The UK Has A New Crypto-friendly Prime Minister

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Chinese Intelligence Officers Bribed U.S. Official Using Bitcoin To Undermine An Investigation

According to the Wall Street Journal, an announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stated two intelligence officers working for the People’s Republic of China allegedly tried bribing a U.S. government official with bitcoin in an effort to collect information related to an investigation into Chinese tech giant Huawei. 

Prosecutors state that Gochun He and Zheng Wang, the intelligence officers in question, attempted to bribe the U.S. law enforcement official by offering $61,000 worth of bitcoin. 

However, the U.S. law enforcement official was a double agent working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

During a press conference announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, 

“This was an egregious attempt by PRC (People’s Republic of China) intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system.” 

The legal actions were announced at a delicate time in the Chinese political calendar as President Xi Jinping emerged from a congress of the Communist Party that extended his rule. 

The moves also come just weeks before Mr. Xi is expected to see President Biden in Asia for what would be their first face-to-face meeting as heads of state and amid damaged bilateral relations on many fronts. 

Western intelligence officials have for many years accused Huawei of being a particularly notable threat that could be weaponized by the Chinese government for cyber-espionage or potentially disruptive hacking operations. 

The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond when the Wall Street Journal reached out to them for a comment. A spokesman for Huawei didn’t either. Huawei and China have both repeatedly denied the earlier allegations of wrongdoing. 

“In all three of these cases, and frankly in thousands of others, we found the Chinese government threatening established democratic norms and the rule of law as they work to undermine U.S. economic security and fundamental human rights, including those of Americans,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. 

He also stated that China’s Communist Party “claims to stand for sovereignty and non interference in other states of affairs, but what the Chinese government actually does is interfere with sovereign governments around the world whenever doing so suits Beijing,” 

U.S. prosecutors first unsealed charges against Huawei in 2019, portraying the company as a serial violator of U.S. laws and global business practices. In February 2020, prosecutors expanded on that case with sweeping allegations that Huawei engaged in a racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. 

The bulk of the activity detailed in the new case is alleged to have occurred after prosecutors unveiled the 2020 indictment, which came against the backdrop of a Trump administration effort to persuade allies to lock Huawei out of their next generation of mobile networks. 

Despite Biden’s political campaigns interpreting Trump’s “hard on China” policies for “xenophobia,” the Biden administration has largely continued the pressure against Chinese technology believed to pose a security risk in the event of a conflict, and Western allies have also adopted darker views of Beijing’s ambitions. 

In a speech earlier this month in London, U.K. spy chief Jeremy Fleming said China’s efforts to exert global control over technology was “the national security issue that will define our future.” 

According to the U.S. complaint unsealed on Monday, Messrs. He and Wang allegedly began attempting in early 2017 to cultivate a relationship with a U.S. law-enforcement official who “subsequently began working as a double agent for the U.S. government” and was supervised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The official received thousands of dollars in payments in the form of bitcoin, cash, and $600 in jewelry for sharing purportedly confidential information about the government’s case against Huawei, according to the complaint. 

The alleged Chinese spies aimed to collect a range of sensitive information in the coming Huawei racketeering case, including details about witnesses, potential new charges and trial evidence, the complaint said.

Crypto-Friendly Rishi Sunak To Become UK Prime Minister Following Truss Exit

After Liz Truss’ contentious resignation last week, Rishi Sunak, who oversaw the U.K.’s new crypto ambitions while serving as finance minister, has been chosen to lead the nation by serving as the country’s next prime minister. 

Apart from being the youngest prime minister in modern U.K. history, Sunak has previously announced his intentions to turn the U.K. into a crypto hub – and has also helped usher in the Financial Services and Markets Bill. 

If passed into law, The Financial Services and Markets Bill could give local regulators broad power over the crypto industry, starting with bringing asset-pegged crypto-like stablecoins into the scope of payments regulations. 

Sunak was chosen by his fellow Conservative Party members on Monday to replace Truss – who was in office for just 45 days and was forced to resign after her economic stimulus plan quickly unraveled into chaos, leading to political and economic instability. 

During his time as finance minister under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sunak announced he wanted to turn the U.K. into a crypto hub. Under his leadership, the country’s coin producer, the Royal Mint, was tasked with creating a non-fungible token (NFT) collection, which has yet to come to fruition. 

Truss’ government had expressed a commitment to Sunak’s crypto plans but her resignation threatened to shake things up once again. THe local crypto industry, which had been in communication with Sunak over crypto policy during his tenure as finance minister, stands to welcome his appointment as the leader of the government. 

Following the announcement of Sunak’s appointment, Adam Jackson, director of policy at Innovate Finance, a U.K. tech industry body that also advocates for crypto, called the former finance minister a “champion of fintech.” 

“It’s a positive for crypto and the general economy,” Ian Taylor, director of the industry lobby group CryptoUK, told CoinDesk earlier this week.

New Apple Rules Double Down On 30% NFT “Apple Tax”

Tech giant Apple codified its rules for iOS apps that handle NFTs through its latest App Store guidelines that were published Monday. 

The guidelines officially permit the offering of in-app NFT minting, buying and selling as long as the NFTs do not “unlock features or functionality within the app”. 

Additionally, in-app NFT transactions are subject to a 30% commission rate by the App Store. Apps won’t be allowed to include “buttons, external links, or other calls to action” to circumvent the 30% commission rate. 

The guidelines also rule out using crypto for in-app purchases. And they geo-limit crypto exchanges to locations where they have secured “appropriate licensing and permissions” to provide services. 

Specifically, the new App Store guidelines allow applications to use in-app purchases to “sell and sell services” related to NFTs such as “minting, listing, and transferring.” 

The 30% fee – commonly known as the “Apple tax” – not only applies to NFTs. It has for a while now applied to anything digital that is being sold through an Apple app, and it’s the same reason why Amazon opted not to permit users to buy Kindle books through the Amazon app on Apple devices. 

The rules come despite Apple facing criticism for applying its 30% commission on NFT sales conducted through NFT marketplace apps such as OpenSea or Magic Eden, a move that’s been marked as “grotesquely overpriced” when compared to the average 2.5% commissions on NFT purchases. 

Magic Eden said it removed its service from the App Store after learning of the policy and other NFT marketplaces have scaled back their application functionality with users only able to browse and view their owned NFTs. 

Apple’s guidelines have also ruled out using crypto for in-app purchases, allowing only fiat currency purchases with a “valid payment method” such as debit or credit cards. 

The new guidelines make no changes to Apple’s existing policy on cryptocurrency trading apps put forward by exchanges such as Binance and Coinbase where trades are not subject to the 30% “Apple tax”. 

However, new language was added to clarify that crypto exchange apps can only be offered in their app in “countries or regions where the app has appropriate licensing and permissions to provide a cryptocurrency exchange.”

Luke Baldwin

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