Bitcoins for free? Japanese cryptocurrency exchange lands in hot water again

A Bitcoin automated machine (ATM). A system glitch in Japan let seven customers buy bitcoin with no yen value during a 20-minute window last week. (Reuters)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Bitcoins for free? Japanese cryptocurrency exchange lands in hot water again

TOKYO: A blunder at a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange let investors briefly buy bitcoins for free - though none were able to profit from the mistake.
Zaif, a government-registered exchange run by Osaka-based Tech Bureau Corp, said on Tuesday that a system glitch had let seven customers buy bitcoin with no yen value during a 20-minute window last week.
The exchange voided the trades after discovering the error, which happened on Feb. 16 - though it was still trying to resolve the issue with one customer who tried to transfer the knock-down bitcoins from the exchange, a spokesman told Reuters.
Zaif's operator had already faced checks after last month's theft of $530 million in digital money from Coincheck Inc, with regulators fearing its systems were at risk from cyber-attacks.
The latest flub could draw further attention to security and systems at cryptocurrency exchanges, which were already under scrutiny in the wake of the Coincheck heist. The theft also drew into question Japan's system of overseeing exchanges.
Zaif is one of 16 exchanges registered with the government, which last year allowed a further 16 - including Coincheck - to continue operating pending full registration.
The registered exchanges will form a self-regulatory body from April, sources have told Reuters. They had originally planned to merge two existing industry bodies representing both registered and unregistered exchanges.
The body will set out rules on issues like exchange security and advertising, and will lay out penalties for members who don't follow the policies, the Nikkei business daily reported on Wednesday.
Japan last year rolled out the world's first system to oversee cryptocurrency exchanges, in a bid to protect customers and stamp out illegal uses of cryptocurrencies as it sought to nurture a young and promising sector.
The regulator opted for relatively loose rules to help nurture the industry, mostly populated by start-ups. The Coincheck heist exposed flaws in the system, and - for some experts - raised questions over Japan's dash to regulate the industry amid crackdowns by countries from China to India.
Bitcoin surged more than 1,300 percent last year but lost about half its value at one point this year as more governments and central banks signalled possible regulatory crackdowns.

- Reuters


British Steel collapses, threatening thousands of jobs

Updated 22 May 2019
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British Steel collapses, threatening thousands of jobs

LONDON: British Steel Ltd. has been ordered into liquidation as it struggles with industry-wide troubles and Brexit, threatening 5,000 workers and another 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.
The company had asked for a package of support to tackle issues related to Britain’s pending departure from the European Union. Talks with the government failed to secure a bailout, and the Insolvency Service announced the liquidation on Wednesday.
“The immediate priority following my appointment as liquidator of British Steel is to continue safe operation of the site,” said David Chapman, the official receiver, referring to the Scunthorpe plant in northeast England.
The company will continue to trade and supply its customers while Chapman considers options for the business. A team from financial firm EY will work with the receiver and all parties to “secure a solution.”
“To this end they have commenced a sale process to identify a purchaser for the businesses,” EY said in a statement.
The government said it had done all it could for the company, including providing a 120 million pound ($152 million) bridging facility to help meet emission trading compliance costs. Going further would not be lawful as it could be considered illegal state aid, Business Secretary Greg Clark said.
“I have been advised that it would be unlawful to provide a guarantee or loan on the terms of any proposals that the company or any other party has made,” he said.
Unions had called for the government to nationalize the business, but the government demurred.
The opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson described the news as “devastating.”
“It is testament to the government’s industrial policy vacuum, and the farce of its failed Brexit,” he said in a tweet.
The crisis underscores the anxieties of British manufacturers, who have been demanding clarity around plans for Britain’s departure from the EU. Longstanding issues such as uncompetitive electricity prices also continue to deter investment in UK manufacturing, said Gareth Stace, the director-general of UK Steel, the trade association of the industry.
“Many of our challenges are far from unique to steel — the whole manufacturing sector is crying out for certainty over Brexit,” Stace said. “Unable to decipher the trading relationship the UK will have with its biggest market in just five months’ time, planning and decision making has become nightmarish in its complexity.”
Greybull Capital, which bought British Steel in 2016 for a nominal sum, said turning around the company was always going to be a challenge. It praised the trade union and management team, but said Brexit-related issues proved to be insurmountable.
“We are grateful to all those who supported British Steel on the attempted journey to resurrect this vital part of British industry,” it said in a statement.