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Hong Kong to Reveal List of Crypto License Applicants in the Wake of JPEX Scandal

Sujha Sundararajan
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Pixabay / Andy Leung

Hong Kong’s financial watchdog confirmed Monday that it would publish the list of cryptocurrency trading firms that have applied for licenses to operate in the Chinese territory, in the wake of the JPEX scandal.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) will reveal the list following public demand, Julia Leung Fung-yee, CEO of SFC, said during a press conference, per a local media report.

“Being an applicant does not mean the companies are fully compliant with the SFC’s regulations.”

Hong Kong-based unlicensed crypto exchange JPEX defrauded customers, allegedly causing around HK$1.43 billion (US$182 million) in losses to over 1,600 investors, reportedly marking it the largest fraud case in Hong Kong’s history. The incident has apparently caused setbacks in the government’s ongoing efforts to position itself among global crypto hubs.

The regulator further noted that only two digital asset trading platforms have received a license to operate from the SFC, as of August 2023. OSL Digital Securities Limited and Hash Blockchain Limited received approval to serve Hong Kong’s retail customers since the regulator implemented new crypto rules from June 1.

“Four other companies had applied for licenses,” the watchdog said, namely HKVAX, HKBitEx, Hong Kong BGE Limited and Victory Securities.

The SFC identified on September 13, that JPEX is operating in the region without a license. Soon after that, the platform suspended trading services and imposed exorbitant fees for customers who tried to withdraw funds. As of September 23, the number of victims has risen to 2,305, the report read.

SFC Stresses on Investor Education

In a statement released on Monday, the regulator noted that SFC-licensed virtual asset trading platforms (VATPs) are subject to robust governance measures covering safe custody of assets, and prevention of market manipulative activities, among others to safeguard the interests of investors.

“As a condition to allow SFC-licensed VATPs to serve retail investors under the new regime, the SFC has further imposed a number of stringent requirements including ensuring suitability in the onboarding process, enhanced token due diligence, admission criteria and disclosures.”

In a move to help the public identify unregistered or unregulated crypto businesses, the regulator said that it will have a list of “suspicious VATPs” that may have violated the law and would refer cases to the police when necessary.

Furthermore, SFC is planning to launch a public campaign along with the Investor and Financial Education Council (IFEC) to make the public aware of scams and fraud.

The campaign “will further enhance investor education by various means such as mass media, social media and education talks, facilitating the public’s understanding of the risks associated with VAs and potential fraud,” the authority wrote.