Binance Withdraws Abu Dhabi Licence Bid as Crypto Exhange Reassesses Global Structure After CEO Turmoil

Binance has withdrawn an application for an Abu Dhabi licence, the latest sign that the giant crypto exchange is reassessing its global structure as regulatory pressures mount.

The Binance unit, called BV Investment Management, pulled the application with Abu Dhabi’s financial regulator, a spokesperson for Binance said on Thursday.

The request, filed a year ago and withdrawn on November 7, would have allowed the firm to manage a collective investment fund, according to the regulator’s website.

“When assessing our global licensing needs, we decided this application was not necessary,” the Binance spokesperson said.

Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Financial Service Regulatory Authority (FSRA) declined to comment.

Binance founder Changpeng Zhao stepped down as CEO last month after pleading guilty to breaking US anti-money laundering laws, with the exchange agreeing to pay over $4.3 billion to resolve a years-long U.S. investigation.

The decision to pull the licence application was “unrelated” to the US settlement, the Binance spokesperson said.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has been pushing to become a digital asset hub, has been a key location for Binance. Binance has regulator permissions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, its website shows.

Binance last year said it was recruiting over 100 positions in Dubai and helping to shape its crypto regulations.

Former CEO Zhao, a Canadian citizen who was born in China, also became a citizen of the UAE at its invitation, according to U.S. court documents. Zhao has been listed as the owner of two properties in Dubai, filings show.

New CEO Richard Teng, speaking virtually at a Financial Times conference in London on Tuesday, said the company’s Middle East and North Africa headquarters were in Dubai.

He said that the company would announce the location of its global headquarters “in due course”, but declined to give further details on when this announcement would be.

Cyprus, Belgium

This year, Binance has withdrawn from a licence application process in Germany, pulled back from Cyprus and said it was leaving the Netherlands. It was ordered by financial regulators to stop operating in Belgium, but said in August it had set up a Polish entity to serve clients in Belgium.

Binance said the pullback from Cyprus was to focus on “fewer regulated entities in the EU”, including France, Italy and Spain, ahead of the rollout of the European Union’s crypto asset regulations.

Binance has also stopped accepting new users in the UK and has said it would sell its Russia business. In Australia, regulators cancelled the financial services licence of Binance’s derivatives business.

Last week, the securities regulator in the Philippines said it had started the process of blocking Binance there.

The Binance spokesperson said on Thursday the company would continue to work with regulators to “to provide world-class services and offerings in the Middle East and beyond.”

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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