JAN 11, 2024
Apple India blocks eight exchanges subject to FIU notice
It emerged on Wednesday that the Indian version of the Apple App Store has blocked access to eight crypto exchanges that were recently subject to a show cause notice from an Indian government agency, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
The development occurred only two weeks after these global firms were flagged for allegedly operating "illegally" in the country. The FIU had cited non-compliance with India's anti-money laundering rules.
In its statement on Dec. 28, the FIU urged India's IT Ministry to block the websites of all nine services in the country. The affected exchanges include Huobi, Gate.io, Bittrex, Binance, Kraken, Kucoin, MEXC Global and Bitfinex. Binance acknowledged the issue in a social media post, stating that it will continue to work with local regulators. Interestingly, Bitstamp, another exchange mentioned by the FIU, remained operational on the App Store in India.
While these apps have been removed from the Apple App Store, they are still available on the Google Play Store in India and their websites remain accessible within the country. Users who had previously installed these apps on their devices can still access them.
The backdrop for this action involves a trend where many Indian traders had shifted to global cryptocurrency platforms rather than native digital asset exchanges. India initiated cryptocurrency taxation last year, imposing a 30% tax on gains and a 1% deduction on each crypto transaction.
While Indian-based exchanges like CoinSwitch, CoinDCX and WazirX maintain compliant know-your-customer verifications, global platforms have not followed suit. Notably, WazirX has experienced a drastic 97% drop in trading volume over two years as many traders migrated to global apps.
It’s thought that as many as five million crypto users have shifted their trading activity to offshore exchanges. The tax has proven to be controversial and according to Dr. Vikash Gautam, the author of a report on the tax measure published last November, “it just isn’t enforceable . . . It is possible to be done with international cooperation, but we do understand it is a long process. Some of the other countries have some arrangements with international exchanges to track that."
Leveling the playing field
It’s amid that competitive backdrop that native Indian exchanges lobbied the Indian government through the Bharat Web3 Association (BWA) to take action against unregulated offshore exchanges recently.
CoinSwitch's co-founder and CEO, Ashish Singhal, urged offshore exchanges to comply with local regulations, suggesting registration with the FIU and adherence to India's Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CFT) measures. Singhal, whose CoinSwitch platform is a founding member of the BWA industry advocacy group, highlighted that this would not only benefit offshore exchanges but also enhance consumer protection in India through increased regulatory oversight.
Earlier warnings from Indian cryptocurrency exchanges foresaw users shifting to decentralized exchanges or non-compliant services due to the New Delhi government's taxation policy on crypto. In response, CoinDCX announced incentives for customers transferring their crypto assets from global exchanges to its India-based platform. Taking to social media on Wednesday, CoinDCX founder Sumit Gumpta stated:”This is a defining moment for [virtual digital assets] in India, and we're dedicated to facilitating a seamless and secure transition for investors navigating these changes.”