Bitcoin India PHOTO

Crypto BANNED? Is cryptocurrency legal in India?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are facing a crackdown from governments around the world, including India and China, in a bid to tighten up regulations and protect consumers. But are cryptocurrencies legal in India?

Since the start of 2018, Bitcoin has suffered a massive price crash after its stratospheric growth last year sparked concern among central bankers.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde is the latest economic chief to wade into the argument, saying cryptocurrency regulation is “inevitable”.

And bitcoin’s price fall – slumping more than 55 percent since its December high of $19,982 – has been partly blamed on countries that are beginning to introduce cryptocurrency regulations.

Some of the most outspoken countries are India, South Korea and China.

Is the cryptocurrency legal in India?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have a complicated relationship in India because although they are not technically banned, they are not considered to be legal tender by financial institutions.

This was outlined by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during a budget speech on February 1.

Mr Jaitley said: “The government does not consider cryptocurrencies as legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate the use of these crypto assets in financing illegitimate activities.”

Last August he told the Indian Parliament that the government had no authority to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin trading is hugely popular among Indians and has surged in recent months across the country.

According to one estimate by bitcoin platform Unocoin, its website saw a steep rise in users towards the end of last year.

Company founder Sathvik Vishwanth told the Financial Times in January: “Early last year we were gaining about 10,000 new users each month.

“In December it was about 7,000 to 8,000 each day.”

Is cryptocurrency legislation on its way in India?

While India is not outlawing cryptocurrency just yet, it does seem to be making things very difficult for investors.

In recent days, India’s Income Tax Department announced it had issued notices to 100,000 cryptocurrency investors suspected of concealing profits.

Sushil Chandra, chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, said: “We found out that there is no clarity on investments made by many people, which means that they have not declared it properly,”

“People who have made investments in cryptocurrency and have not paid tax on the profit earned by investing, we are sending them notices as we feel that it is all taxable.”

On Saturday, the Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman Ajay Tyagi said regulations on cryptocurrencies was being finalised, along with the individual roles of regulators, according to the New Indian Express newspaper.

No further information was given but investors will now be nervously waiting to hear what happens in the coming days and weeks ahead.

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Law At Work celebrates record success

Law At Work (LAW) has made two strategic hires as it celebrates record success in the first half of its financial year.

Revenues are up 30 per cent on the same period last year with growth coming from the acquisition of new clients, including Border Biscuits and Shetland Arts Trust, as well as increased demand for health & safety support as well as employment law mainly due to the changes around employment tribunals fees.

The HR At Work team, boosted by the acquisition of Square Circle HR in 2016, has expanded to include senior HR consultant, Lynn Lavelle, who has 15 years’ experience as an HR advisor, and has previously worked in Royal Bank of Scotland’s mentor division.

The second strategic hire, Michael Moran, joined Safety At Work, the health & safety arm of the business, as manager in January 2018 after a period with one of the UK’s largest fixed-fee consultancy firms, Peninsula Business Services.

Magnus Swanson, chairman of Law At Work, said: “Our growing teams have been extremely busy and we have been recruiting in all three service areas. It is exciting to see our investment in quality staff and IT paying dividends and our revenues of £1.48m for the first half of the new financial period are up 30 per cent on the previous year.

“Clients have responded well to the wealth of resources and expertise available to them, and many of our long-term clients have signed up for further five-years contracts.

“2018 is on course to be one of our most successful years yet and our teams are motivated to continue building upon this momentum.”

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Bitcoin is a bubble and a Ponzi scheme according to this top banker

The head of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) has warned that central banks must be prepared to act against cryptocurrencies, which he labeled “a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster”.

Agustin Carstens, the general manager of the BIS, said bitcoin raises concerns about consumer and investor protection.

“Appropriate authorities have a duty to educate and protect investors and consumers, and need to be prepared to act,” Carstens said during a speech in Frankfurt.

Carstens said digital tokens “masquerading as currencies” must not subvert trust in central banks.

​He described bitcoin as “a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster”, with his last point in reference to the huge amount of energy it takes to create the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin’s price has tanked in the past week, and on Sunday it dropped below $8,000 a coin for the first time since it surpassed that level in November 2017. The asset has been under pressure since the start of the year as the threat of regulatory crackdowns around the world weigh.

Despite the drop in price and the chorus of “cryptocurrency naysayers”, the bitcoin market is actually maturing, according to David Coker, the former vice president of global risk management at Deutsche Bank.

“In truth these events are nothing more than a further sign that the bitcoin market, and cryptocurrencies in general, are maturing; in other words, business as usual and much ado about nothing.”

He explained that the decisions by Lloyds Bank and Virgin Money yesterday to ban credit card purchases of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were taken with the view that bitcoin represents a new asset class, exhibiting characteristics of both commodities and currencies.

“Viewed from this perspective, prohibiting credit card customers from charging their purchases of bitcoin makes good sense and is a sign that the market is adapting to the peculiarities of cryptocurrencies, without the need for top down regulation,” said Coker, who now works as a lecturer at the University of Westminster.

Bitcoin continues to yo-yo after a particularly rough month for the notoriously volatile cryptocurrency,

The price dipped back below $8,000 on Sunday morning after briefly surpassing $9,000 earlier on Saturday, the latter being a week high.

Bitcoin has lost more than half its value since hitting an all-time high of more than $19,000 at the end of last year.

The cryptocurrency has landed in the sights of regulators in recent weeks, dampening some of the appetite among investors.

Last week Lloyds became the first major bank in the UK to ban the buying of bitcoin with its credit cards. And Irish banks are the latest to be revealed to be monitoring the situation, following on from others in the UK.

An official from the ECB called it a gold rush with no gold, while finance heads in France and Germany called for a crackdown.

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Weil strengthens relationship with second M&A deal in a week

Weil Gotshal & Manges has acted on a second major M&A transaction in a week for client Sanofi, as the pharma giant returns to the acquisition trail.

The US firm won the top role for Sanofi, which today revealed it would buy Ablynx for just under €4bn (£3.5bn).

The announcement comes just a week after Weil acted for Sanofi on its $11.6bn deal with Bioverativ, with both transactions expanding Sanofi’s capabilities for treating blood disorders.

US-based corporate chair Michael Aiello led the deal team from Weil Gotshal, alongside partner Matthew Gilroy.

Partner Adé Heyliger also advised from the public company advisory group in Washington DC, while partner Jeffery Osterman worked on IP matters and partner John Scribner advised on antitrust with counsel Michael Naughton. Partners Olivier Jauffret and Daneil Dokos supported on banking and finance in Paris and New York respectively.

NautaDutilh advised Sanofi on Belgian law matters.

Sanofi fought off stiff competition for Ablynx from Novo Nordisk, with the latter having turned to Davis Polk & Wardwell for support. Novo Nordisk’s offer was much lower at €2.6bn.

Linklaters advised the target Ablynx, acting as co-counsel with Goodwin Procter.

Magic circle corporate partners Arnaud Coibion and Philippe Remels advised Ablynx on Belgian law aspects of the deal from Brussels. They were supported by counsel Filip Lecoutre, who is based in Antwerp.

Goodwin advised on US law aspects, with life sciences chair Mitch Bloom leading the team for Ablynx from Boston.

The teal also included Boston corporate partners Jim Matarese and Blake Liggio, while Eubelius offered further support in Belgium.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

Benjamin PHOTO

Israel criticises Poland over proposed Holocaust law

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticised a draft Polish bill to make it illegal to accuse Poles of complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.

“I strongly oppose it. One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied,” he said in a statement.

The bill, which is an amendment to an existing Polish law, would also make it illegal to describe Nazi death camps in Poland as Polish.

It is expected to pass in the Senate before being signed by the president.

The Polish charge d’affaires to Israel has been summoned by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany during World War Two. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust.

The country has long objected to the use of phrases like “Polish death camps”, which suggest the Polish state in some way shared responsibility for camps such as Auschwitz.

The camps were built and operated by the Nazis after they invaded Poland in 1939.

Israeli officials are opposed to the proposed law, suggesting it will limit discussion of Polish involvement in the Holocaust.

“This is a shameful disregard of the truth,” said Israel’s Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.

“It is a historic fact that many Poles aided in the murder of Jews, handed them in, abused them, and even killed Jews during and after the Holocaust.”

But he acknowledged that phrases such as “Polish camps” were misrepresentative.

“It is also a historic fact that the Germans initiated, planned, and built the work and death camps in Poland. That is the truth, and no law will rewrite it. These facts must be taught to the next generation.”

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel said: “There is no doubt that the term ‘Polish death camps’ is a historical misrepresentation. Yad Vashem will continue to support research aimed at exposing the complex truth regarding the attitude of the Polish population towards the Jews during the Holocaust.”

The Polish government said the bill was not intended to limit freedom to research or discuss the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted that “Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a Polish name, and Arbeit Macht Frei is not a Polish phrase”.

The country’s Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki, who authored the bill, said Israel’s objections were “proof” that it was needed.

“Important Israeli politicians and media are attacking us for the bill. On top of that they claim that Poles are co-responsible’ for the Holocaust,” he said.

“This is proof how necessary this bill is.”

It is estimated that 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, died at Auschwitz before it was liberated by Soviet forces in 1945.

Ashurst hires DLA Piper Frankfurt head arbitration partner

Ashurst has hired DLA Piper’s Frankfurt office managing partner and a former Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) arbitration partner.

DLA Piper’s Michael Holzhaeuser joins as a competition partner in Ashurst’s Frankfurt office. The office head had been at DLA since 2012 and was previously head of the German antitrust and regulatory practice at Weil Gotshal & Manges.

He advises clients on all aspects of EU and German competition law and his practice includes defending international antitrust proceedings for cartels or abusive practices.

DLA confirmed that Frankfurt IP partner Burkhard Fuehrmeyer has been appointed as the firm’s new office head.

Ashurst managing partner Tobias Krug said: “Germany is one of the most important markets for antitrust in the EU, and in the last three years we have witnessed high growth in antitrust investigations and competition litigation issue. Michael’s appointment therefore comes at a critical and exciting time. I am sure he will make a significant impact to our pan-European competition offering.”

Meanwhile, the firm has also recruited former HSF arbitration partner Emmanuelle Cabrol as it continues to rebuild its Paris offering following several departures last year.

Cabrol, who left HSF in September, specialises in commercial disputes across sectors including energy, mining, infrastructure and defence, will lead the firm’s international arbitration team in Paris.

She was part of the legacy Herbert Smith team that acted for Eurotunnel in its arbitration against the French and UK governments in 2007 and was made up to partner at the firm three years later.

Global head of international arbitration Matthew Saunders told Legal Week: “The significance of having a specialist arbitration partner in what is one of the leading global arbitration seats is very important. It’s also important to bolster the significant investment treaty arbitration experience at the firm because of our leading position in the energy and resources sector, particularly in mining work. It’s key that the disputes practice is outward looking and recruiting Emmanuelle is a testament to how strategically important Paris is for the firm.”

An HSF press spokesperson said: “We would like to thank Emmanuelle for her contribution and we wish her every success in the future.”

The move follows several defections from Ashurst’s base in the French capital last year.