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UAE Lawyer Warns New Regulations Could Ban Crypto Payments

ByDayne Lee

Jun 28, 2024

UAE Lawyer Warns New Regulations Could Ban Crypto Payments

Crypto and blockchain attorney Irina Heaver has expressed concerns that recent regulations issued by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may effectively prohibit cryptocurrency payments within the country. These concerns stem from a June 5 meeting of the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE), during which the board of directors discussed initiatives under the country’s Financial Infrastructure Transformation (FIT) program aimed at accelerating digital transformation.

Details of the Regulation

The CBUAE’s board approved the issuance of payment token services regulations to oversee and license stablecoins. According to the new regulations, all payment tokens used within the UAE must be backed exclusively by UAE dirhams and cannot be pegged to any foreign currencies.

Heaver interprets these regulations as a direct prohibition on the use of unlicensed cryptocurrencies for purchasing goods and services. She explains:

  • Crypto Payment Restriction: The regulations require that any cryptocurrency used for payments must either be a dirham-backed licensed payment token or a registered foreign payment token, neither of which currently exist in the UAE.
  • Potential Contradiction: Heaver believes this regulatory move contradicts the UAE’s historically pro-commerce and pro-investment policies, which have traditionally promoted liberal economic practices and foreign direct investment.

Heaver raises significant concerns about how these regulations align with the UAE’s foundational economic principles and their potential effect on foreign investment:

  • Impact on Commerce: The new rules could stifle the flexibility that businesses and investors currently enjoy in terms of transaction terms, including the choice of payment methods and currencies.
  • Risk to Digital Economy Ambitions: By potentially halting the use of popular stablecoins like Tether (USDT) in transactions, these regulations might slow down the progress of the UAE’s burgeoning Web3 and crypto sector.

The Role of Tether and Stablecoins in Web3

  • Backbone of Transactions: Tether, as highlighted by Heaver, plays a crucial role in Web3 and crypto transactions globally. Restricting its use could undermine the UAE’s efforts to develop this sector.

Heaver points out a significant gap in the UAE’s crypto landscape—the absence of a cohesive industry association similar to Switzerland’s Crypto Valley Association, which has effectively lobbied against restrictive regulations:

  • Fragmented Associations: Current associations in the UAE are described as fragmented and more focused on deal flow and business development rather than advocating for regulatory interests that support the industry’s growth.
  • Need for a United Voice: The absence of a united industry voice in the UAE puts the sector at a disadvantage, especially when facing potentially harmful policies that are not fully considered.
ConcernDescriptionPotential Impact
Regulatory ProhibitionBan on unlicensed crypto paymentsLimits transaction flexibility and crypto use
Economic MisalignmentRegulations contradict free-market principlesCould deter foreign investment and innovation
Advocacy GapLack of a united crypto advocacy group in the UAEIneffective resistance against harsh policies

As the UAE navigates these new regulatory waters, the implications for its digital economy and global fintech standing are profound. Stakeholders, including investors, entrepreneurs, and legal experts like Heaver, are calling for thoughtful consideration and potential revision of these policies to foster a more conducive environment for the growth of blockchain and cryptocurrency innovations in the region.

Featured image credit: via Freepik

Dayne Lee

With a foundation in financial day trading, I transitioned to my current role as an editor, where I prioritize accuracy and reader engagement in our content. I excel in collaborating with writers to ensure top-quality news coverage. This shift from finance to journalism has been both challenging and rewarding, driving my commitment to editorial excellence.

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