Singapore suspends crypto exchanges due to dispute with K-pop group BTS

Singapore’s financial regulator has suspended a prominent digital currency exchange at the center of a number of crypto pension schemes that claim links with South Korea’s largest boy group, BTS.

Singapore’s move to shut down local operations of Bitget, a shirt sponsor of Italian soccer team Juventus, comes as the city-state seeks to establish itself as a global cryptocurrency hub.

Bitget was threatened with legal action in October by the BTS agency Hybe for promoting the digital currency Army Coin, which is named after the enthusiastic supporters of the BTS ARMY group. The owner and creator of the coin is unknown.

The platform had advertised Army Coin to offer BTS members lifelong financial support “so that they don’t have to worry about survival, but let them do what they want”. Hybe said the coin has no connection with BTS.

The episode highlights the challenges faced by regulators trying to keep the crypto industry in check as digital currencies gain acceptance with retail investors.

Last week, the Spanish market regulator criticized the soccer player Andrés Iniesta for a social media post promoting Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange.

A post that promoted Bitgets Army Coin

Singapore, a free trade company and financial center, has been more open to technology than regional competitors like Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Popular cryptocurrency companies Binance, Ripple and Coinbase have applied for licenses and received an exemption from the Monetary Authority of Singapore to serve both retail and institutional clients.

Bitget had also received a waiver, but it was removed in July, according to a person familiar with the matter. Both Bitget and MAS declined to provide details of the reasons for Bitget’s lifting of the exemption.

However, Bitget’s services were still available in Singapore until the end of November when it advertised Army Coin and its website continued to claim that it was MAS approved.

The company has since removed the MAS logo from its website after being contacted by the Financial Times, and banned Singapore users from accessing its app and website. Bitget still claims to have licenses in the US, Canada and Australia.

Bitget did not respond to requests from the FT as to why their services were still available after the Singapore resident exemption was lifted.

Army Coin is now also listed on CoinTiger, another cryptocurrency exchange with connections to Singapore. The CoinTiger announcement states that the coin “exists for the good of BTS” and will “really support it financially”.

Hybe made a statement in October saying the coin was “unrelated” to BTS and warned that it would also take “legal action” but declined to comment on the Army Coin’s creator.

The coin will continue to be available for users to buy and sell in other jurisdictions on Bitget, including South Korea, although trading has been extremely volatile.

FT analysis found the coin fluctuated up to 78 times its value in one day and rose between $ 1,000 and $ 78,000 in minutes.

The difficulty for regulators in Singapore, as with any jurisdiction, was that they couldn’t stop people from buying risky assets, said Varun Mittal, author of Singapore: the fintech nation.

“If someone really wants to spend money on these exchanges, the regulators cannot stop him,” said Mittal.

Crypto companies have stepped up their advertising efforts to capitalize on growing investor interest. Singapore-based cryptocurrency platform Crypto.com paid more than $ 700 million for the naming rights to the Staples Center, a stadium in Los Angeles, in November.

Bitget announced its sponsorship deal with Juventus in September. The name and logo of the exchange appear on the black and white jerseys of the team as the club’s first “sleeve sponsor”.

Video: Cryptocurrencies: How Regulators Lost Control

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