Tether expands reach in Georgia through investment in CityPay.io


​​Stablecoin issuer Tether announced on May 31 that it is expanding its presence in the Republic of Georgia through a strategic investment in CityPay.io, a payment processing company that operates across more than 600 locations in the country.

CityPay.io provides payment services to a wide range of customers, including major names like Wendy’s and Radisson Hotels, among numerous others. With its strategic investment in CityPay.io, Tether intends to enhance the payment industry in Georgia by improving efficiency and convenience.

Georgia has established itself as one of the most favorable destinations for crypto companies, attracting several firms to set up operations thanks to its progressive regulatory framework. The Georgian government aims to leverage its competitive advantages to position itself as a prominent global cryptocurrency hub.

Related: Tether has $1.5B in Bitcoin reserves: BDO Italia

Georgia introduced new crypto regulations in 2022. At the time, Georgian Minister of Economy and Vice Prime Minister Levan Davitashvili announced the development of a regulatory framework targeting digital businesses and cryptocurrency trading.

In March, cryptocurrency exchange Binance set up a new blockchain hub in Georgia. The hub, referred to as a “Web3 outpost,” aims to promote the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies within the country. Binance plans to attract talented individuals to Georgia’s blockchain sector, generate more employment opportunities and provide industry education.

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Nansen lays off 30% of its workforce


Blockchain analytics platform Nansen has announced the trimming of its workforce by 30%. On May 30, the Nansen CEO Alex Svanevik disclosed on Twitter that the company had to make an “extremely difficult decision to reduce the size of the Nansen team.” 

Svanevik gave two major reasons for the reduction in Nansen’s workforce. The first was the company’s rapid scaling during its initial years of operation, which “led the organization to taking on surface area that’s not truly part of Nansen’s core strategy.”

Svanevik also cited a brutal year for crypto markets as the second reason for the layoffs. Despite efforts to diversify revenue streams through enterprise and institutional customers, Nansen’s cost base remained relatively high compared to the company’s current position. He added that although the company has “several years of runway,” its “priority is to build a sustainable business.”

The CEO said laid-off employees would be entitled to severance packages. 

Related: Crypto layoffs decelerate, with layoffs falling to 570 in February

Mass layoffs continue to plague the crypto industry, though they have slowed significantly in recent months. In January, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced a workforce reduction of 20%. The decision to cut 950 jobs was attributed to Coinbase’s efforts to decrease operating costs by approximately 25% amid the ongoing crypto winter. 

At the beginning of the year, companies owned by Digital Currency Group (DCG), a crypto venture capital firm, also laid off over 500 employees due to bearish market conditions exacerbated by the collapse of FTX. 

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Binance considers allowing traders to secure collateral at banks: Report


Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is reportedly exploring a potential solution to reduce counterparty risk by allowing some of its institutional clients to keep their trading collateral at a bank instead of on the crypto platform, according to Bloomberg. 

This move comes in response to demands from institutional digital-asset traders for increased security measures following the collapse of FTX late last year, which resulted in substantial losses for many traders.

According to anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Binance has reportedly engaged in discussions with select professional customers on a setup that would enable them to utilize bank deposits as collateral for margin trading in both spot and derivatives markets. Two potential intermediaries for this service, Swiss-based FlowBank and Liechtenstein-based Bank Frick, were mentioned, though the details of any potential partnerships remain private. 

Under the proposal, client funds held at the bank would be secured through a tri-party agreement, while Binance would provide stablecoins as collateral for margin trading. The funds deposited with the bank could be invested in money-market funds, enabling clients to earn interest and offset the cost of borrowing crypto from Binance.

According to the unnamed sources, the suggested arrangement is still under discussion and subject to potential modifications.

Related: Binance denies fund mismanagement allegations, calls it ‘conspiracy theory’

During a May 29 interview on the Bankless Podcast, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) addressed the idea of Binance buying a bank and making it crypto-friendly. CZ acknowledged that Binance had considered the idea but explained the complexities involved. He pointed out that acquiring a bank would be limited to the jurisdiction of that particular country and would still require compliance with local banking regulators. He explained:

“The reality is much more complex than the concept. You buy one bank, it only works in one country, and you still have to deal with the banking regulators of that country. It doesn’t mean you can buy a bank and do whatever you wanna do.”

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Cronos Labs launches second cohort of $100M Web3 accelerator


Blockchain startup accelerator Cronos Labs has announced the launch of its second cohort for the Cronos Accelerator Program. The program, backed by a substantial $100 million investment, aims to support early-stage crypto projects by providing mentorship and funding opportunities. 

According to an announcement sent to Cointelegraph, Cronos Labs handpicked eight projects to participate in their accelerator program. Each of the selected projects, namely Omnus, DeMe, Furrend, Solace, Sakaba, Eisen Finance, Earn Network, and CorgiAi, received upfront seed funding of $30,000 to commence their 12-week program.

The chosen projects cover a diverse range of areas, including Web3 game development, decentralized social networking, pet-focused video sharing, smart-contract wallet integration, loyalty platforms for Web3 gaming, exchange aggregation for institutional trading, liquid marketplaces for yield-earning opportunities, and an ecosystem for the peer-to-peer economy of generative AI.

One of the key themes of this second cohort is the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology. Cronos Labs has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer AI-related workshops and mentorship sessions to the participating projects. Additionally, the chosen projects will have access to AWS’ resources, including machine learning and AI services. CertiK, Hacken, and Covalent are among the noteworthy additions as partners for this cohort.

At the conclusion of the 12-week program, the participating projects will be given the platform to present their concepts to investment partners at a Demo Day scheduled for late July 2023. This event will give participants the opportunity to secure additional seed funding and garner backing from investors including NGC, Fundamental Labs, Spartan Group, and Delphi Digital.

Related: Solana integrates AI into blockchain, raises grants fund to $10M

Cronos, the blockchain platform by Crypto.com, introduced its $100 million accelerator program in June to support early-stage DeFi and Web3 projects. The program was supported by notable companies including Mechanism Capital, Spartan Labs, IOSG Ventures, OK Blockchain Capital, AP Capital, Altcoin Buzz, and Dorahacks.

Despite a long crypto winter, there has been a rise in blockchain accelerator programs focusing on Web3 development. On May 22, The Open Network (TON), a layer-1 blockchain developed by Telegram, unveiled the “TON Accelerator Program,” a fund worth $25 million to support projects within its ecosystem. The program will provide investments ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 per project, along with valuable partnerships and mentorship from TON’s team.

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Ripple and SEC seek extension for unsealing Hinman documents


On May 19, James K. Filan, a defense attorney and ex-federal prosecutor who has been closely monitoring the SEC vs Ripple case for the past few years, shared an update regarding the potential unsealing of the Hinman documents for public access.

According to a tweet on Twitter, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Ripple Labs have filed a “joint Letter for one week extension, until June 13, 2023, to file public, [redacted] versions of cross-motions for summary judgment and accompanying exhibits, which includes the Hinman materials.” 

The Hinman documents pertain to a speech given in 2018 by former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s corporation finance division, Bill Hinman. During the speech, Hinman expressed the view that Ether (ETH), should not be classified as a security. These documents encompass the SEC’s internal conversations and deliberations surrounding this particular speech.

Some members in the crypto community find the joint petition to be “weird”. A lawyer, Fred Rispoli, with the twitter handle @freddyriz tweeted in response to Filan’s announcement; “This is weird to me. The parties already had detailed discussions on these redactions the first time around. Could be nothing more than what’s written but it’s just…odd. This gives me the feeling that something has changed and there is a scramble going on behind the scenes.”

Related: Breaking: Court victory for Ripple as judge denies SEC motion to seal Hinman docs

On May 18, CEO of Ripple, Brad Garlinghouse, stated in an interview with CNBC that the ambiguous regulations in the United States are likely to drive more cryptocurrency companies to relocate outside the country. Ripple itself is actively seeking to hire and make investments abroad as a result of these regulatory uncertainties.

Garlinghouse’s comments to CNBC come days after Ripple acquired Swiss blockchain custody firm Metaco for $250M. The acquisition is set to allow Ripple to expand its enterprise services to include custody, issuance, and settlement of tokenized assets. Ripple expects the institutional crypto-custody market to reach $10 trillion by 2030, as many financial leaders plan to adopt crypto-custody solutions in the next few years. 

Magazine: Crypto regulation — Does SEC Chair Gary Gensler have the final say?

Jack Dorsey’s TBD announces new Web5 toolkit


TBD, a division of fintech company Block, which is led by CEO Jack Dorsey, has announced a novel Web5 decentralized web platform at Bitcoin Miami on May 19. 

The platform aims to introduce “decentralized identity and data storage” to applications, thereby allowing developers to leverage the technology to create “delightful user experiences, while returning ownership of data and identity to individuals,” the company shared. 

Dorsey’s Web5 platform also seeks to introduce several key components to facilitate this decentralized web experience. Under the platform, wallets will act as agents, facilitating identity and data interactions for individuals and institutions. Decentralized web nodes (DWNs) will serve as personal data stores, securely holding both public and encrypted data, while Decentralized web apps (DWAs) leverage decentralized identity and data storage capabilities to enhance user experiences.

Furthermore, the Web 5 platform will also employ the use of decentralized identifiers (DIDs), which are internationally recognized standards for identifiers created and controlled by individuals, eliminating reliance on centralized entities. The platform will also incorporate self-sovereign identity services and software development kits (SDKs) that provide the necessary tools for utilizing decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials.

Related: Jack Dorsey’s Block asks for input on proposed ‘mining development kit’

In recent years, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has advocated for a “free and open protocol” for social media. In June 2022, Cointelegraph announced that Dorsey was building ‘Web5’ powered by Bitcoin focused on bypassing Web3 entirely, and utilizing a new Bitcoin-centric model for identity management.

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Coinbase launches zero trading fee subscription service


Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is set to launch its subscription service called “Coinbase One” across 35 countries. Initially, only customers in the United Kingdom, Germany and Ireland will have access to Coinbase One. According to the May 18 announcement, Coinbase One aims to provide features such as zero-fee trading, amplified staking rewards and exclusive benefits through partnerships with industry players such as Messari and CoinTracker for a monthly fee of $29.99. Furthermore, Coinbase plans to collaborate with other partners — such as Alto IRA (Individual Retirement Account), Blockworks’ Permissionless and Lemonade — to bring additional benefits to its members.

Coinbase also shared that its new subscription service will give members access to a 24/7 dedicated support team, whereby members can reach out for assistance via phone and receive prompt help for any technical account issues they may encounter. In addition, the latest subscription service will also offer United States members the convenience of a pre-filled tax Form 8949, simplifying the process of filing crypto taxes by automatically organizing their transactions.

Related: Coinbase going international sparks community reactions: ‘Crypto is global’

On May 2, Coinbase introduced the Coinbase International Exchange, a new institutional platform designed specifically for trading crypto derivatives. The news of Coinbase’s strategic decision to broaden its operations internationally via the introduction of a global platform comes in response to regulatory challenges the exchange continues to face in the United States. Despite Coinbase’s bid to expand internationally, CEO Brian Armstrong has assured users that he is still “100% committed” to the U.S. market

Magazine: Crypto regulation: Does SEC Chair Gary Gensler have the final say?

Former CFO indicted for diverting $35M to cryptocurrency venture


Nevin Shetty, a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at a Seattle start-up company, was indicted on May 17 in the U.S. District Court in Seattle on charges of wire fraud. 

The indictment alleges that Shetty, 39, diverted approximately $35 million from the start-up company’s coffers to a cryptocurrency platform under his personal control. Shetty reportedly established this platform, known as HighTower Treasury, in February 2022, shortly before being notified of his impending departure as CFO due to concerns regarding his performance. 

During the period from April 1 to April 12, 2022, Shetty allegedly transferred a substantial amount of $35,000,100 from his employers to an account linked to HighTower, without the knowledge of any other individuals within the company. The alleged purpose behind this transaction was for HighTower to allocate the funds towards investments within the decentralized finance (DeFi) sector of the cryptocurrency market. This arrangement entailed Shetty’s company to receive a 6% interest rate, while the remaining interest would be retained by HighTower, potentially yielding considerable profits.  

Prosecutors say that the value of Shetty’s cryptocurrency investments began to decline rapidly, and by May 13, 2022, the $35 million investment had essentially become worthless. Upon discovering the embezzlement, the start-up company promptly reported the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), triggering an investigation into the matter. If convicted of wire fraud, Shetty could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He is expected to be arraigned on May 25, 2023.

Related: State regulators crack down on fraudulent cryptos promoted as ‘Elon Musk AI Token’ and ‘TruthGPT Coin’

In a similar case, Cooper Morgenthau, the former CFO of African Gold Acquisition Corporation (AGAC), was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling over $5 million from multiple special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). Between June 2021 and August 2022, Morgenthau wired around $1.2 million to his personal accounts and used the money to trade cryptocurrencies and “meme stocks,” resulting in significant losses.

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South Korean prime minister calls for disclosure of crypto holdings by high-ranking officials


South Korean Prime Minister Han Deok-soo is calling for the disclosure and registration of cryptocurrency assets by high-ranking public officials, a local news outlet has reported

In a press conference held at the Sejong Government Complex on May 17, the Prime Minister reportedly emphasized the importance of including crypto assets in the property registration of high-ranking public officials.

According to a Google-translated version of the report, Prime Minister Han told reporters that the issue of whether high-ranking officials should include virtual currency in property registration “can be fully discussed and decided in the National Assembly.” According to the report, the Prime Minister shared that “Personally, I think it’s right to put it in (in the property registration).”

To support his stance, the Prime Minister drew a parallel with the registration of other valuable assets. He mentioned that registering a certain threshold of precious metals is currently mandatory, and similar requirements could be implemented for cryptocurrency holdings.

At present, there are no requirements to disclose cryptocurrency holdings, and each official decides independently whether to reveal such assets.

Related: South Korean lawmaker leaves political party amid crypto investment controversy

The recent revelation of Congressman Kim Nam-kuk’s significant cryptocurrency investments has sparked calls for thorough investigations into the cryptocurrency holdings of policymakers and their inclusion in property registrations.

Kim is currently being investigated by the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit for reportedly liquidating around $4.5 million worth of cryptocurrency before the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force’s “Travel Rule.” 

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Crypto community reacts to Ledger wallet’s secret recovery phrase service


Several crypto community members, including Ledger wallet owners, have taken to social media to express their discontent following the release of Ledger’s latest feature. The newly introduced retrieval solution for itshardware crypto wallets, known as Ledger Recover, aims to offer a safeguard in case users misplace their seed phrase.

Ledger Recover is a subscription service that allows users to utilize an additional layer of protection for their private keys. This service employs a technique where the user’s seed phrase is divided into three encrypted fragments, each sent to different external entities. Once these fragments are combined and decrypted, they can be used to reconstruct the original seed phrase. 

The wallet provider shared that Ledger Recover is an optional subscription for users who want to back up their secret recovery phrase. “You don’t have to use it, and can continue managing your recovery phrase yourself if that’s why you bought a Ledger,” the company explained. 

Nevertheless, the concept has enraged many in the crypto community, including security specialists.

Mudit Gupta, the chief information security officer at Polygon Labs, shared, “It’s a horrendous idea, DON’T enable this feature.” Gupta expanded further in his Twitter thread that “The problem here is that the encrypted keys parts are sent to 3 corporations and they can reconstruct your keys.” 

Founder and CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, chimed in on Gupta’s thread, saying  “So the seed can leave the device now? Sounds like a different direction than “your keys never leave the device.” 

Bitcoin (BTC) investor and podcaster Chris Dunn shared, “First they exposed mailing address, phone numbers, and email addresses of their customers… And now they’ve put a back door into seed phrases. It’s time to say goodbye to Ledger,“ referencing the Ledger data leak that exposed users’ information in 2020.

Crypto investor DCinvestor, also referenced Ledger’s previous data leak that left users exposed and vulnerable, saying, “reminder that several years ago, Ledger leaked the name and home addresses for all of their customers via a data breach..the absolute last thing you want on their servers is your private key.”

Bitcoin investor and entrepreneur Alistair Milne shared, “Sure, you *could* use Ledger’s new ‘Recover’ service and give them […] your private keys controlling your assets as well as a copy of your ID and other personal information…… but why then bother with a hardware wallet in the first place?” His post suggested that Ledger’s latest recovery service undermines the whole point of self-custody via a hard wallet.

Related: Ledger data leak: A ‘simple mistake’ exposed 270K crypto wallet buyers

In April, Ledger launched the Ledger Nano S Plus, a specialized wallet tailored to nonfungible tokens (NFTs). The Ledger Nano S Plus aims to enhance user safety and deliver an improved experience for Web3 customers who routinely trade NFTs. This development follows Ledger’s recent integration of “clear signing” technology through Ledger Live, further bolstering user security measures.

Established in 2014, Ledger has become a prominent global player in the realm of hardware cryptocurrency wallets. The company has reportedly sold an estimated 4.5 million wallets and introduced six distinct wallet models.

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Digital asset market shrinks as fund outflows reach $200M: CoinShares


On May 15, European cryptocurrency investment firm CoinShares published its latest “Digital Asset Fund Flows Report,” which revealed that digital asset investment products experienced another week of consecutive outflows, with a total of $54 million exiting the market. This brings “the total outflow to US$200m, representing 0.6% of total assets under management (AuM),” CoinShares reported. 

Weekly crypto asset flows. Source: CoinShares

According to the report, Bitcoin (BTC) funds witnessed outflows of $38 million. Over the past four weeks, total BTC outflows amounted to $160 million, accounting for 80% of all outflows. Furthermore, when combining the outflows from short positions on Bitcoin, the total value of outflows related to this asset alone reached $201 million. These numbers strongly highlight that recent investor activity has been overwhelmingly focused on Bitcoin.

The report also noted that multi-asset investments experienced outflows of $7 million in the past week. However, there was a noteworthy development as inflows were observed across eight different altcoin assets, implying that investors are becoming “more adventurous and selective” in their investment choices. 

Among the altcoins, funds tied to Cardano (ADA), Tron (TRX), and Sandbox (SAND) attracted minor inflows of less than $1 million each. Binance (BNB) was the only altcoin to witness outflows.

Related: Bitcoin offers ‘good signs’ as analysts retain $40K BTC price target

A recent survey conducted by Bloomberg’s Markets Live Pulse indicates that in the event of a theoretical debt default in the United States, Bitcoin could emerge as one of the top three assets alongside gold and United States Treasurys. This suggests that appetite for Bitcoin as a “digital gold” could emerge if investors doubt Washington’s ability to avoid a default in the long run. 

Magazine: $3.4B of Bitcoin in a popcorn tin: The Silk Road hacker’s story

MakerDAO launches Spark Protocol, a new DeFi lending solution for DAI users


MakerDAO, a decentralized autonomous organization that operates on the Ethereum blockchain and issues stablecoin DAI, has announced that it has launched the Spark Protocol, a lending solution for DAI users. 

According to the Twitter announcement, the first version of the Spark Protocol will act as a “lending marketplace” providing users with supply and borrowing features for cryptocurrencies such as Ether (ETH), staked Ether (stETH), DAI, and staked DAI (sDAI). The platform is specifically designed for DAI and aims to provide users with access to competitive interest rates.

The Spark Protocol is also linked to Maker’s D3M (Direct Deposit Dai Module), a system that enables interaction between the Maker ecosystem and third-party lending pools. The link between Spark Protocol and Maker’s D3M seeks to enable users to borrow DAI at more competitive rates, with an initial annual rate of just 1.11%. 

Regarding the connection between Spark Protocol and Maker’s D3M, the announcement noted: “This direct wholesale credit line in DAI injects and automatically balances fresh DAI liquidity into Spark Lend and enables its users to access the best rates in the market.” 

Ultimately, the Spark Protocol lending solution promises to enhance MakerDAO’s DAI lending capabilities, increase liquidity, offer users improved rates, a yield-bearing version of DAI, and more liquidity options. 

Related: MakerDAO votes to keep USDC as primary collateral, rejects ‘diversification’ plan

MakerDAO recently proposed a new “constitution” designed to establish and formalize its governance processes, as well as safeguard against potential threats from malicious actors who may attempt to take over the protocol. 

To ensure the security and stability of the Maker Protocol and protect user funds from potential failures or losses due to human and institutional decisions, MakerDAO‘s new constitution utilizes “alignment engineering” to solidify the core commitments of the Maker community.

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BNP Paribas teams up with Bank of China to promote digital yuan usage


The French bank BNP Paribas is collaborating with the Bank of China (BOC) to promote China’s digital currency, the digital yuan, to its corporate clients, the South China Morning Post reported

The partnership will enable BNP Paribas China’s corporate clients to connect with the BOC system, allowing users to manage their digital yuan wallets by linking them to their bank accounts, track transactions, and make payments using China’s digital currency via an e-CNY management system. The e-CNY management system also promises to make it easier and more convenient for clients to use digital cash for real-time transactions.

The e-CNY management system can facilitate “efficient, real-time and convenient [digital cash] practice,” BNP shared, according to The South China Morning Post. 

BNP Paribas China also plans to explore the use of China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) in other areas such as smart contracts, supply chain finance, utility and cross-border payments.

Related: North Carolina House passes bill banning CBDC payments to the state

To promote the adoption of its CBDC, China handed out millions of dollars worth of digital yuan across the country during the Lunar New Year period. A number of cities reportedly gave away over 180 million yuan, amounting to $26.5 million worth of CBDCs in programs such as subsidies and consumption coupons.

In April, local news reported that the Chinese city of Changshu notified all civil servants within its jurisdiction that they would be paid their full salaries in digital yuan starting May 2023. The payment terms apply to all civil servants in the public service and other state-owned units in the city. 

Despite the Chinese government’s efforts to promote the digital yuan, Hong Kong residents have not shown much enthusiasm for the government’s drive to promote the adoption of its CBDC. During the first four days of the hard launch of the digital yuan wallet, only 625 residents signed up, indicating a lukewarm response to the new digital currency offering.

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State regulators crack down on fraudulent cryptos promoted as ‘Elon Musk AI Tokens’ and ‘TruthGPT Coin’


The Texas State Securities Board, including several state regulators, have come together to issue cease-and-desist orders against Horatiu Charlie Caragaceanu and his organizations, The Shark of Wall Street and Hedge4.ai, for promoting two cryptocurrencies named TruthGPT Coin and Elon Musk AI Token. The orders seek to clamp down on what they claim is a fraudulent securities scheme attempting to capitalize on the growing buzz around artificial intelligence (AI).

The TruthGPT Coin is being marketed as a cryptocurrency that utilizes an AI system called Elon Musk AI. The AI model can allegedly examine multiple digital assets, anticipate future cryptocurrency values, and distinguish lucrative investments from fraudulent ones. The parties involved are also promoting TruthGPT Coin as a highly profitable venture, even stating it could increase in worth by a staggering 10,000 times.

The Emergency Cease and Desist Order states that investors are being falsely informed of Elon Musk’s endorsement of TruthGPT Coin, and animated avatars and images of Musk are being utilized to give the impression of his support. Promotional media also shows the alleged involvement of other public figures, including Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the founder and CEO of Binance, and Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum. 

Securities Commissioner Travis J. Iles cautioned, “Bad actors continue their attempts to capitalize on this widespread public interest.” He explained: 

“They’re devising schemes that create the appearance that they have developed sophisticated artificial intelligence platforms – but instead of being rooted in artificial intelligence, the offerings too often are nothing more than frauds.”

Texas State Securities Board enforcement director Joe Rotunda advised investors to stay vigilant and “to set aside emotion and objectively evaluate every offering – especially when pitched by an unknown person through the internet.”

Related: How is artificial intelligence used in fraud detection?

The fraudulent scheme highlights the continuous need for caution and due diligence in the cryptocurrency industry. Using buzzwords like “artificial intelligence” can be enticing for investors, but as seen in this case, it can also be used by bad actors to promote fraudulent activities, including pump-and-dump schemes, which is common within the crypto industry.

According to data gathered by Chainalysis, “of the 40,521 tokens launched in 2022 that gained sufficient traction to be worth analyzing, 9,902, or 24%, saw a price decline in the first week indicative of possible pump and dump activity.”

Magazine: 4 clever crypto scams to beware — Dubai OTC trader Amin Rad

Interest rate hike speculation triggers outflows from crypto investment products: Report


On May 2, European cryptocurrency investment firm CoinShares published its latest “Digital Asset Fund Flows Weekly Report,” which stated that the digital asset market experienced bearish sentiment for the second consecutive week, resulting in outflows totaling $72 million. The report noted that the bearish sentiment could be attributed to the probability of further interest rate hikes by the United States Federal Reserve this week.

Weekly crypto asset flows. Source: CoinShares

According to the report, crypto market funds experienced outflows across all geographies and providers, particularly in Germany and Canada, where outflows reached $40 million and $14 million, respectively.

Bitcoin (BTC) recorded the largest outflows at $46 million, with short-Bitcoin also experiencing outflows of $7.8 million, its highest figure since December 2022. Despite the recent outflows, short-Bitcoin continues to lead in inflows for the year, with net inflows of $119 million. Meanwhile, Ether (ETH) products saw outflows amounting to $19 million, marking the biggest weekly outflows since the Merge in September 2022.

On a positive note, a small number of altcoin funds experienced minor inflows, with Solana (SOL), Algorand (ALGO) and Polygon (MATIC) each gaining less than $1 million in capital flows. 

Blockchain equities also experienced negative sentiment, resulting in outflows of $2.5 million last week, although the year-to-date net flows remain positive at $27 million.

CoinShares researcher James Butterfill authored the report. He wrote, “Volumes remain subdued for the broader crypto market (50% less than year average) while ETP [exchange-traded products] investment product volumes at US$1.7bn for the week are 16% above the year average.”

Related: BTC price may need a $24.4K dip as Bitcoin speculators stay in profit

Although Bitcoin has experienced significant price fluctuations over the past week, resulting in $340 million worth of leveraged BTC futures contract liquidations, the BTC price has increased 72% this year, outperforming the S&P 500 index’s 9% gain. 

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Tribe Capital considers reviving bankrupt crypto exchange FTX: Report


Tribe Capital, the San Francisco-based venture capital firm that previously invested in FTX before its collapse, is exploring the possibility of injecting new capital to revive the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, Bloomberg reported on April 18.

The venture capital firm is reportedly contemplating leading a $250 million fundraising campaign, anchored by $100 million from itself and its limited partners. According to Bloomberg, sources familiar with the matter say that Tribe co-founder, Arjun Sethi, met with FTX’s Committee of Unsecured Creditors in January to discuss the informal proposal. 

Bloomberg also reported that “Tribe’s proposal in January included an estimated 9 million customer accounts, FTX US, FTX Australia, FTX Japan, FTX EU, FTX International and LedgerX, while excluding a venture capital portfolio and crypto assets, among others.” If the reboot plan is successful, the revived exchange will retain the name FTX.

On April 18, the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of FTX took to Twitter to confirm that “The Committee is working with the Debtors to evaluate all options to reboot or sell the FTX exchanges and create value for creditors.” However, the committee added, “There is no definitive timetable for a reboot or sale of the exchanges at this time.”

Related: FTX’s bankruptcy lawyers and advisers pocket $32.5M in February

In January 2023, the judge overseeing the FTX bankruptcy proceedings gave the troubled crypto exchange approval to sell some of its assets to help repay its creditors. According to a filing in Delaware Bankruptcy Court, Judge John Dorsey approved the sale of four key units of FTX, which included derivatives platform LedgerX, stock-trading platform Embed and the exchange’s regional arms, FTX Japan and FTX Europe.

On April 12, attorneys from Sullivan & Cromwell, who were representing FTX at a hearing in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, stated that the exchange had recovered approximately $7.3 billion in liquid assets.

Magazine: Can you trust crypto exchanges after the collapse of FTX?

Coinbase may face years-long court battle with SEC, CEO warns: Report


United States cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is gearing up for a lengthy legal battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after the regulator warned the company of potential securities law violations, CEO Brian Armstrong told CNBC in an interview on April 18.

Coinbase received a Wells notice from the U.S. SEC on March 22, indicating a possible enforcement action. The notice is usually the last step before the regulator files charges. In response, Armstrong expressed disappointment and revealed that the company had not received any clear details from the SEC about the alleged violations. He told CNBC:

“We’ve met with them over 30 times in the last year … never got a single piece of feedback from them about what we can be doing better or differently, and then this Wells Notice arrived. I think we’re going to have to actually end up going to court to get the clarity we need and create the case law.”

Armstrong said his company is prepared for a lengthy battle with the SEC, if necessary. Armstrong explained to CNBC that while litigation is not a preferred outcome, Coinbase may need to go to court to gain the clarity it requires. The CEO also criticized the SEC’s lack of clarity for companies in the crypto industry, accusing the regulator of an “abdication of responsibility” and failing to publish a clear rulebook for the market. 

During a fintech event in London on April 18, Armstrong revealed that Coinbase might consider relocating from the U.S. due to the lack of regulatory clarity. He mentioned that the company is currently looking at other markets, with the United Kingdom being a priority due to its efforts to position itself as a crypto hub.

Related: Coinbase CEO calls for action in electing pro-crypto lawmakers following SEC Wells notice

On April 17, the SEC charged crypto asset trading platform Bittrex and its cofounder and former CEO William Shihara for operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker, and clearing agency. The regulator also filed a separate charge against Bittrex Global.

The SEC’s former chief of the Office of Internet Enforcement, John Reed Stark, shared on Twitter that in light of the SEC’s recent charges against Bittrex, he believes “Coinbase is next.” 

Aleph Zero launches $50M ecosystem funding program


Aleph Zero is launching a $50 million Aleph Zero Ecosystem Funding Program, the layer-1 privacy-enhancing blockchain announced on April 18. The nonprofit Aleph Zero Foundation overseeing its development of Aleph Zero aims to support developer teams to build on its platform and advance blockchain adoption globally.

In an interview with Cointelegraph, Aleph Zero co-founder Antoni Zolciak shared that “the goal of the Aleph Zero Ecosystem Funding Program is to fund innovations from developer teams that expand the capabilities, functionalities, and adoption of the Aleph Zero blockchain.” Zolciak also told Cointelegraph that the program would support various project ideas, from proof-of-concept to experienced teams with solutions on different platforms.

Aleph Zero wants to attract developers by providing comprehensive support that goes beyond just grants, such as assisting with business feasibility, regulatory compliance and community-building. The foundation seeks to offer access to a reliable partner network, as well asshare its own experience in building something from scratch. “We’re hoping to introduce a somewhat redesigned approach to how layer-1s can support builders and to go beyond simply providing grants,” said Zolciak. 

The Ecosystem Funding Program comprises of grants, incubation and acceleration at all stages of product development, with successful applicants receiving up to $500,000 per project in grant funding. Additionally, grant recipients will gain exclusive access to Aleph Zero’s venture capital pool, infrastructure credits from Amazon Web Services and security design consultations from Kudelski Security. The Aleph Zero partner network will also provide marketing, branding, UX, product design and operational support as needed.

Speaking on the kinds of projects Aleph Zero is interested in supporting and the criteria for selecting grant recipients, Aleph Zero ecosystem lead Magdalena Oleksy told Cointelegraph that “the Aleph Zero Foundation is actively seeking to support a diverse range of projects that add value to the ecosystem. When selecting grant recipients, we consider the ability of the team to enhance network usage and adoption, their execution capabilities, and the uniqueness of the project.” Ultimately, the foundation seeks to encourage innovation and originality in proposals.  

The program’s pilot phase has already produced a range of projects, such as decentralized lending and borrowing protocol Abax, NFT marketplace ArtZero, domain name service AZERO Domains, unique dark metaverse experience DRKVRS, enterprise-grade decentralized identity platform Gatenox and decentralized security platform Interlock.

Aleph Zero’s Ecosystem Funding Program is backed by long-term contributors to the project, including NxGen, Diamond Atlas Capital, BlackDragon, Necker Ventures, Hodl.nl and Hodl Ventures, Pragma Ventures, RR2 Capital, Cardinal Cryptography and Cardinal Ventures, Bellwether Rocks and Offbeat. 

Related: Pantera Capital leads $22.5M investment in M^ZERO Labs for decentralized infrastructure

Despite recent ecosystem funding news, venture capitalist investment into crypto firms continued to fall in the first quarter of 2023. According to a report by Galaxy Research —  the research arm of crypto investment firm Galaxy Digital — $2.4 billion invested by VCs throughout Q1 2023 was the lowest sum invested since the last quarter of 2020.

The report said that “Companies building in the Web3, NFTs, DAOs, Metaverse, and Gaming subsector raised the most deals, while Trading, Exchange, Investing, and Lending companies raised the most capital ($538m).” 

VC investments have been falling since peaking at nearly $13 billion in Q1 2022, with the latest quarter’s results representing a decline of over 80% compared to the same to last year.

Magazine: Why join a blockchain gaming guild? Fun, profit and create better games

Core DAO partners with Bitget and MEXC to launch $200M ecosystem fund


Core DAO, an organization committed to the development of the Satoshi Plus ecosystem, has introduced a $200 million Ecosystem Fund aimed at speeding up the development of decentralized applications and protocols built on the Core layer-1 blockchain. 

According to two press releases seen by Cointelegraph, one from CoreDAO and one from Bitget, The Ecosystem Fund — which is supported by strategic partners such as cryptocurrency exchanges Bitget and MEXC — aims to provide financial support to early-stage projects. This support will encompass various areas such as research and development, recruitment, marketing, community-building programs and other essential growth initiatives.

In addition to the investment, the partnership also involves the listing of Core projects and the opening of a new Core Trading Zone on Bitget and its integrated BitKeep wallet. Bitget also plans to become one of the validators of the Core network and support Core staking on the exchange. Bitget’s user base of over 8 million can also offer substantial staking capabilities to the Core DAO ecosystem, providing it with essential liquidity.

The Ecosystem Fund of Core DAO claims to distinguish itself from industry peers by not adopting a grant-based system in which a project’s primary requirement to obtain financial support is committing to build on a particular protocol. Instead, the Ecosystem Fund will incentivize each project to achieve pre-agreed customized benchmarks that provide tangible value to the Core community.

Rich Rines, the initial contributor at Core DAO, commented: “Too often, grant programs seem designed to grab headlines and generate short-term momentum rather than incubating projects aligned with the ecosystem’s long-term success.”

“Core DAO has always prioritized creating the highest quality technology in the blockchain industry versus being the ‘first’ or the ‘fastest’ to do something. That’s why our Ecosystem Fund will incentivize projects for their ability to both deliver value and sustain success,” he added

Gracy Chen, the managing director of Bitget, said: 

“This investment is another show of proof of our commitment to supporting the blockchain space from various angles. We have to keep in mind that the purpose of blockchain is to link the real world with Web3 space, and that is exactly what we are promoting with this partnership and our support to the ecological fund.” 

Related: Umami Labs founder: DAOs aren’t always the answer

Crypto derivatives exchange and a strategic partner of The Ecosystem Fund of Core DAO, Bitget, has also recently launched a $100M Web3 fund for crypto projects in Asia. Bitget has declared its intention to direct its funding towards Web3-compatible venture firms and projects on a global scale. The company shared that it will focus on Asian projects led by experienced teams that possess clear roadmaps and are addressing real-world issues.

During the launch of its Web3 fund, Bitget managing director Gracy Chen highlighted the fast-paced evolution of the Web3 landscape and emphasized the need to support deserving projects that can propel its development and make it a global phenomenon like Web2. Chen stressed that the Bitget Web3 fund’s primary objective is to identify projects that have the greatest potential to drive this transformation forward.

The other strategic partner of the Ecosystem Fund of Core DAO is MEXC, a cryptocurrency trading platform that offers users access to various digital assets and trading features, including spot and margin trading, derivatives trading and staking services. 

Magazine: Toss in your job and make $300K working for a DAO? Here’s how

CME Group to expand Bitcoin and Ether option expiries after record daily volume


On Apr. 17, derivatives marketplace Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) Group, announced it will broaden its range of cryptocurrency options by adding new options to its standard and micro-sized Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) contracts. Pending regulatory review, these new contracts will be available from May 22, and expiries will be available every day of the business week from Monday to Friday. 

According to the announcement, CME Group’s expanded suite of cryptocurrency options will include new expiry dates for Bitcoin and Ether futures contracts. These options will now expire every day from Monday to Friday, providing traders with greater flexibility to manage short-term price risks. Furthermore, options on micro-sized Bitcoin and Ether futures contracts will add Tuesday and Thursday expiries to their existing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday contracts. The newly added expiries will complement the existing monthly and quarterly expiries that are already available across all Bitcoin and Ether options on futures contracts.

The move, according to CME Group, is aimed at providing market participants with greater precision and versatility in managing short-term Bitcoin and Ether price risk. It also comes at a time of heightened market volatility in the digital asset sector.

CME Group’s Bitcoin and Ether futures and options complex has already achieved a record daily average notional of more than $3 billion through Q1 2023. This signifies an increase in client demand for liquid hedging tools. The complex achieved other trading highlights as well, including a record 11,500 contracts and open interest averaging a record 24,094 contracts for Bitcoin futures and options in Q1 2023. In addition, CME Group’s Bitcoin and Ether futures and options have a surge in trading volumes, with a record 2,357 Bitcoin options contracts traded on March 22, and a record open interest (OI) of 14,700 contracts on March 31. 

Related: Bitcoin sparks liquidations as analyst says BTC price may dip 12% more

CME Group introduced its first BTC futures contract in December 2017, followed by an ETH futures contract in February 2021. To cater to the increasing demand for cryptocurrency investment options, the exchange expanded its offerings in 2022 to include micro BTC and ETH futures. Additionally, it launched euro-denominated BTC and ETH futures when the euro was trading at parity with the US dollar, which is currently worth around $1 per euro at the time of writing.

As at the time of publication, the price of ETH is at $2,085 and the price of BTC is at $29,503, falling below its previous high of $30,000. 

Magazine: Toss in your job and make $300K working for a DAO? Here’s how

Crypto lender Amber Group considers selling Japan unit: Report


Amber Group, a Singapore-based crypto lender, is considering selling its Japanese unit as part of its plan to focus more on institutional business rather than retail business, Bloomberg reported

According to Annabelle Huang, Amber’s managing partner, the firm is currently evaluating options for its Japan operation, including a potential sale. Currently, no deal has been finalized. Huang noted that Japan is a “very high quality market, but regulations are strict.” 

Meanwhile, Amber plans to apply for a virtual asset trading platform license in Hong Kong following the special administrative region’s push to become a digital-asset hub. Huang said that the regulatory scene in Hong Kong has been very bullish for the firm. 

Hong Kong is aiming to develop virtual-asset regulations that will encourage growth and protect investors, in contrast to Singapore, which has been tightening its rules on cryptocurrencies, especially for retail investors. “Hong Kong is sort of leading the way at the moment, but I think Singapore is not exactly closing the door as well,” Huang added.

Related: Amber Group ditches expansion plans after denying insolvency: Report

In December 2022, Amber Group secured $300 million in a Series C funding round led by Fenbushi Capital US. The decision to proceed with Series C came after the collapse of FTX, causing Amber to pause its previous Series B funding. Before the FTX collapse, Amber was in the process of completing an extension of its Series B, aiming to raise $100 million at a $3 billion valuation. 

The FTX fallout impacted Amber Group operationally as well, with the company reportedly laying off over 40% of its staff.

Paxos set to withdraw from Canada amid regulatory uncertainty


Paxos, a fintech company that offers blockchain-based solutions for the global financial industry, has announced its decision to withdraw from the Canadian Market. 

The company released a statement on its website informing customers that they will no longer be able to transact from their Paxos accounts starting from June 2nd, except for withdrawing their funds. The move comes as Paxos continues to assess “its readiness to re-enter the Canadian market in cooperation with the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) at a future date.”

The announcement also stated that customers’ funds would “remain safely” in their accounts and will be reflected on their account balance, protected by Paxos’ terms and conditions. However, the company has urged customers to withdraw all balances from their accounts at their “earliest convenience.”  Customers who don’t have any funds in their accounts will have their accounts automatically closed on May 9.

On the other hand, customers who maintain a balance in their Paxos account will still be able to access and withdraw their funds after June 2. However, they will not have full access to Paxos’ platform to initiate new trades. Paxos has advised customers to wire their fiat balances to bank accounts linked to their “itBit account” that is under their name, or transfer digital assets held in their accounts to external wallets.

Related: New Canadian rules for crypto trading platforms leave little room for stablecoins

Paxos’ decision to exit the Canadian market comes at a time when Canada has been tightening its regulations on cryptocurrency platforms in recent months. On February 22, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) released a notice that mandates crypto exchanges to enter into new legally binding agreements as they wait for registration with the regulatory body. The updated undertaking includes a clause that forbids buying or depositing Value Referenced Crypto Assets, or stablecoins, via crypto contracts without written authorization from the CSA.

Paxos is not the only company to exit the Canadian market in recent months. On March 20, cryptocurrency exchange OKX informed Canadian users via email that the firm “will no longer provide services or allow users to open new accounts in Canada starting on Mar. 24, 2023, 12:00 AM EST,” citing “new regulations.” 

On April 7, cryptocurrency derivatives exchange dYdX announced plans to end services in Canada, starting with halting the onboarding of new users located in the country. On April 14, the exchange will move all existing Canadian users to “close-only mode,” allowing them to only withdraw funds. 

The recent exits depicts a growing trend of companies exiting Canada due to regulatory concerns.

Bitfinex Securities El Salvador receives Digital Asset Service provider license in El Salvador


Digital asset exchange “Bitfinex Securities El Salvador” has received a digital asset service provider license under El Salvador’s new Digital Assets Issuance Law, which was passed by El Salvador’s National Congress in January 2023, with the goal of fostering increased financial innovation and growth in the Central American country. 

According to the announcement, the license, which was granted on April 11 by El Salvador’s National Digital Asset Commission, makes Bitfinex Securities El Salvador “the world’s first international digital asset platform to receive approval to be licenced as a Digital Asset Service Provider” in El Salvador 

Paolo Ardoino, chief technology officer of Bitfinex, noted that the license will allow “Bitfinex Securities to facilitate the issuance and secondary trading of assets with clearly defined rights and obligations as outlined in the new digital asset regulatory regime.”

The announcement alleged that Bitfinex Securities El Salvador, a newly-formed entity in El Salvador, will offer a regulatory-compliant platform for companies worldwide to issue digital assets like equities, bonds, and other financial instruments. This will present a unique opportunity for businesses and individuals to leverage the advantages of issuing, investing, and trading in digital assets in a favorable regulatory environment in El Salvador. 

Bitfinex Securities El Salvador will function independently from Bitfinex group’s current platform, Bitfinex Securities AIFC, managed by Bitfinex Securities Limited. 

Related: Why did 12K Bitcoin margin longs close at Bitfinex, and why didn’t it impact BTC price?

Bitfinex continues to expand its global reach. In 2022, Bitfinex’s security token platform went live in Kazakhstan. The security token platform (STO) by Bitfinex, announced in September 2021, is now regulated under the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) in Kazakhstan.

El Salvador, the first country to establish Bitcoin (BTC) as a legal tender, continues to forge its way in becoming a tech friendly hub. On April 1, Cointelegraph reported that the country had decided to eliminate all taxes on technology innovations. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele believes that winding down tax requirements will expedite technological development. 

Bitcoin continues to shine with 98% of inflows into crypto investment products


On April 11, European cryptocurrency investment firm CoinShares published its latest “Digital Asset Fund Flows Report,” revealing that digital asset investment products experienced positive sentiment with inflows totaling $57 million last week, bringing inflows back to a net positive position year-to-date. However, despite this, “volumes were low at $970 million for the week,” and the global Bitcoin (BTC) exchange market also saw low volumes, which “were just 25% of the year-to-date average at $18 billion for the week.”

According to the report, inflows were primarily driven by investors in the U.S., with $27 million of inflows. Germany, Switzerland, and Canada also saw positive sentiment, with inflows totaling $17 million, $13 million, and $2.2 million, respectively, indicating a broad-based increase in confidence towards digital assets.

Investors primarily focused on Bitcoin, with BTC receiving $56 million of inflows, which accounted for 98% of all inflows. Meanwhile, short-bitcoin suffered minor outflows totaling $0.6 million. In contrast, altcoins, including Uniswap (UNI), Polkadot (DOT), and Polygon (MATIC), saw minor inflows of less than $1 million each.

The report also noted that despite the Ethereum network’s Shapella upgrade scheduled for April 12, Ether (ETH) inflows were relatively minor at $600,000, suggesting that perhaps investors are cautious about investing in Ethereum until they are more confident about the impact of the upgrade. Additionally, blockchain equities saw minor inflows totaling $2.1 million, indicating a relatively quiet week for this market segment.

Related: Ethereum price retests key support level that preceded 60% gains in June 2022

Overall, the positive sentiment in the digital asset market last week, despite low volumes, indicates that investors remain bullish on the prospects of cryptocurrency. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Bitcoin has reclaimed $30,000, its highest price since June 2022. In the last 30 days, BTC recorded gains of nearly 46%, rising to its highest level in ten months on April 11.

Bitcoin price chart. Source: CoinGecko

On April 5, American business intelligence firm MicroStrategy added another 1,045 Bitcoin to its growing crypto treasury, for approximately $29.3 million at an average price of $28,016 per BTC –  MicroStrategy executive chairman Michael Saylor announced in a tweet. Saylor has been a prominent Bitcoin proponent, urging businesses to incorporate the leading cryptocurrency into their strategic asset allocation. He has consistently emphasized that Bitcoin is the most dependable and secure store of value available in the current market, and presents a distinctive avenue for enterprises to safeguard their assets against inflation.

MetaMask launches new fiat purchase function for cryptocurrency


Cryptocurrency wallet and decentralized application (Dapp) provider MetaMask has announced the launch of a new feature that will allow users to purchase crypto with fiat currency directly from its Portfolio Dapp. The move is intended to provide users with an easier way to purchase crypto with fiat currency.

The new “Buy Crypto” feature enables MetaMask users to purchase a wide range of cryptocurrencies using various payment methods, including debit or credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, and instant ACH (Automated Clearing House). The service will be rolled out to users in over 189 countries and will offer more than 90 tokens across eight different networks, including Ethereum, Polygon, Arbitrum, Binance Smart Chain, Avalanche Contract Chain, Fantom, Optimism, and Celo.

To access the feature, MetaMask users can connect their wallets to the Portfolio Dapp or click on the “Buy” button in the MetaMask extension wallet. From there, users can select their region, payment method, and the token and network they want to purchase on.

The feature also takes into account a variety of factors, such as the user’s location and local regulations, to provide a customized quote for each purchase. Once the user has selected a quote, they will be redirected to a third-party provider’s website to complete the transaction. The funds will then be deposited directly into the user’s MetaMask wallet.

Related: Scam alert: MetaMask warns users of deceptive March 31 airdrop rumors

Over the years, MetaMask has partnered with several organizations to help onboard new users to its platform.

In 2022, Metamask partnered with PayPal to allow MetaMask users to purchase and transfer Ether (ETH) via PayPal’s platform. The service, announced on Dec 14, enables users to purchase and transfer ETH from PayPal to MetaMask by logging onto their Mobile MetaMask app, which would then redirect them to their PayPal account to complete transactions.

Additionally, on March 21 MetaMask announced a new integration with crypto fintech provider MoonPay that allows Nigerian users to purchase crypto through instant bank transfers. The new feature, available in the MetaMask mobile and Portfolio DApp, offers a simpler and cheaper way to buy crypto without using credit or debit cards.