billion fundraising round, bolstering the Indonesian start-up in its battle with deep-pocketed rivals Grab and Uber.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga;

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