Crypto News Headlines (16-Mar-2023)

Bitcoin (BTC) funds are bleeding coins as U.S. bank failures fuel expectations of an early Federal Reserve (Fed) pivot in favor of liquidity easing.

Data tracked by ByteTree Asset Management shows the number of coins held by close-ended funds, spot and futures-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in Europe, the U.S. and Canada has declined by 16,560 BTC ($409 million) this month, reaching a 17-month low of 826,113 BTC.

ETFs and other investment vehicles that allow taking exposure to bitcoin without having to own the cryptocurrency are widely considered a proxy for institutional activity.

Anatoly Legkodymov, one of the founders and majority owner of the Russia-linked crypto exchange Bitzlato, has made his first appearance in New York federal court on Tuesday, the Law360 portal reported. He has been ordered held without bail over allegations of laundering millions in criminal proceeds through the platform, which he has denied.

The Russian national, a resident of China, was detained by the FBI in Miami on Jan. 17 and charged with unlicensed money transmitting. The defendant was also accused of operating the Hong Kong-registered exchange that failed to implement anti-money laundering safeguards and processed more than $700 million dollars’ worth of illicit funds.

German and U.S. authorities today closed a “crypto mixer” allegedly used by criminals on the dark web to launder funds—and seized a load of Bitcoin in the process.

In a Wednesday announcement, Europol said it dismantled the ChipMixer platform’s infrastructure, which it described as “one of the dark web’s largest cryptocurrency laundromats,” and seized $42.2 million-worth of Bitcoin, along with help from Belgium, Swiss, Polish, and U.S. federal law enforcement.

A coin mixer is an app that allows users to obfuscate the origin and destination of cryptocurrency movements by grouping various transactions together.

Starknet is a scaling solution built on the Ethereum network. The platform aims to solve the scalability problem of the Ethereum network by allowing developers to build and deploy high-performance dApps. The DAO was established to ensure that the project’s governance is decentralized and community-driven.

The first phase of the DAO’s governance will focus on protocol upgrades. Every protocol upgrade released by the Ethereum scaling solution will be subject to community voting. The successful vote will lead to the launch of a new protocol version on the Starknet mainnet.

To kickstart the DAO’s governance, the Starknet Foundation, which was established in October 2022, will play a pivotal role. The foundation will lead grants and funding for the Ethereum scaling protocol and share some of its voting power with several independent delegates to ensure a diverse governance environment for the project. Other participants in this early governance period will include investors, core contributors, and other delegates.

The Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury have been holding private meetings with executives from Coinbase, with discussions revolving around the future of crypto regulation in Australia.

Responding to Cointelegraph’s request for comment, an RBA spokesperson confirmed recent reports that these private meetings had occurred, stating that Coinbase met with the RBA’s Payments Policy and Financial Stability departments this week “as part of the Bank’s ongoing liaison with industry.”

Coinbase vice president of international policy Tom Duff Gordon, who was reported to have flown in for the meetings, also confirmed to Cointelegraph that meetings took place with Treasury in Canberra and Sydney.

Exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui was arrested in New York on Wednesday morning and charged with fraud for allegedly orchestrating a series of fraudulent schemes that bilked retail investors out of a collective $1.4 billion.

Hours after his arrest, Guo’s luxury penthouse apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side caught fire, burning for two hours before firefighters were able to put out the blaze. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reportedly investigating the fire. The 15-room apartment is currently on the market for $32.5 million.

Out of Guo’s four alleged schemes, three were related to GTV Media Group, the Chinese social media company formed in April 2020 by Guo and Steve Bannon – a longtime ally and former adviser to former U.S. President Donald Trump. The three alleged schemes raised an estimated $857 million.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published its 2022 Internet Crime Report last week. The report is compiled using data from the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) which “serves as a public resource to submit reports of cyberattacks and incidents,” the bureau described.

“In 2022, investment scams were the costliest scheme reported to the IC3. Investment fraud complaints increased from $1.45 billion in 2021 to $3.31 billion in 2022, which is a 127% [increase],” the FBI wrote, adding:

Within those complaints, cryptocurrency investment fraud rose from $907 million in 2021 to $2.57 billion in 2022, an increase of 183%.

Tether’s stablecoin market capitalization swelled to nearly $75 billion on Thursday morning, its highest level since May 2022, data from CoinGecko shows.

USDT’s market cap is now almost twice as much as that of USD Coin (USDC), the world’s second-largest stablecoin issued by the Boston-based company Circle.

The two stablecoins are the current market leaders by market capitalization for this category of cryptocurrency. Stablecoins have become a key feature of the digital asset economy, ballooning in value over the past several years. In March 2020, for example, USDC had a market cap of roughly $564 million; today, that figure is now $37.7 billion, per CoinGecko.

The bitcoin (BTC) dominance rate – the leading cryptocurrency by market value’s share of the total crypto market – has reached a nine-month high of 45.5%, according to data from charting platform TradingView.

BTC.D last reached over 45% on June 25, 2022.

The recent surge comes amid a turbulent two weeks in crypto markets with the failure of crypto-friendly banks Silvergate and Signature and a near meltdown of the wider banking sector. Bitcoin dominance has historically risen during periods of high stress because BTC is considered a less-volatile asset than most other cryptocurrencies.

BTC’s market share gains have also lately coincided with a nearly three-day surge in bitcoin’s price, which soared past $26,000 on Tuesday for the first time since last summer after the release of a mildly favorable consumer price index (CPI) data for February. The CPI report spurred a spike throughout the crypto market.

In the wake of three major banks with ties to crypto firms collapsing, software engineer Molly White believes companies now looking at banking options may have to face “shadier” solutions.

Speaking on March 14 at a South by Southwest (SXSW) panel in Austin, Texas, titled “Popping the Web3 Bubble,” White opined that crypto firms’ options following the collapse of the crypto-friendly Signature and Silvergate banks may drive them metaphorically underground. White compared the situation to that in 2017 and 2018, when crypto projects had “trouble accessing banking” with less knowledge and acceptance from institutions.

“There were only a handful of U.S. banks that were really game to take crypto clients,” said White. “With Signature and Silvergate both out of the picture, I think that’s going to be very impactful on the crypto industry [which] still really needs access to traditional finance and to U.S. banking rails.”