ProBit Bits — ProBit Global’s Weekly Blockchain Bits Vol. 61

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 FTX CEO Floats Reboot, Recovers Bulk Of Lost Funds

The main story doing the rounds in the cryptosphere this week involves failed crypto exchange FTX, and efforts to restart operations. Following the exchange’s collapse in November 2022, John J Ray III was appointed as CEO, with recent revelations that the former Enron liquidator had pitched an FTX reboot to potential investors and creditors. While Ray is said to have first floated the idea of a restart earlier this year, the exchange will likely only resume operations by Q2 of 2024—more than a year away.

Restarting operations would involve a complete branding overhaul and creditors would also be offered a stake in the company, in lieu of funds lost. On the topic of funds lost, a dedicated FTX debtors team have uncovered $7 billion of the estimated $8.7 billion misappropriated customer funds, according to CEO Ray. The lynch pin behind the FTX collapse, Sam Bankman-Fried, is set to go on trial in early October for the FTX customer funds stolen. This comes as U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan threw out SBF’s bid to dismiss at least 11 of the 13 fraud and conspiracy charges the disgraced former CEO faces.

 Shanghai Bets Big On Metaverse

A recent plan released by the municipal administration of China’s financial capital, Shanghai, details how the city plans to build 30 culture and tourism metaverse projects by the end of 2025. The ambitious project forms part of a culture drive, expected to revolutionize tourism for visitors to the financial hub. Proposals include providing tourism services through augmented reality, with avatars as tour guides.

Shanghai is not the only Chinese metropolis investing into the metaverse. Nanjing, Zhengzhou and Hangzhou are all reported to have plans for metaverse developments. Shanghai’s metaverse investments form part of a wider long-term development plan which includes intelligent terminals and low-carbon industries. City officials predict that revenue from these metaverse projects will total 350 billion yuan or US$53.8 billion by 2025, as the city aims to position the Pudong New Area as a model for other cities to follow.  

 Europe Revealed To Be Crypto Haven

A recent report by off-chain analytics firm Coincub has shown that Europe is a haven for those looking to make the most of their crypto investments. While the United Arab Emirates comes out on top as the country with zero taxation on crypto earnings, European nations make up 11 out of the 20 countries classed as crypto tax-friendly countries. Coincub CEO, Sergiu Hamza, suggests that this ranking is largely down to thorough regulation by EU lawmakers, with clear policy directives governing digital assets across Europe’s nation-states.

Further highlights from the annual report include a breakdown of taxes by US states, global long-term crypto tax rates and emerging trends as they pertain to policy and overall government sentiment towards digital assets. The report uses variety of data points from Glassnode, PwC Consulting, and the Tax Foundation among others for their research, according to the analytics firm.

 Riot Platforms Reinforces Mining Arsenal

Bitcoin mining company Riot Platforms has added close to $163 million worth of mining rigs to its Corsicana facility in Texas, USA. The mining rigs number more than 33,000 and have been sourced from mining manufacturer MicroBT, in a bid to boost capacity ahead of the upcoming Bitcoin halving cycle.

Set to be installed in the first quarter of 2024, the new miners will “contribute an additional 7.6 EH/s to Riot’s self-mining capacity,” according to Riot Platforms CEO Jason Les. A quarter of the mining fleet will comprise M56S+ models (tuned for a hash rate of 220 terahashes per second), while the remaining 75% of the fleet will be made up of slightly more powerful M56S++ machines. Delivery is scheduled to start from December 2023, although the full fleet is only expected to be operational towards the end of 2024.

 Illicit Crypto Actors Turn To BSC, Ethereum Over Bitcoin

Blockchain intelligence firm TRMLabs has revealed in its latest Illicit Crypto Ecosystem Report that significant downturns in the crypto markets have done little to deter criminal elements from using crypto as a vehicle for nefarious activities. The report cites DeFi hacks and illicit investment schemes as the primary schemes for illicit crypto flows, with USD 3.7 billion and USD 7 billion lost, respectively, to these criminal efforts.

The report breaks down illicit crypto transactions into four main categories: fraud and scams, illicit payments, theft, and illicit commerce. It details how cyber criminals ‘layer’ their illicit crypto gains using tools like mixers, bridges, swap services, and coin-joins to hide the source of their funds. Using data from more than 20 blockchains, the report highlights how cyber criminals are moving from Bitcoin to chains like Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain to facilitate illegal activity. Terrorist financing done by pro-ISIS groups in Pakistan and Tajikistan, in particular, has largely replaced Bitcoin with TRON as its network of choice, noting a penchant for using the USD Tether stablecoin.

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