Thailand tests blockchain-tracked VAT payments

Thailand’s Revenue Department has begun tests for tracking value-added tax (VAT) payments through blockchain.

The Bangkok Post said that the test VAT payments are being done in the department’s innovation laboratory. If successfully implemented for actual government operations, the country would become the first to be able to probe tax cases via distributed ledger technology.

Department Director-General Ekniti Nitithanprapas had first announced the initiative last month, which he said would make the agency’s investigations more efficient and accurate, with immutable data on the blockchain having to reconcile with each other. Specifically, the department wants to avoid issuing VAT refunds based on erroneously submitted or fabricated data.

Aside from blockchain, the department is exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) so as to better detect fraudulent practices, which Ekniti said would encourage more people to properly declare taxes.

Among other blockchain-related initiatives of the Thai government is the creation of a wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), running on the R3 Corda platform, and overseen by the Bank of Thailand (BoT), the country’s central bank. Issuance of the digital government currency would be to “enhance efficiency of the Thai financial market infrastructure.”

Another BoT project is the use of blockchain for selling scripless government savings bonds.

As part of the Thai government’s growing awareness of blockchain in the economy, it has moved for better oversight to prevent fraud, with the issuance of a royal decree last May requiring cryptocurrency-related companies to register with local authorities.

In connection with this, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission recently advised investors to not trade with the Q cryptocurrency exchange, due to its lack of a license as a “digital business operator.”

Blockchain has been used elsewhere for other government processes, specifically, elections. It was announced last week that South Korea’s National Election Commission was collaborating with the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT in testing out a blockchain-powered surveying system that could eventually be used to count votes nationwide.

Similar systems have been implemented in the South Korean province of Gyeonggi-do and the Japanese city of Tsukuba, which have been able to hold referendums on local community programs. The U.S. states Maine and West Virginia have also seen proposals for blockchain-powered elections.

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Avoid unlicensed crypto exchanges, Thai SEC tells public

The chief financial regulator of Thailand has warned investors to avoid the unregulated Q Exchange, following an order issued to the firm to stop advertising on account of a lack of a sufficient license.

The Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took the unprecedented step of recommending investors do not trade with the local cryptocurrency exchange, which does not hold a license as a “digital business operator,” ahead of a new licensing regime expected to take effect with initial exchanges from the end of November.

In a notice on its website, the SEC stated: “The SEC would like to inform the public that Q Exchange Co Ltd is not a licensed digital business operator…The public and investors should be cautious in engaging in digital asset and electronic money trades with this firm because such actions might not be lawfully protected by the SEC.”

The Q Exchange is a crypto exchange offering customers the opportunity to trade in 10 cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH. The exchange also had plans to launch its own cryptocurrency, the Q Token, according to local media reports.

After a royal decree issued back in May, cryptocurrency businesses in Thailand were required to register with local authorities, and to obtain the permission of regulators before engaging in the crypto sector. The measures cover cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as those promoting or engaging in initial coin offerings (ICOs).

The first licensed platforms are expected to appear this month. While no online presence for Q Exchange could be detected, the warning from the SEC suggests the exchange was seeking to trade without the required permission or licence from the Thai regulator.

Thailand has previously been regarded as one of the stricter jurisdictions, after measures introduced earlier this year to exert greater state control over cryptocurrency and related businesses.

With more formal regulation for exchanges and other crypto businesses expected to take effect in due course, it now presents an opportunity for those courting institutional businesses to operate within the Thai market.

It follows calls from the sector to introduce stricter regulation, as part of a drive to cement legal certainty for legitimate exchange operators.

As for exchanges like Q Exchange, which still remain outside of the licensing regime, it looks like the days of regulation-free trading are already numbered.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Upbit makes its move into Thai, Indonesian markets

Upbit, one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea, has reportedly set up a website for crypto exchanges in Thai and Indonesian languages, as part of its attempt to market its trading services to customers in the two Asian countries.

Last week, South Korean news outlet Edaily  quoted the crypto exchange saying that both countries “appreciated the growth potential of the cryptographic industry.” Thailand, in particular, has seen its government recently making an effort to cultivate the sector, while Indonesia is “regarded as the biggest hand of the Southeast Asian cryptography market,” creating jobs, attracting foreign capital, and introducing technology for the fourth industrial revolution such as the blockchain.

The new exchanges are part of Upbit global expansion plans. According to reports, the company will trade over 130 coins, and 240 trading pairs will be offered on the new Upbit exchanges.

Dunamu Inc., an affiliate of Kakao Corp., operates Upbit. The crypto exchange is also affiliated with U.S.-based exchange Bittrex.

While speaking to local reporters, Lee Seok-woo the CEO of Dunamiu stated Upbit has always aimed at providing foreign exchange services to people around the globe. He told the South Korean news outlet, “I am in a desperate situation that I can lose a great opportunity if I miss this period… the competition is spreading.”

In addition to the new exchanges, the Upbit community received a new exchange in Singapore. The exchange was launched officially to support Singapore dollars. Customers using the new platforms will use the local currencies—baht in Thailand and rupiah in Indonesia.

On the Thai Upbit website, the company state that its services are in “closed beta” phase. The website explained that Upbit services are only available to a small group of Individuals who registered early with the platform.

The website in Indonesia is different from the one in Thailand. The site displays different features and message. It states: “Buy and sell the latest crypto assets from our partner, Bittrex, the premium exchange from the United States.”

The website also says that the Indonesian platform will support 156 coins and 276 trading pairs. This is smaller figures compare to the 131 coins and 241 trading pairs on Thailand platform.

Authorities in Thailand have set up regulation to govern the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors. So far, the government has allowed six crypto exchanges and one dealer to run cryptocurrency operations in the country.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Thai siblings linked to $24M crypto scam plead not guilty

The three siblings arrested in Thailand on allegations of fraudulently tricking a Finnish investor into shelling out over $24 million in cryptocurrency have pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges.

On Wednesday, the Bangkok Post reported that Prinya Jaravijit and his younger siblings, Jiratpisit and Supitcha, appeared before the Criminal Court where they were arraigned on collusion and conspiracy to launder money charges.

Prosecutors told the court the three, along with six other accomplices, lured Finn investor Aamai Otava Saarimaa into investing with them during the June-July period in 2017. According to the report, Saarimaa was tricked into buying 500 million DNA Co. shares, purchasing Expay Software Co. shares., and investing in an NX Chain Inc. project called Dragon Coin.

During that period, Saarimaa sent funds several times to an electronic wallet which belonged to Jaravijit. However, a few months later, the defendants decided to sell the digital assets, worth THB797.41 million ($24 million) at the time, which investigators said they deposited into their own accounts.

Prosecutors said the defendants spent the money—Jiratpisit reportedly bought land in Chatuchak District in Bangkok for THB43 million ($1 million), while his elder brother Prinya spent THB124 million ($4 million) to buy seven blocks of land in Bangkok’s Chatuchak and Din Daeng districts, as well as in Nonthaburi province.

Supitcha, meanwhile, allegedly spent THB8.5 million ($250,000) in December to register six blocks of land in Chatuchak.

Saarimaa eventually filed a complaint with the Thai Crime Suppression Division (CSD) after his efforts to follow up on his cash bore no fruit.

Jiratpisit and Supitcha were arrested in August, but they were released on bail of THB2 million ($61,000) each. Prinya fled to the United States to avoid the charges. When the Thai CSD revoked his passport, it became illegal for him to reside in the United States, leading to his return to Thailand. On arrival, Prinya was arrested by Thai authorities and charged. He is currently being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison.

The three will be back in court on December 24 for the examination of witnesses and evidence lists.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Thai revenue department turns to blockchain for tackling tax avoidance

The revenue department in Thailand has become the latest government body to turn to blockchain technology, after it announced plans for tackling tax avoidance and investigating fraud.

As reported in the Bangkok Post, the department’s director general Ekniti Nitithanprapas said the revenue would combine blockchain with machine learning technology, to improve both the efficiency and accuracy of probes into suspicious tax affairs.

Crucially, the technology will automatically reconcile tax information and identify irregularities, based on common tax avoidance methods. The system will also allow for quicker tax refunds, as well as providing greater transparency throughout the tax system.

The director general has previously highlighted blockchain technology as one of several key research focuses for the department, along with big data and a wholly digital tax collection system.

While these remain priorities for the revenue department, the specific disclosures around the tax platform indicate this is likely to be high on the government’s list.

Blockchain technologies are becoming increasingly mainstream in government agencies and departments, as well as organisations of all sizes in the private sector.

The tax avoidance use case described by the Thai authorities is one of countless possible ways blockchain and distributed ledger technology can be deployed.

The revenue department announcement comes just weeks after the Ministry of Commerce announced plans for its own blockchain applications, scheduled across the likes of trade finance, agriculture and copyright.

The moves coincide with an increasing push from big business in Thailand towards exploring blockchain tech. In October, Siam Commercial Bank teamed up with Accenture to deliver a blockchain platform for simplifying supply chains.

With significant efficiency gains on offer through the new system for the tax authorities, it looks likely that these plans will come to fruition—in a move that could serve as a case study for government agencies elsewhere in future.

As one of the stated main priorities of Thai authorities, it remains to be seen how quickly the new system can be rolled out—and whether it offers the benefits the government expects.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Thai SEC warns public against unregistered crypto businesses

Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission is cautioning the public about cryptocurrency-related businesses operating without the regulator’s authorization.

The Bangkok Post listed five tokens, as named by the SEC: Every Coin, Orientum Coin, OneCoin/OFC Coin, Tripxchain, and TUC Coin. The four initial coin offerings (ICOs) mentioned are: G2S Expert, Singhcom Enterprise, Adventure Hostel Bangkok, and Kidstocurrency.

According to the commission, the companies involved had not applied with the regulator, and thus have not met the proper qualifications, including having smart contracts examined by SEC-sanctioned ICO portals. Because it had not been ascertained that the assets being offered had adequate liquidity or could be exchanged for cash, there was a high risk investing in these companies, the SEC said.

The Bangkok Post article noted that OneCoin had already been flagged outside of Thailand, including by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Chinese prosecutors have already charged individuals connected with the offering of OneCoin, involving $2.3 billion traded. It has been alleged that the cryptocurrency was a pyramid scheme, where members would pay to advance up the organization. Other countries that have warned about OneCoin are India, Hungary, the UK, Belgium, and Finland.

Currently, the Thai SEC is assessing applications of numerous cryptocurrency exchanges and digital asset dealers. Among these, Bitcoin Co, Bitkub Online Co Ltd, Cash2Coins Co Ltd, Satang Corporation Co Ltd, Coin Asset Co Ltd, Southeast Asia Digital Exchange, Coins TH Co, and Digital Coin Co Ltd. are already allowed to operate even as their applications are pending, since they filed their applications prior to cryptocurrency-related legislation that took effect last May 14.

SEC Secretary-General Rapee Sucharitakul pointed out how there was a very active cryptocurrency market in the country, as encouraged by the government’s regulatory framework. He said that there were as many as 50 ICO issuers seeking licenses to raise money.

Among the currencies recognized by Thailand for ICO payments is Bitcoin Cash (BCH).

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Thai authorities revoke passport of suspect in $24M crypto scam

A suspect involved in a Thailand cryptocurrency scam is unable to return home after the Foreign Ministry of Thailand revoked his passport, Bangkok Post  reported. This has prevented him to return home to face charges.

Prinya Jaravijit is now illegally staying in the United States, after the Thai government agency revoked his passport. According to the report, Jaravijit is allegedly the mastermind behind a big cryptocurrency scam that defrauded a Finnish investor out of $24 million in 2017.

Police claimed that Jaravijit had worked together with members of his family to defraud Aarni Otava Saarima and his business partner. The suspects had lured the two into investing BTC in a fake investment scheme. It is believed that the scammers used three gambling companies to operate the scheme, which was allegedly perpetrated using a crypto token called Dragon Coin.

The alleged scammers took the investors to a Macau-based casino for the transaction, claiming that the casino was accepting these tokens. The investors transferred the agreed amount of BTC to the suspected scammers’ wallets; however, they began to worry when they did not receive returns for their money. They also did not get any shareholder papers or proof of investments in Dragon Coin. The Finnish investor decided to report the matter to the authorities in January.

When the case was reported, Jaravijit was in the United States. Authorities asked him to surrender, giving him until September 17 to comply with the order. However, Jaravijit failed to do so, causing authorities to revoke his passport. Reports showed that he will soon be extradited to Thailand in order to face the charges against him.

According to reports, the Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) confiscated funds worth $6.4 million from Jaravijit’s family and other people who were suspected to be involved in the matter this past Tuesday. The family and the accomplices will be charged next week with money laundering.

Other people believed to be part of the operation include an investor, Prasit Srisuwan, and a businessman, Chakrit Ahmed. The two have reportedly agreed on a compensation plan with the Finnish investor.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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Thai AML body seeks power to seize crypto assets

Concerned about the growing number of cryptocurrency-related crimes, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is looking to expand its powers to allow for seizure of digital assets, including cryptocurrency wallets.

“We have discussed launching our own ‘AMLO Wallet’ to hold or confiscate digital currency from illegal sources,” AMLO Secretary Witthaya Neetitham said during a recent seminar in Bangkok, according to a report from news outlet The Nation.

The desired legislation would also come in handy for the confiscation of cryptocurrency earnings from other crimes. The Nation article cited a case where Thai police had arrested the operator of a child pornography website whose digital wallet contained THB123 million ($3.8 million). “We found bitcoin in his e-wallet, but had to leave it there because we don’t have any regulations [for such seizures],” Police Captain Ekkanit Nathethong said.

Witthaya said that AMLO did have authority over companies licensed by the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission, but when it came to unlicensed entities, “We cannot identify the cryptocurrency operator or receivers when duped victims transfer money to the criminals.”

Chartpong Chirabandhu, of the Office of the Attorney General, shared that prosecutors were limited in their ability to use electronic evidence in building a case against cybercriminals.

Recently, a Finnish businessman was defrauded of $24.4 million worth of cryptocurrencies by Thai suspects, who have since admitted to the crime and are participating in negotiations for the return of the stolen amount. The suspects had invested the funds of Aarni Otavi Saarimaa in three companies, before running off with the money.

Colonel Pisal Erb-Arb, deputy commander of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, proposed a working panel tasked to fight cybercrime. “We need to hurry. Thailand is a haven for money laundering that finances terrorism,” said Pisal, who helped with the arrest of Alexander Cazes, founder of dark web marketplace AlphaBay, where users transacted in cryptocurrencies.

The Thai government has made several policy changes with its growing awareness of cryptocurrencies. Last month, the Bank of Thailand, the country’s central bank, reversed its earlier ban on banks engaging in cryptocurrency-related activities. Now, banks are permitted to create subsidiaries for the purpose of cryptocurrency transactions, issuance of tokens, and the like.

The SEC began its regulation of cryptocurrency-related activities last May, and has approved five exchanges and two dealers since.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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