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‘Bitcoin Pope’ faces up to 10 years in jail for running two crypto scams

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A securities regulator in the United States, the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB), has detected another batch of alleged cryptocurrency scams.

On Sept. 3, Texas Securities Commissioner Travis J. Iles entered an Emergency Cease and Desist Order against two alleged crypto scam schemes known as Forex Birds and PEK Universe.

The published order names Kumar Babu Bondesi and Darwin Eric Balusek as the alleged operators of the schemes. According to the TSSB, Balusek is also known under the nickname “Bitcoin Pope.”

Operating abroad, the respondents are accused of fraudulent securities offerings tied to foreign exchange (forex) and cryptocurrencies, the authority said. According to the TSSB, Forex Birds was allegedly promising investors earnings up to 11%, with deposits up to $1 million. Forex Birds is also accused of misleading investors by claiming to be registered with a number of authorities in Europe and Australia.

Pek Universe, the alleged promoter of cryptocurrency programs, was promising to earn daily profits for investors — up to nearly 2% per day for 30 days. Both Forex Birds and Pek Universe were not registered to deal in securities in Texas, the regulator said.

According to the official order, the respondents are facing a $10,000 fine or two to 10 years in prison or both. The respondents must request a hearing with the regulator before Sept. 31. As of press time, both Forex Birds and Pek Universe websites are still intact.

The Texas State Securities Board is one of the most active regulators in the U.S. in terms of the crypto industry. The authority is known as the first state securities regulator in the U.S. to enter an enforcement action against a crypto-related firm. In July 2020, the TSSB shut down Mirror Trading International, a multi-level crypto scam scheme operating from South Africa.



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London Stock Exchange-listed firm inks FCA’s approval for crypto services

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Mode Global Holdings, a London Stock Exchange-listed fintech group, has secured major regulatory approvals for cryptocurrency and fintech operations in the United Kingdom.

The company announced Thursday that Mode has secured its Electronic Money Institution license and AMLD5 registration from the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.

The AMLD5 registration has been granted to Mode’s crypto arm Fibermode Limited, establishing it as an official crypto asset firm in the United Kingdom, pursuant to the amended regulations on money laundering, terrorist financing and transfer of funds.

The AMLD5 registration is a requirement for crypto-related businesses in the country that fall within the scope of money laundering regulations. According to the announcement, Mode is the fifth company to have received this registration to date since the FCA became the official AML supervisor of the crypto industry in the U.K. in January 2020.

Alongside the AMLD5, Mode’s subsidiary Greyfoxx Limited also acquired the EMI license, which enables Mode to offer a “range of innovative financial services” to both businesses and consumers in the United Kingdom, the announcement notes.

Following the acquisition of new regulatory approvals, Mode is planning to further expand its crypto services, including decommissioning its investment product known as the “Bitcoin Jar.” The product aims to allow Mode customers to use Bitcoin (BTC) to generate BTC interest rather than simply holding it in a wallet or on an exchange.

Mode CEO Ryan Moore noted that the new regulatory developments provide a major step in Mode’s mission to deliver a trusted and regulated environment. “It means we now have the ability to scale our operations and continue delivering innovative payments products for our customers under our own EMI licence. Both the EMI licence and the AMLD5 registration ensure business transparency, strong oversight and give our customers confidence in our offering,” he said.

Related: UK regulator warns against 111 unregistered crypto companies… and FOMO

The latest news comes shortly after a member of the British Parliament pointed out major difficulties in the process of registering crypto firms under the FCA’s AML regulations in late May. Economic secretary John Glen elaborated that FCA was not able to process and register all applications by its previous deadline due to a significant number of firms failing to adopt robust AML control frameworks as well as employ proper staff.