Bitcoin: Prices Fall on Japan Crypto Crackdown

Bitcoin fell below $8,400 on Thursday on news that the Japanese government was planning to tell Binance to stop operating in the country without a license, as reported by Bloomberg. 

On Friday, the country's Financial Services Agency (FSA) issued a warning to Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange by traded value, for operating cryptocurrency exchanges with Japanese residents, according to a statement on the agency's website. As regulators around the world crack down on cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance's leader says the firm is pivoting to a small European island nation. (See also: NSA Helped Track Down Bitcoin Users, Snowden Papers Allege.)

Bitcoin, the world's largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, has faced downward pressure after hitting highs near $20,000 in mid-December as investors fear the impact of heightened government regulation on crypto markets around the world. A $8,330.00 bitcoin purchased on Friday at 13:19 UTC (9:19 a.m. East Coast time) reflects a 4.3% discount from its price 24 hours ago and a 700% gain over the most recent 12 months. In February, the volatile digital currency fell below $6,000, quickly popping back up past $7,000, as swings have been driven by negative news including moves by U.S. authorities and central bankers to impose restrictions on the high-flying, decentralized market. 

Binance Seeks a Home in Malta

Binance, founded last year in Hong Kong by Zhao Changpeng, was targeted by the FSA due to its several staff located in Japan and its expansion in the country without a license. Japan introduced a licensing system for virtual currency in 2017, hoping to improve oversight and thwart the use digital currency exchanged for illicit activity such as money laundering, tax evasion and fraud. Earlier this month, Japan's FSA ordered a suspension of trading activity on Bitstation and FSHO for at least a month. The decision followed the agency's finding that executives at Bitstation previously used customer funds for personal transactions, while FSHO allegedly failed to properly protect customer information. 

Binance Chief Executive Officer Changpeng has indicated that his company, which does not currently have a legal headquarters anywhere in the world, is planning to open an office in Malta and will soon start a "fiat-to-crypto" exchange on the island country, as reported by Bloomberg. "We are very confident we can announce a banking partnership there soon," said Zhao, who is confident that Binance will secure a deal with local banks that can provide access to deposits and withdrawals. (See also: UK Launches Cryptocurrency Task Force.)

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