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Ian Simpson

CVA Position on FATF Draft Interpretive Note on Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers

By | Articles, Public Announcements

The CVA position was drafted and submitted to the Financial Action Task Force on 26 April 2019 by the CVA Regulatory and Policy Working Group Task Force with the guidance and support from Christine Gschwend (WG Task Force Leader), Thomas Stoltz, Tobias Kallenbach (Co-Chairs), and Dr Mattia Rattaggi (CVA Board Member).


On February 22, 2019, the FATF published guidance to Members and Observers on the application of Recommendations 10, 15 and 16 to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs). The FATF also requested that comments be provided on the proposed amendments to Recommendation 16 captured under item 7(b) of the Draft Interpretive Note.

The CVA recognizes that regulated VASPs provide a reliable source of information for law enforcement in the detection, investigation and prosecution of money laundering and other forms of criminal activity. In order to allow VASPs to provide services that compete with those alternatively offered by decentralized technologies, the CVA has crafted comments and recommendations that support the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism, while allowing VASPs to remain competitive in the quickly evolving market of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs).

The comments and recommendations presented below in principle reflect Switzerland’s legal framework for DLTs.

  • Executive Summary

The CVA recommends the following:

  1. The definition of Virtual Assets should not be broadened. The term VASPs and custodial services should be clearly defined.
  2. Recommendation 16 on wire transfers should restrict the activity of VASPs to recording and screening beneficiary information, but should not include the transfer of such information to the beneficiary.
  3. Recommendation 17 should allow alternative means of identity validation.
  4. Support for the strengthening of global private – public partnerships in the area of information sharing should consider relevant data privacy laws.
  • Position of the CVA

1. Definition of Virtual Assets

The FATF uses the term “virtual asset” to refer to “digital representations of value that can be digitally traded or transferred and can be used for payment or investment purposes, including digital representations of value that function as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and/or a store of value.”

The FATF emphasises that virtual assets are distinct from fiat currency (a.k.a. “real currency,” “real money,” or “national currency”), which is the money of a country that is designated as its legal tender.

In its Draft Interpretive Note, the FATF further clarifies that “countries should consider virtual assets as “property,” “proceeds,” “funds”, “funds or other assets,” or other “corresponding value”. Countries should apply the relevant measures under the FATF Recommendations to virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs).”

The CVA is of the opinion that the term Virtual Assets should not be expanded to include these additional references and that the scope should be limited to a digital representation that can be used by third parties as a means of payment for goods and services.

The definition of Virtual Assets could, however, be further clarified by identifying the categories of tokens that do not fall under the definition of Virtual Assets due to their legal or technological characteristics. We note in particular that utility tokens, which solely provide access to a digital function or non-financial service, cannot be used as a means of payment. The same can be said of asset tokens that represent the equivalent of a share, bond, derivative or other financial instrument, which equally do not have the properties of a payment token. The issuance of such tokens should not be subject to money laundering regulations. 

We further recommend that VASPs and “Custodial Wallet Service Providers” be defined as follows:

Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP)

Persons or legal entities that, on a professional basis; (i) accept cash of more than EUR/USD 100,000 as part of a commercial transaction, (ii) accept or hold deposited Virtual Assets belonging to others as a CWSP, (iii) assist in the investment of Virtual Assets, or (iv) assist in the transfer Virtual Asset from one party to another. Examples may include: centralized trading platforms or exchanges, issuers of Virtual Assets, Virtual Asset fund managers or CWSPs.

Custodial Wallet Service Providers (CWSP)

A VASP that has access to its client’s private keys and therefore can trigger a transaction on behalf of its clients (power of disposal over 3rd party assets).

  1. Customer Due Diligence (Rec. 10)

VASPs should be required to undertake customer due diligence (CDD) measures when carrying out occasional transactions above USD / EUR 3,000, rather than USD / EUR 1,000 as recommended under 7(a) of the Draft Interpretive Note. Implementation of CDD below this threshold will add administrative costs to VASPs, further disadvantaging them over decentralized DLT services, with little gain in terms money laundering prevention. Maintaining a low enough threshold of USD / EUR 3000 will, however, allow CDD efforts to capture transactions which may be financing terrorism.

  1. Wire Transfers (Rec. 16)

“Countries should ensure that originating VASPs obtain and hold required and accurate originator information and required beneficiary information on virtual asset transfers, submit the above information to beneficiary VASPs and counterparts (if any), and make it available on request to appropriate authorities.”

(INR 15, 7(b) R.16)

3.1    Transferring Transactional Data

As the infrastructure for sharing originator and beneficiary information via blockchain technology in a cost-effective manner is limited, VASPs would need to rely on existing technology to transmit beneficiary and originator information on DLT transactions (email, sms, internal databases, etc.).

Such additional steps for each individual transaction would not only generate significant administration and operational expenses, but would also be impractical when applied to the transfer of assets between custodial accounts hosted by VASPs and private wallet addresses. Implementing such a requirement would therefore require a multi-process solution depending on the nature of the recipient.

Of greater importance is the risk to an individual’s data privacy that would come with the transmission of data between an originating VASP and a beneficiary, which contains both blockchain address information and a person’s name and residential address. Given the ease of tracing transaction histories via block explorers, mandating the exchange of such data between parties with no or inadequate security framework can potentially expose personal data to privacy breaches, leading to exploitation based on a person’s discoverable transaction history, account balance, or worse.

With the understanding that the transmission of such basic information aims at providing financial intelligence units with originator and beneficiary information, in order to support the investigation of suspicious or unusual activity, we propose that the recording of such information continue to be completed by the originating VASP without the proactive transmission of the information to the beneficiary.

3.2    Obtaining Beneficiary Information

As VASPs have the right of disposal over 3rd party assets, they initiate asset transfers on behalf of their originator clients. To fulfill their due diligence obligation of AML transaction screening, the originating client could therefore be prompted by the VASP to provide beneficiary information prior to a transaction, much like in traditional banking where an originating account holder must identify the beneficiary’s IBAN, but also the name and address of the person to which funds shall be sent.

While it is true that IBANs contain more information on the beneficiary than a blockchain address, VASPs can nevertheless establish a technical solution that prompts the user to provide beneficiary name and address prior to a transfer. Whether the beneficiary’s address is private or hosted by another VASP is irrelevant, and therefore does not need to be known by the originator. AML due diligence must be conducted on the beneficiary itself, not the service provider of the beneficiary’s wallet address.

Information provided by a VASP’s client on the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) of the destination address can easily be falsified or circumvented. However, VASPs can incentivize honesty in the disclosure of UBO in various ways, including by denying services in the event of a confirmed false declaration. The accuracy of the identity of the UBO can be confirmed by blockchain analysis service providers (e.g. Chainalysis, Elliptic, Coinfirm) or additionally, for very high risk / high value transactions, by requesting the UBO to prove their access and control of the beneficiary address by technical means, including digitally signing a message or sending a microtransaction, both which require access to the private key of the beneficiary address.

3.3    VASP Identification

The investigation of criminal activity can be supported by the identification of the originating VASP via blockchain analysis services, or alternatively in the free text field available under the various blockchain transaction types.  Both UTXO and account-based transaction types provide for very limited textual data to be added to each transaction. Requiring VASPs to add an identifier (i.e. equivalent to a bank’s BIC) to each outgoing transaction could provide law enforcement with a source for additional investigative information, a less costly endeavor than transmitting external data between parties off-chain.

3.4    Conclusion

For the above reasons, we recommend that the following changes be made to the proposed Interpretive Note to Recommendation 16:

“Countries should ensure that originating VASPs obtain and hold required and accurate originator information and required beneficiary information on virtual asset transfers, submit the above information to beneficiary VASPs and counterparts (if any), and make it available on request to appropriate authorities. It is not necessary for this information to be attached directly to virtual asset transfers. Countries should ensure that beneficiary VASPs obtain and hold required originator information and required and accurate beneficiary information on virtual asset transfers, and make it available on request to appropriate authorities. Other requirements of R.16 (including monitoring of the availability of information, and taking freezing action and prohibiting transactions with designated persons and entities) apply on the same basis as set out in R.16″

  1. Reliance on Third Parties (Rec. 17)

Increasingly, a number of blockchain-based services are providing platforms for individuals to manage their personal data, including information relating to each individual’s personal identity. Such services rely on a number of different identity validation methods, not all of which are regulated, supervised or stem from a national authority itself. Recommendation 17 relating to the Reliance on third parties should therefore be amended to allow room for innovative solution to develop in this space.  In particular, to allow alternative means of identity validation to be recognized as legally valid.  Such solutions will ensure that children born in locations where identification documentation cannot be issued or individuals whose central national identity register is no longer available due to regional instability can be included in the financial services provided by VASPs and other entities.

  1. Powers of Law Enforcement and Investigative Authorities (Rec. 31)

The CVA welcomes the ideas presented by Global Digital Finance in its input on the FATF Public Statement of April 7, 2019, in which it details under point 2.2 the process for exchanging information on Virtual Asset addresses of interest under a global private – public partnership. If implemented, such an initiative should be compatible with data privacy laws enforced within each jurisdiction.

CVA Working Group Tax / Accounting / Structuring participates in the review process of the Swiss draft VAT guidance on cryptocurrencies

By | Articles, CVA in the News

The CVA Working Group Tax / Accounting / Structuring (CVA WG TAS) has successfully submitted on behalf of the CVA board last Friday, 15 March 2019, its statement regarding the revised first draft VAT guidance on cryptocurrencies issued on 29 January 2019 by the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (SFTA).

The statement has been prepared by Markus Vogel (Chair CVA WG TAS & Tax Partner KPMG), Monika Molnar (Member CVA WG TAS & Tax Partner MME) and Thomas Linder (Member CVA WG TAS & Tax Partner MME) and submitted with the approval of the CVA board to the SFTA. This action is another example of CVA’s diligent work on improving the state of blockchain resp. the business environment in Switzerland and also accounts for the CVA community’s demand to address the current uncertainties in respect of Swiss VAT duties for blockchain businesses.

Although the authors recognise that the revision of the first draft has been a move into the right direction, several aspects of the draft VAT guidance should be reassessed. An outline of the most material revision claims by the CVA WG TAS can be found below:

  • Missing reflection on the cybernetic and autonomous aspects of a decentralised, public open-source blockchain system
  • Necessity for a functional approach towards the classification of blockchain tokens under the consideration of the synchronisation with the respective legal effects:
    • Native tokens
    • Counterparty tokens
    • Ownership tokens
  • Differentiation between crowdfunding activities such as ICOs and other transactions involving blockchain tokens (transfer of blockchain tokens) for VAT purposes
  • VAT treatment of ICOs should follow a case-by-case assessment and cannot be generalised
  • Issuance of blockchain tokens should only result in a VAT liability in case there is a supply of services or goods in return for the provision of (crypto)currencies
  • VAT treatment should basically follow the principles applied to the treatment of the referenced non-tokenised transaction(s) (e.g. voucher token should be dealt as a voucher from a VAT perspective)

You can read the entire statement from the Working Group here [in German].

The CVA WG TAS is keen on hearing back from the SFTA and looks forward to the further finalisation of the VAT guidance on cryptocurrencies. Once sufficient clarity has been reached, the CVA WG TAS will gladly organize respective community events.

CVA Tax and Accounting WG Input on VAT

By | CVA in the News, Member Only Announcements

The CVA Tax and Accounting Working Group submitted the following statement to the SFTA. The statement was prepared by Markus Vogel (Chair CVA WG TAS & Tax Partner KPMG), Monika Molnar…

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New Strategic Agenda for Crypto Valley Association

By | Articles, CVA in the News

The Crypto Valley Association announced its strategic objectives and action plan at its Extraordinary General Assembly yesterday. The CVA Board, whose five new members were elected in January, underlined the need to facilitate blockchain and fintech startups in their funding and implementation goals while maintaining a focus on supporting the overall development of the technology. The Association supports the launch of an independent crypto-friendly Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO) with a own-developed project plan and cooperates with the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) in their effort to issue updated Guidelines on opening corporate accounts for blockchain companies. These and other projects will further help the ever-growing number of startups in Switzerland’s Crypto Valley while following on the trend towards a maturing ICO/STO market as revealed in a recent report co-published with PwC/Strategy&.

With more than 1’200 members from over 20 countries, the Crypto Valley Association continues to grow and expand as the global blockchain ecosystem continues to mature. At its Extraordinary General Assembly today, the CVA announced its strategic objectives and action plan to support its members while contributing to the healthy development of the businesses and the technology.

The recent report on Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) and Security Token Offerings (STO) published jointly by the Crypto Valley Association along with PwC Switzerland and Strategy& indicates a continued trend away from utility token offerings with a stronger emphasis on the more-regulated security token space. At the same time, there is a growing emphasis on the non-financial applications of blockchain technology.

In view of these trends, the CVA’s initiatives include the support of the implementation of an independent crypto-friendly Self-Regulatory Organisation, for which the Association has created a project plan, and the collaboration with the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) in their effort to produce updated Guidelines on opening corporate accounts for blockchain companies.

The CVA is also committed to internationalise its member base as well as the greater Swiss ecosystem, while cooperating strategically with a wide range of stakeholders. It is also committed to developing a “members’ market-place” in order to help increase the flow of capital into the growing industry.

Finally, the Association will continue to cooperate formally with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences in the organisation of the blockchain technology-focused Crypto Valley Conference and aims to strengthen the industry and advance the technology through development of best practices and promotion of thought leadership.

4th ICO and STO Report – growing less, but growing up

By | Articles, CVA in the News

Download the ICO/STO report here.


In the second half of 2018, the number and volume of ICOs and STOs decreased considerably, both due to the shift from ICO to STO and due to the so-called crypto-winter. Experts consider this a generally positive development. With the emergence of regulated STOs, the fundraising method ICO is now leaving a gray area. Global jurisdictions and infrastructure are in line with the trend, with Switzerland still playing a pioneering role.

Zug, 8 March 2019 – In 2018, 1’132 Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) and Security Token Offerings (STOs) were successfully completed, twice as many as in 2017 (552 in total) – as shown in the fourth ICO / STO report by PwC Strategy & in collaboration with Crypto Valley Association (CVA). After crypto-crowdfunding continued its growth course in early 2018 and reached the total volume of the previous year in March 2018, the number and volume declined considerably in the second half of the year. Two startups, EOS and Telegram, have generated a combined 5.8 billion as so-called “unicorns”. Daniel Diemers, Head of Blockchain EMEA at PwC Strategy&: “The trend demonstrates that from an investment strategy perspective, ICOs or STOs remain attractive to investors for venture capital financing. However, there is a process of rethinking in favor of more security and transparency for investors.”

New token models are gaining momentum

The continued decline in value of digital currencies by the end of the year has led to a state of so-called “crypto-winter” in the global crypto community. However, the declining investment volumes were not only caused by the valuation of digital currencies. STOs are gaining popularity in the cryptocurrency industry. Although, STOs as token offerings for securities and rights in rem are not fundamentally different from ICOs, they are a more regulated version of it. STOs combine many features of ICO such as low entry barriers for investors as well as traditional VC/PE fundraising characteristics, e.g. regulations based on local security laws including KYC/AML.

In addition to securities, there is a trend towards tokenization of assets like commodities (gold, oil, etc.) and the tokenization of intangible goods (e.g., music rights). Daniel Diemers “ICOs have often been designed as highly speculative vehicles and have attracted the attention of regulators. Improved regulation through the tokenization and recognition as securities is another step towards maturity. It is interesting to see how the industry has changed in such a short time and what business models will result or which will prevail.”

The regulatory landscape and infrastructure must “level up”

FINMA has addressed the topic of tokenization early on and differentiates between payment, use and investment tokens. “Switzerland’s advanced regulatory model, along with its greater reliance on STOs on established securities laws, provide a good basis for further blockchain developments. We are glad to see that Switzerland continues to play a major role in a dynamic marketplace even as it moves towards more asset tokens and stablecoins, “explains Daniel Haudenschild, president of the Crypto Valley Association.

In addition to increased protection, market participants demand new services such as flexible custody solutions, market data services, reliable rating services and research. With the increasing expectations and the increased regulatory requirements of STOs, the existing infrastructure, for example for trade and custody, must also develop further. This opportunity has been recognized by established stock exchanges and financial institutions and is expanding its services in the crypto sector. For example, the Swiss stock exchange operator SIX announced in the summer of 2018 a platform for the issuance, trading, settlement and custody of digital assets. Another Swiss bank was authorized in January 2019 to become the first global crypto custodian bank.

CVA Member Discount to START Summit – St Gallen

By | Member Only Announcements

CVA Members can get a 30% discount on FOUNDER tickets to the START Summit  in St Gallen on 21-22 March. Use the code: CryptoValley@Summit during checkout.    

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CVA Extraordinary General Assembly – 13 March

By | Member Only Announcements

We are delighted to welcome all CVA members to attend the an Extraordinary General Assembly at the City Garden Hotel, Zug on the 13. March. Following the outcome from the past General…

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CVA Statement on Blue Trading

By | Articles, Public Announcements

The CVA has been approached by various persons regarding the Blue Trading platform. We are currently looking into allegations expressed publicly against Blue Trading of inappropriate business conduct, based on the CVA’s General Code of Conduct: 

“Members do their business in a responsible and transparent way, and do not engage in practices which would be potentially or factually damaging to the image and interests of the CVA and the ecosystem. Members adhere at all times to the Codes and, beyond it, to the applicable laws and regulations.”

As always, the CVA remains committed to its mission of fostering a healthy blockchain ecosystem and does not tolerate any inappropriate behavior within its membership, particularly when it goes against the values that members sign up to when becoming part of the Association.

CVA at Consensus NY 2019

By | Member Only Announcements

  The CVA is again making preparations to have a presence at the Consensus NY conference from 13-15 May 2019. If you are interested in joining the CVA presence, please…

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Crypto Valley Association Transitions into New Year

By | Articles, Public Announcements

Five new board members elected as organization continues to grow along with local ecosystem


The CVA is happy to announce the election of five new members of the board at its 2019 Annual General Assembly.

Daniel Haudenschild, Kevin Lally, Kamales Lardi, Mattia Rattaggi and Martin Berweger will take over from outgoing board members Oliver Bussmann, Vasily Suvorov, Rene Huesler and Nicolas Schobinger. The new board members will work to further the progress that has already been accomplished in building the Swiss and global blockchain ecosystem.

After a period of rapid growth that saw the organization attract over 1’600 members worldwide, the Crypto Valley Association will transition into a new phase highlighted by the election of a slate of new board members.

At the Annual General Assembly held yesterday (31 January) in Zug, the CVA membership elected Kevin Lally, Kamales Lardi, Mattia Rattaggi and Martin Berweger to its board of directors and Daniel Haudenschild as Board President. Board members Maria Gomez and Jenna Zenk resigned at the conclusion of the Annual General Assembly, held in Zug.

In his opening statement to the assembled Association membership, outgoing Board President Oliver Bussmann underscored the rapid growth of the Crypto Valley ecosystem and the CVA’s success writing in the Association’s Annual Report, “We have been very effective in establishing the Crypto Valley as one of the world’s leading blockchain ecosystem, building relationships and alliances with startups, governments, companies, universities, investors and blockchain enthusiasts alike.”

The Association achieved a number of significant milestones in 2018:

  • Introduction of the FINMA ICO Guideline with 3 regionals events with over 600 attendees
  • Successful launch of the Crypto Valley Conference as the first IEEE Blockchain Conference   
  • Guidelines for bank account opening for blockchain startups with the Swiss Bankers Association
  • Blockchain consultation with the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF)
  •  Publication of the first Swiss ICO accounting guidelines for utility/asset tokens with EXPERTsuisse’s Accounting Standards and Swiss VAT draft guidance
  • Three new strategic partners with Lakestar, Consensys and BDO Switzerland
  • “Influencer of the Year” Award of the Swiss FinTech Awards

Incoming CVA President Daniel Haudenschild commented, “I have been extremely impressed with the contributions that the CVA has made to Switzerland becoming one of the premiere locations for blockchain and cryptographic innovation. There is still much to accomplish, but I am confident that the strong network which the CVA provides can be a powerful force for further development as we push forward.”

The CVA thanks its outgoing board members and all those who have been involved in the organization’s success and development over the first two years of its existence.