Singapore tells cryptocurrency exchange Binance to halt payment service

The company provided payment services and solicited business from Singapore residents without an appropriate licence, regulator says

Binance Holdings must stop offering services regulated in Singapore after a potential breach of local payment rules, adding to a mounting list of jurisdictions scrutinising the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

Binance may be in breach of the Payments Services Act for providing payment services to, and soliciting business from, Singapore residents without an appropriate licence, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said on Thursday, in response to questions from Bloomberg.

As Binance didn’t apply for a licence under local law, the MAS has added Binance.com to the investor alert list, which tells consumers that Binance isn’t regulated or licensed to provide any payment services locally.

The Singapore regulator’s warning marks the latest blow for Binance, which has grown quickly since its 2017 debut and doesn’t have a global headquarters.

While Binance has also drawn scrutiny from regulators in the US, the UK, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan, many cryptocurrency bulls say tougher frameworks are a sign of market maturity offering more protection for investors that could lure more money to digital assets.

“MAS is likely to take a holistic view on the application and consider the fact that Binance [global] has been put on the investor alert list,” said Nizam Ismail, founder of Ethikom Consultancy, a Singapore-based consultant which advises firms on compliance and regulation.

“Binance [global] would have to show that it has remediated any shortcomings and that it will not, going forward, solicit trades from Singapore resident customers.”

Binance Holdings, which operates globally, has local affiliates in some countries like the US and UK – and in Singapore, with Binance Asia Services, which operates Binance.sg. It’s BAS that has submitted a licence application, and is currently exempted from holding a licence for the provision of digital payment token services, according to the MAS. That application remains under review.

Quote
Binance [global] would have to show that it has remediated any shortcomings and that it will not, going forward, solicit trades from Singapore resident customers.”
Nizam Ismail, founder, Ethikom Consultancy

Its Singapore operations are conducted by a separate legal entity from Binance.com, with its own local executive and management team, and does not offer any products or services via the Binance.com website or other related entities, and vice versa, Binance Singapore told Bloomberg.

Singapore isn’t the first country to take action against Binance. The UK banned the exchange from doing regulated business in Britain and Japan’s Financial Services Agency has warned that it’s operating without registration. In the US, Bloomberg reported it has been the subject of a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

MAS has been engaging with BAS and expects the company to immediately begin an orderly suspension of its facilitation of transfers of digital payment token assets between BAS and Binance, according to the regulator. The Singapore unit of Binance will inform its customers of the appropriate arrangements as soon as practicable, according to MAS.

Binance chief executive Zhao Changpeng, a Canadian citizen, resides in Singapore and is the majority shareholder of Binance Asia Services, according to filings to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. Temasek Holdings' Vertex Venture Holdings is an investor in Binance Asia.

Updated: September 21st 2021, 6:54 AM
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