OKX, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, is seeking regulatory approval to operate in Dubai as it plans to expand the company’s operations in the Middle East, an executive told Reuters on Thursday.
Regulation is an industry trend, OKX global director of government relations Tim Byun said.
“We would like to get ahead of that curve and be strongly regulated,” he said.
Earlier this month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Binance and Coinbase, two other major crypto exchanges, for allegedly violating its rules.
Byun said he believed the SEC move would push more applicants towards innovative regulators like Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA).
OKX plans to hire 30 employees, Byun said, after opening an office last month at the Dubai World Trade Center in the business and financial hub of the United Arab Emirates.
OKX Middle East said on Thursday it had received a preparatory license from the Dubai regulator, a first step toward obtaining an operating license that would allow it to serve institutional clients and investors.
“If we expand Dubai to offer services in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, to jurisdictions where a national framework is not required, then those national populations will actually get a windfall because we are regulated by an international regulator,” Byun said.
OKX is regulated in the Bahamas and currently does not allow US clients to use its platform due to regulatory issues.
VARA was formed in March 2022 to regulate the emerging virtual asset sector in the emirate, excluding the Dubai International Finance Center financial free zone, as the UAE pushes to become a global hub for the industry.
No company has yet obtained a license under VARA’s full market product (FMP) stage, which would allow it to serve retail clients, regulator information shows. OKX plans to apply for such a license, Byun said.
“If the territories are willing to present a clear, transparent and balanced approach, OKX would like to be regulated and licensed and operate in that jurisdiction,” Byun said.
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