Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears

Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears
This new digital money is mostly used by the country’s tech-savvy younger population, which is seeking to protect its livelihood against Turkey’s recent economic troubles. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 April 2021

Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears

Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears
  • The much-criticized move against the digital currency will come into effect on April 30

ANKARA: Turkey’s Central Bank has banned the use of crypto assets in payments as part of the country’s efforts to regulate cryptocurrencies, which have gained huge popularity in recent months.

The government has been closely monitoring cryptocurrencies for some time, alleging that extremists might use them to fund illegal activities or facilitate money laundering.

“Their use in payments may cause irreparable damages for the parties to the transactions, and include elements that may undermine the confidence in methods and instruments used currently in payments,” the bank said.

The new regulation will come into effect by April 30, but the legislation’s announcement lowered the value of Bitcoin by more than 4 percent on Friday.

Besides forbidding crypto  payments for buying goods and services, the regulation also bans transferring money to cryptocurrency platforms via fintech systems. But many investors in Turkey view Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a shelter against inflation, with the lira facing a significant devaluation against foreign currencies due to the country’s financial volatility.

The lira has lost about half of its value since the 2018 currency crisis.

Increasing inflation rates, which reached a six-month high last month of 16 percent, as well as official unemployment rates hitting 13.4 percent are making people turn to cryptocurrency to gain money and compensate their losses with stable assets.

The booming business of cryptocurrencies has replaced Turks’ rush for gold and real estate as a hedge against the struggling lira and rising interest rates. This new digital money is mostly used by the country’s tech savvy younger population, which is seeking to protect its livelihood against Turkey’s recent economic troubles.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Turkey bans crypto payments for buying goods and services.

• The regulation also forbids transferring money to cryptocurrency platforms via fintech systems.

• Many investors in Turkey view Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a shelter against inflation.

The government’s crypto asset ban drew anger from domestic investors. About 100,000 tweets were sent from Turkey-based social media accounts in one day criticizing the legislation.

The country’s main opposition Peoples’ Republican Party (CHP) also criticized the government’s midnight move against cryptocurrency use. 

“Rather than issuing a midnight legislation, you should have decided on such sensitive issues after consulting all relevant parties,” CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

Regulation in the field of cryptocurrencies was not a new debate for Turkey, where the government expected to achieve some political goals from blockchain technology, according to Dr. Mehmet Bedii Kaya, an expert of IT law at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The government, in line with its 11th Development Plan, was set to implement a digital central bank based on blockchain technologies.

“On the other hand, there is a significant number of Turkish citizens who use cryptocurrencies for short and long-term gains,” Kaya told Arab News. “I think that this latest regulation has been prepared with a quick reflex, without considering the potential financial losses it might generate with the wave of resulting misinformation.”

Kaya said that payment institutions were already under the close supervision of the Central Bank. “These fintech institutions, which are active in the cryptocurrency market, are very innovative and dynamic. Therefore the Turkish state considered this dynamism as a risk and source of complexity. However, these key players shouldn’t have been disqualified.”

After Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced it was now possible to buy Tesla vehicles in the US with Bitcoin, an Istanbul-based luxury car distributor called Royal Motors began accepting payments in cryptocurrencies last week.

Crypto trading volumes hit $27 billion between early February to March 24, according to data analyzed by Reuters, while trading gained momentum especially after the Central Bank governor was dismissed by presidential decree and further weakened the lira.

Last week, the Turkish government asked crypto trading platforms to provide it with user information.


Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profits falls by half

Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profits falls by half
Updated 51 min 53 sec ago

Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profits falls by half

Air Arabia eyes further cost cuts after first quarter profits falls by half

DUBAI: Air Arabia said it would adopt further cost control measures after reporting a 52 percent fall in first quarter net profit to 34 million dirhams ($9.25 million)
Revenues fell by more than a third to 572 million dirhams, compared to a year earlier, as the pandemic continued to weigh on regional air travel, the airline said in a statement on Sunday.
“The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the global aviation industry remains material and of a changing nature, nonetheless, we have full confidence in the fundamentals and the strength of the aviation industry worldwide as well as the crucial role air travel will play in supporting regional and global economic recovery,” said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al-Thani, chairman of Air Arabia. “While we remain hopeful that air travel restrictions will ease with the increasing rate of vaccination drives across key markets, Air Arabia remains focused on adopting further measures to control costs and support business continuity during this period while we continue to resume operations where possible.”
Regional carriers have struggled to boost passengers numbers amid continuing travel restrictions and a resurgence of the virus in countries such as India which has traditionally strong air travel links with the Gulf.
More than 1.3 million passengers flew with Air Arabia between January and March 2021 across the carrier’s five hubs while the airline’s average seat load factor – or passengers carried as a percentage of available seats – during the first three months of 2021 stood at 77 percent.


Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome

Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome
Updated 09 May 2021

Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome

Elon Musk says he is first SNL host with Asperger’s syndrome
  • Crypto comments move Dogecoin price
  • Musk has previously drawn criticism for mocking SEC

WASHINGTON: Elon Musk kicked off his “Saturday Night Live” debut by declaring himself to be the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to host the US comedy sketch show.
“Or at least, the first person to admit it,” he said.
In his opening monologue, the eccentric tech entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX offered an explanation for some of his past eyebrow-raising behavior.
“Look, I know I say or post strange things but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I’ve offended I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship,” he said. “Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?“
Musk has previously drawn criticism for moves like publicly mocking the US Securities and Exchange Commission and calling a cave diver who rescued boys trapped in Thailand a “pedo guy.”
But on SNL, the billionaire took swipes at his own expense.
And of course, as a big booster of cryptocurrencies, he once again enumerated the benefits of dogecoin.
Pressed on what exactly dogecoin is, Musk called the cryptocurrency — which now has a market value of around $72 billion — “an unstoppable vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”
But then he agreed that actually “it’s a hustle.”
For the second time in a week, the world’s second-richest person seemed to drive the value of the digital asset. Not long after its recent surge after Musk’s Twitter endorsement, it was sent on a brief tailspin during his SNL performance.
It dropped to as low as 49 cents during the broadcast after a pre-show high of about 74 cents, according to CoinDesk.
During the show, cast members wondered aloud why exactly the tech billionaire would want to join their set.
With a segment of a Chinese rocket re-entering Earth’s atmosphere around the time of the live broadcast, they concluded that the spaceman “needed an alibi.”


Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack
Updated 09 May 2021

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack

Top US fuel pipeline operator pushes to recover from cyberattack
  • Colonial moves 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline
  • DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware

NEW YORK: Colonial Pipeline, top US fuel pipeline operator, continued work on Sunday to recover from a ransomware cyberattack that forced it to shut down on Friday and sparked worries of a spike in retail gasoline prices.
The incident is one of the most disruptive digital ransom operations ever reported and has prompted calls from American lawmakers to tighten up protection for critical US energy infrastructure against hackers.
Colonial said on Saturday it was “continuing to monitor the impact of this temporary service halt” and to work to restore service. It did not give an estimate for a restart date.
Colonial moves 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline and other fuels from refiners on the Gulf Coast to consumers in the eastern and southern United States. It also serves some of the largest US airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic.
Retail fuel experts including the American Automobile Association said an outage lasting several days could have significant impacts on regional fuel supplies, particularly in the US Southeast.
While the US government investigation is in early stages, a former US official and two industry sources said the hackers are likely a professional cybercriminal group and that a group dubbed “DarkSide” was likely among the potential suspects.
DarkSide is known for deploying ransomware and extorting victims while avoiding targets in post-Soviet states. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to lock down systems by encrypting data and demanding payment to regain access.
Cybersecurity firm FireEye has also been brought in to respond to the attack, according to the two industry sources. FireEye declined to comment. Colonial said late on Saturday it was working with a “leading, third-party cybersecurity firm,” but did not name the firm.
Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the matter, reported late on Saturday that the hackers are part of DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network on Thursday ahead of the pipeline shutdown.
Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual US business hours.
US President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident on Saturday morning, a White House spokesperson said, adding that the government was working to try to help the company restore operations and prevent supply disruptions.
The privately held, Georgia-based company is owned by CDPQ Colonial Partners, IFM (US) Colonial Pipeline 2, KKR-Keats Pipeline Investors, Koch Capital Investments Company and Shell Midstream Operating.
Gasoline futures and diesel futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose on Friday after the outage was reported. In previous Colonial outages, retail prices have risen substantially, if briefly.
Oil refining companies contacted by Reuters on Saturday said their operations had not yet been impacted.


Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo

Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo
Updated 09 May 2021

Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo

Emirates converts 16 passenger planes to carry cargo
  • It comes as some big airlines are faced with competing forces of supply and demand in the cabins and bellies of their aircraft

DUBAI: Emirates has converted 16 passenger planes to transport cargo and is also using some of its fleet to carry goods in the cabin.
Nabil Sultan, Emirates SkyCargo divisional senior vice president said the airline was studying its capacity, in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Sunday.
“So far we have converted 16 passenger aircraft to fully cargo flights,” he said. “We also use the remaining fleet, where we have put cargo in the main cabin, especially to move essential PPE goods and various other medical material.”
It comes as some big airlines are faced with competing forces of supply and demand in the cabins and bellies of their aircraft — as cargo volumes accelerate while at the same time passenger numbers remain subdued.
Earlier on Sunday Emirates said it would begin shipping aid for free into India to help fight the coronavirus.
It comes as air cargo demand has risen to its highest recorded level ever in the wake of the pandemic.


Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data

Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data
Updated 09 May 2021

Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data

Turkish research group faces criminal charges over inflation data
  • The group started publishing its own inflation data in September amid claims from opposition parties that the official agency is under-reporting price increases

DUBAI: Turkey’s statistics agency filed a criminal complaint against a group of local researchers publishing alternative inflation data, Bloomberg reported.

The government body demanded ENAGroup, an independent inflation research group, be fined for “purposefully defaming” the official statistics institution and “misguiding public opinion,” according to documents seen by the news wire.
The group started publishing its own inflation data in September amid claims from opposition parties that the official agency is under-reporting price increases, Bloomberg said
ENAGroup’s inflation figures are higher than the official data. Its consumer price index rose 2.62 percent in April from a month earlier, more than double the 1.1 percent reported by the official agency. The group reported an annual inflation rate of 36.7 percent for 2020, Bloomberg reported.
Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan said that the statistics agency filed a complaint against a group “for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic.”
The group aims to “damage and discredit the Turkish Statistical Institute” by spreading misleading data that are used by opposition parties, Elvan said.