1. National Bank of Kuwait Launches Ripple-Based Cross-Border Payments Product
The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has launched a cross-border remittance product based on RippleNet’s blockchain technology, according to an announcement published Dec. 27.
Established in 1952, the NBK is the largest financial institution in terms of assets in Kuwait. Per the bank’s 2017 annual report, the NBK has over $86.3 billion in total assets.
The NBK has reportedly become the first financial establishment in Kuwait to implement a remittance product — “NBK Direct Remit” — for international live payments based on RippleNet’s blockchain technology. The product will purportedly speed up cross-border money transfers.
Dimitrios Kokosioulis, the deputy CEO of group operations and technology, said that the blockchain-based solution allows the bank’s customers to “make money transfers within seconds” and “any time of the day.” Kokosioulis added that the service will also be available in Jordan, and will subsequently expand to other countries.
In November, Malaysian lending giant CIMB Group Holdings Bhd joinedRippleNet. CIMB will integrate Ripple’s current product, a software solution for expediting cross-border payments, for its “SpeedSend” remittance product.
Also, that month, Japanese bank and financial services firm Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. said it will use Ripple to create a new cross-border payments service to Brazil through the partnership with Banco Bradesco. The product aims to “assist the banks as they work toward commercializing a high-speed, transparent and traceable cross-border payments solution between Japan and Brazil.”
In October, Ripple launched its real-time settlement platform rapid for commercial use. rapid is a platform designed to speed up international payments while eliminating the need for a pre-funded nostro account.
2. Bitcoin-Supporting Payments Firm Square Named Yahoo Finance’s Company of the Year
United States-based Bitcoin (BTC)-supporting payments firm Square has been named Yahoo Finance company of the year, according to a report from the media outlet Dec. 18.
As Yahoo Finance reports, $26 billion market cap payments company — founded by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey in 2009 — has reportedly seen its stock go up 72 percent through Dec. 14; its shares were up 170 percent through the end of September, before the wider market downturn.
As previously reported, Square first announced in November 2017 that it would release a BTC trading option to a select 3 million of its Square Cash App customers. The announcement caused its stock to jump $1 billion in just five days. When the company rolled out support for BTC trading for customers across a more extensive range of U.S. states this February, Square’s stock increased yet again.
Cash App lead Brian Grassadonia told Yahoo Finance in a separate report that the stock surge was not the reason the firm introduced BTC support but emphasized the choice stemmed from the company’s commitment to “democratizing access to financial tools that have historically been really complicated, intimidating, and stressful.”
This November, Square reported it had generated $43 million in Bitcoin revenue for Q3 2018, up from $37 million the preceding quarter. That same month, the company’s market cap surpassed that of Twitter, the popular social media platform which shares Jack Dorsey as its CEO.
In October, Square made the code for its Bitcoin cold storage setup open source, a couple of months after support for Bitcoin trading in its Cash App had finally been extended across all 50 U.S. states.
3. Dutch Crypto Firm Libereum Acquires Spanish Soccer Club Elche CF
Dutch crypto firm Libereum has acquired Spanish soccer club Elche CF for $4.9 million, according to a press release published to the Libereum website Dec. 26. The acquisition marks the first step in the crypto company’s ambitions to purchase a set of international soccer clubs and make its ERC20 token, Liber, a mandatory form of payment in the stadiums of those clubs it owns.
Libereum states it secured its purchase of the Segunda División (second division) A club with a bank guarantee of €4.3 million (about $4.9 million) as an initial down payment. According to a report from Finance Magnates published Dec. 27, Libereum had also intended to purchase Dutch club Roda JC Kerkrade, but that deal had “fallen through.”
In 2015, Elche CF — the local club of Elche, the third largest city in the country’s Valencia region — was relegated from Spain’s Primera División (premier division) due to unpaid tax debts and economic mismanagement.
Librium's official statement yesterday outlines that the company aspires to restore the club to the Primera Division by bolstering its financial resources through its Liber token economy:
“We want the [Libereum token] to gradually become part of the financial policy in and around the club, so that everything - on the term - can be paid simply, in an easily accessible way, with Liber. Think of sponsor and transfer deals to ticket sales, merchandising items and catering in the stadium.”
The company claims that demand for the token will drive its market value, generating returns for the club. According to Finance Magnates, Libereum has also this week hinted at an undisclosed deal to purchase another football club allegedly worth €80 million, although details of the purported acquisition are not accessible on the company site as of press time.
As reported, a range of industry players is currently looking to integrate cryptocurrencies with mainstream soccer, with many looking to tokenization as a means to incentivize and monetize fan engagement or to provide additional streams of revenue for clubs and their management.
This August, seven the United Kingdom premier league clubs — Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton & Hove Albion, Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Leicester City Football Club, Newcastle United, and Southampton — partnered with local crypto trading platform eToro to integrate blockchain and cryptocurrencies in soccer stadiums.
In September, French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) — hailed as the country’s most popular team — announced its partnership with blockchain platform Socios.com to launch a token ecosystem.
Just this month, Brazilian premier league soccer club Atletico Mineiro launched its own fan utility token dubbed “GaloCoin.”
4. Silver Miller Files Lawsuit Against Creator of Alleged Crypto Ponzi Scheme
United States crypto-focused law firm Silver Miller has filed a lawsuit against a purported crypto hedge fund manager who was allegedly operating a fraudulent Ponzi scheme. The court documents were published to the Silver Miller website Dec. 26.
The case — which has been filed at the Court of the Southern District of New York on behalf of multiple plaintiffs who invested in the scheme — alleges that Jeremy Spence, alongside a small cohort of accomplices, orchestrated a fake entity called “Coin Signals.” Spence is alleged to have deceptively represented himself as a successful crypto trader. He reportedly offered investors in his scheme “lucrative returns” that he claimed were generated by the series of crypto hedge funds he purported to be managing.
These hedge funds reportedly included an “Alts Fund,” a “Long Term Fund,” a “managed entry” to an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) — dubbed “Evermarkets ICO” — and “Coin Signals Mex (CSM) Fund,” the latter of which is the primary focus of the lawsuit.
In truth, the lawsuit contends, the returns were not profiting from investments, but “were simply reallocations to older investors of new investors’ assets” in a classic Ponzi scheme configuration. As the court documents state, Spence fended off questions from his investors with excuses — such as hacks and family emergencies — in order to “stall for time and plot his next move.”
The CSM Fund, as per Silver Miller, was not registered as a hedge fund with any U.S. regulatory authority and failed to adhere to any of the regulatory requirements a legitimate investment fund is compelled to follow. At its height, the CSM Fund, in particular, is alleged to have held as much as 1,300 Bitcoin (BTC) deposited by the scheme’s investors — valued at the time at over $10 million.
When the CSM fund scheme started to fall apart in late 2018, Spence is alleged to have prevented the fund’s participants from withdrawing their assets. The lawsuit thus “pleads that the Court rescind the investments in the fraudulent Coin Signals funds; return to the investors their cryptocurrency; impose a monetary penalty against Spence and his collaborators for their fraud, and impose a constructive trust over the assets collected by Spence.”
As reported earlier this fall, a New York federal court ordered a crypto hedge fund and its CEO — who had reportedly solicited over $600,000 from at least 80 investors — to pay over $2.5 million for operating a fraudulent Ponzi scheme. The order was pursuant to an anti-fraud enforcement action first filed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission against the fund last year.
5. US Defense Dept. Wants to Use Blockchain to Improve Disaster Relief
Blockchain could make its way into disaster relief operations from the United States Department of Defense, the organization revealed in a press release Dec. 21.
During a presentation hosted by the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) office in Philadelphia earlier this month, officials reviewed how blockchain technology could help emergencies responses.
Efforts to provide aid following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were used as a case study.
“We think there’s a lot of potentials [in blockchain],” CPI management analyst Elijah Londo commented, quoted in the press release:
“Where do we want to be as an organization in shaping and influencing where the [Department of Defense] goes with blockchain?”
The technological improvements would target centralized aspects of the current system, notably areas of logistics that depend on multiple centralized entities. Data sharing under such circumstances is an area ripe for innovation.
Also under review are “transaction processing and in-transit visibility of shipments.”
“This is where I can see where blockchain would have been a big help,” Construction and Equipment deputy director Marko Graham continued:
“Flowing [materiel [sic’ specifications and tracking data] from the manufacturer buying the raw materials to…getting the transportation and getting it on the barges.”
The broader U.S. defense setup has targeted blockchain’s benefits for several years, involving everything from blockchain workshops to a cryptographic chat platform.