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Hong Kong’s Securities Regulator Halts an ICO, and Orders the Issuer to Refund Investors

Hong Kong’s financial watchdog on Monday ordered a Hong Kong-based company to halt its  initial coin offering(ICO) and return all tokens to investors, further tightening its grip on crypto Wild West while ensuring the protection of investors.

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In its statement, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said that the ICO issuer Black Cell Technology Limited (Black Cell) , which sells the token called“krop”, had “engaged in potential unauthorized promotional activities and unlicensed regulated activities”.

Black Cell promoted the sale of krop tokens through its website, promising investors that their inputs would be used to fund the development of a mobile app called “KROPS”, a marketplace where you can have access to every food source in the world, and token holders would be given rights to redeem equity shares of the company.

The SFC considers Black Cell’s practice may qualify as a “ Collective Investment Scheme(CIS)” that is required to be preregistered and preauthorized under local regulations. Thus krop tokens are regarded as a “security” and fall under the SFC’s jurisdiction.

According to the official website of Black Cell, the agriculture-related mobile app Krops was launched in the Philippines in January 2017, and as of last October, the app had completed 12 million USD worth of transactions. But the size of its ICO and the value of its tokens remain unclear.

Before the SFC’s crackdown, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission had filed a cease-and-desist order in late January of this year against four companies associated with Black Cell and halted its unlicensed ICO in the country . Now Black Cell’s toke sale has been halted by the second securities regulator.

Hong Kong’s SFC mentioned in the statement that ICO issuers in Hong Kong should seek legal or other professional advice before selling tokes to investors if they have questions about “the applicable legal and regulatory requirements”. Meanwhile, the financial regulator also warned investors of the risks of buying into ICOs.

Regulators across the globe have escalated their clampdown on ICO activities and cryptocurrency trading in recent months amid concerns ranging from money laundering to fraud. SFC sent letters to 7 illegal cryptocurrency exchanges and warned them to stop cryptocurrency trading on February 9. In the future, the SFC is expected to put forward more policies and measures to rein in the crypto Wild West.

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