Qatar bans crypto trading

Middle East unrest triggers crypto gains

The oil-rich kingdom of Qatar has reportedly banned the trading of cryptocurrencies.

The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), has stated that: “Virtual Asset Services may not be conducted in or from the QFC at this time.”

The Middle Eastern state’s financial regulator made clear that the ban encompasses “anything of value that acts as a substitute for currency, that can be digitally traded or transferred and can be used for payment or investment purposes.”

It is not clear exactly what has motivated this decision by Qatar, which is the richest country in the world per capita of GDP. However, there is precedent for such opposition to crypto assets.

First reported by the International Investment news outlet, this latest move is in keeping with the country’s previous decisions concerning cryptocurrencies.

Two years ago, the Qatar Central Bank banned the trading of the world’s most popular crypto, Bitcoin (BTC), stating: “This cryptocurrency is highly volatile and can be used for financial crimes and electronic hacking as well as risk loss of value because there are no guarantors or assets.”

Although it recognised that it is traded freely in some countries the central bank labelled Bitcoin as an illegal currency.

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This is a commonly held view in much of the Middle East. While the likes of Saudi Arabia and Iran do allow crypto-mining, the trading and ownership of crypto-assets is restricted due to their decentralised nature.

Although the attitude of governments in the region towards cryptos may be sceptical, events in the Middle East in the past week have contributed to a surge in the value of the leading alternative currencies.

The worsening of relations between the United States and Iran following the assassination of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by US forces, has caused Bitcoin to gain 3.15 per cent in the past 24 hours to stand at $7,541.82 (£5,739.70, €6741.71) by mid-afternoon trading. Ethereum (ETH) has gained by an even greater amount, 3.69 per cent to stand at $142.10.

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