Crypto exchange OKX seeks Middle East expansion

Crypto exchange OKX seeks Middle East expansion
Crypto exchange OKX seeks Middle East expansion

The crypto exchange had received a preparatory licence from Dubai’s regulator

OKX, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges, plans to expand the company’s Middle East operations, for which it is seeking regulatory approval to operate in Dubai.

Regulation is an industry trend, OKX Global Head of Government Relations Tim Byun said.

“We would like to get ahead of that curve and be regulated in a sound manner,” he said.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), earlier this month, sued Binance and Coinbase for allegedly breaching its rules. Binance and Coinbase are the other two largest crypto exchanges.

Byun said he believed the SEC’s move would push more applicants towards innovative regulators like Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA).

After opening an office last month in the Dubai World Trade Centre in the business and financial hub of the United Arab Emirates, the crypto exchange plans to hire 30 staff, said Byun.

On Thursday, OKX Middle East said the crypto exchange had received a preparatory licence from Dubai’s regulator. This is a first step towards securing an operating licence that would allow the crypto exchange to serve institutional clients and investors.

“If we expand Dubai to offer services in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, jurisdictions where there is no domestic framework required, then those domestic populations are actually getting a windfall benefit because we are regulated by an international regulator,” Byun said.

The crypto exchange, which is currently not allowing customers from the United States to use its platform due to regulatory issues, is regulated in the Bahamas.

As the UAE pushes to become a global hub for the industry, VARA, which was formed in 2022 to regulate the emerging virtual asset sector in the emirate, excludes the Dubai International Financial Centre financial free zone.

Regulator information shows that no firm has yet been licenced under VARA’s full market product (FMP) stage, which would permit the serving of retail clients. OKX plans to apply for such a licence, Byun said.

“If territories are willing to come up with a balanced, clear, and transparent approach, OKX would like to be regulated, licenced, and operate in that jurisdiction,” Byun said.

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