Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) in a press release has announced that Mathew White will be the new CEO of VARA as the authority moves towards the next phase of ramping up to full scale market operations. This comes as VARA gears up towards fining a dozen crypto firms.
As per the press release, Matthew White, the new CEO of VARA, brings deep subject-matter expertise in technology and digital trust, with over 20 years of global advisory experience including his current tenure as a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This planned leadership transition will be seamlessly facilitated over the coming months as incumbent CEO Henson Orser will remain fully engaged to support Matthew’s effective integration into the role.
Mathew is no stranger to VARA and played a role in building up the authority.
Earlier today, in a Bloomberg article it noted that VARA is poised to levy fines on over a dozen crypto firms, as the head of Dubai’s crypto regulator departs after less than a year on the job.
VARA’s press release states, “The VARA senior management team has begun the operational transition to guarantee smooth business operations, and maintain stability during this leadership change. This well-planned transition will ensure the Authority’s continued stability and growth acceleration going forward.”
The news comes as VARA calls on more than 1000 legacy firms to complete their applications to register under Dubai’s unique regulatory framework by November 17th 2023, as part of Dubai’s commitment to fostering a transparent and resilient virtual asset environment.
The press release notes, Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) is advancing its engagement with the virtual asset market to evaluate compliance with its set regulations, emphasizing the obligatory licensing for all Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) in the Emirate.”
It is noted that firms lagging in their application processes have until 17th November 2023 before enforcement mechanisms are due to be triggered by default. As such VARA is calling on VASPs that have yet to submit the applications, have missed the notifications from their commercial licensing authorities, or have submitted incomplete forms to proactively get in touch, to avoid unintended regulatory consequences.
This follows two major events that occurred in UAE over the past month. The first is the new guidance issued by The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE), in collaboration with other regulatory bodies. CBUAE unveiled a set of comprehensive guidelines targeting virtual asset service providers (VASPs) operating within the country. The new guidance includes stringent penalties for VASPs found to be operating without the necessary licenses. This move is part of the UAE’s broader efforts to improve its standing with international financial regulatory bodies, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and ultimately, to be removed from the FATF’s “grey list.”
The other event occurred on October 31, when Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson met with His Excellency Saeed Mubarak Al Hajeri, Assistant Minister for Trade and Economic Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Under Secretary Nelson and Assistant Minister Al Hajeri discussed the importance of continued collaboration on international sanctions and export controls, as well as countering the financing of terrorist groups and destabilizing actors across the region, while also ensuring the continued flow of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
Under Secretary Nelson stressed the importance of Treasury’s partnership with the UAE through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, such as the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center. The officials also discussed the UAE’s significant progress in addressing vulnerabilities in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime.
In conclusion given that the new CEO Mathew White has strong expertise in both cyber security and digital trust, we could see more stringent regulatory oversight with increased focus on compliance, AML, and KYC. How many of the 1000 firms will make it to regulatory status remains to be seen, and who will be fined soon will also be of interest.