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Vanuatu Set to Enact Long-Awaited Cryptocurrency Legislation in September

ByDayne Lee

Jun 30, 2024

Vanuatu Set to Enact Long-Awaited Cryptocurrency Legislation in September

The Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu is poised to enact a significant digital asset and service provider bill by September. This development, eagerly anticipated by the local and international financial communities, was highlighted during a digital assets symposium organized by the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC) on June 27.

The bill, initially introduced in 2020, aims to formalize the regulatory framework for virtual asset service providers (VASPs) in Vanuatu. It will establish essential licensing and registration requirements, allowing these entities to operate legally within the nation for the first time. Despite being ready for several years, its enactment has been delayed due to numerous cabinet changes, according to VFSC policy consultant Loretta Joseph.

VFSC’s Role and Regulatory Objectives

Commissioner Branan Karae of the VFSC underscored the importance of the bill during his opening remarks at the symposium, stating that it is slated for enactment during the first week of the upcoming Parliament session. This legislation is crucial for Vanuatu to align with the standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which mandates countries to evaluate and mitigate risks associated with cryptocurrency service providers and activities.

The proposed act will introduce five classes of licenses covering various functions from exchanges between virtual assets and fiat currencies to crypto custody services. Key provisions and structures include:

  • Regulatory Oversight: The VFSC will monitor all VASPs to ensure compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) laws.
  • Commissioner’s Authority: The Commissioner will have the authority to veto licenses and appoint inspectors to ensure VASPs operate in compliance with the law.
  • Fintech Sandbox Utility: This provision allows companies seeking licenses to operate for 12 months without one, facilitating innovation and compliance testing.
  • Penalties for Non-Compliance: Individuals found operating without a license can face fines up to 25 million Vanuatu vatus ($207,700) or 15 years imprisonment, while corporations can incur fines up to $2.1 million.

Joseph highlighted that smaller nations like Vanuatu need innovative methods to foster economic prosperity. By establishing a robust regulatory framework for digital assets, Vanuatu could enhance its status as an international financial center. The nation, known for its agricultural base and regarded as a tax haven, is looking to expand its economic footprint through strategic financial services.

Vanuatu’s Economic and Financial Landscape

With a GDP of $1.1 billion as of 2022 and an economy primarily based on agriculture, Vanuatu is exploring diversification through financial technologies. The country hosts approximately 2,300 registered institutions offering offshore banking, legal, accounting, insurance, and trust services, illustrating its capacity as a financial hub.

While the bill presents significant opportunities, its successful implementation will require overcoming challenges such as educating the local workforce, integrating global financial practices, and ensuring robust cybersecurity measures. The future directions for Vanuatu’s financial sector will likely include further integration with global markets and leveraging digital technologies to attract international businesses and investors.

Vanuatu’s forthcoming digital asset legislation represents a pivotal development in the nation’s financial landscape, potentially setting a precedent for other small island economies. By September, the enactment of this legislation could mark a new era for cryptocurrency regulation, offering a balanced approach to innovation, security, and economic growth in Vanuatu.

Featured image credit: DALL-E by ChatGPT

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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