Newsflash: Why This Virginia Police Department’s Pension Just Invested in a $40 Million Crypto Fund

Frequent Bitcoin commentator and t-shirt salesman Anthony Pompliano told Bloomberg this morning that two Fairfax County, Virginia pension funds have gone in on Morgan Creek Digital’s new fund for cryptocurrency companies. The funds represent $1.2 billion in assets for the pensions of police and other public workers in the county.

$25 Million Fund Oversubscribed to $40 Million

The $40 million fund originally only sought $25 million. A small portion of its investment will be in liquid blue chip cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Investment in cryptocurrency companies will be the majority of the fund’s work, however. Coinbase and Bakkt have already been named as targets for investment.

Public pension funds affect almost 20 million Americans. Nearly 4,000 exist. If the experiment in Fairfax County goes well, and police have an even more comfortable retirement as a result, will others follow suit?

Bloomberg reports that “an insurance company, a university endowment and a private foundation” is also throwing in with the fund. It has already bought equity in Bakkt, the Starbucks/NYSE crypto exchange which will likely launch America’s first Bitcoin ETF (eventually).

Everything will be tokenized in the future, Morgan Creek convinced asset managers. Whatever the crypto markets have been doing, blockchain as an industry has been attracting many of the brightest minds in Silicon Valley for years. Fairfax County’s police fund chief investment officer Katherine Molnar told Forbes:

“Blockchain technology is being applied in unique and compelling ways across multiple industries. We feel it is important to be opportunistic and are excited to participate in this emerging opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Pompliano told Bloomberg:

“The smart money is not distracted by price but looks at the long-term trends, and believes they’re betting on innovation as a great way to deliver risk-mitigated returns.”

Coinbase and Bakkt: First Choices for Morgan Creek

To safely manage the money, Morgan Creek needs to focus on companies not directly attached to the value of Bitcoin. Companies focused on the innovation of the blockchain itself, exchanges that profit whether the price is up or down, and companies looking to use the technology for public interest projects. In addition to Bakkt, the fund is making a play in Coinbase, the king of retail crypto sales.

The outspoken Bitcoin bull Pompliano might just invest the money in Bitcoin at these discount prices if it were up to him, however. He spends a great deal of time on Twitter telling people to stop waiting around.

Pompliano recently made headlines when his podcast “Off the Chain” was banned by Apple without warning. Morgan Creek Digital’s $1 million bet against the stock market as of yet has no takers, indicating that while some people speak strongly against cryptos, most people aren’t sure enough to put their money where their mouth is.

Author: P.H. Madore 
Image Credit: Source: Shutterstock

Police crack down on crypto ATMs across Russia

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have been making steady advancements into the mainstream market in many countries around the world, but apparently, this was not the case in Russia. According to local media reports, Russian police have seized no less than 22 automated teller machines (ATMs) selling cryptocurrency in several cities in Russia last week.

Operated by the Bbfpro company, the machines were located in shopping malls, restaurants and stores in nine different Russian cities, Russian news outlet RBC reported, quoting Digital Rights Center lawyer Sarkis Darbinyan.

In a separate interview with Russian media outlets, Bbfpro manager Artem Bedarev claimed there was no notice from the Russian authorities prior to the crackdown, noting that the investigation would continue for at least another six months. The machines would not be returned to Bbfpro while the investigation is ongoing.

The operation was ordered by the Prosecutor’s General Office, acting on a request from the Central Bank of Russia (CBR), a government agent told local media outlets. A CBR officer, who declined to comment on the crypto ATM seizures, noted that the government agency conducts “systematic work to identify and counteract illegal activities in the financial market,” particularly since there is a high chance that uncontrolled cross-border fund transfers and cash outs involving cryptocurrencies can happen.

Darbinyan, however, pointed out that the Russian Federation’s current laws do not prohibit citizens from acquiring cryptocurrencies. Bbfpro, for its part, has been observing all legal procedures, paying its taxes, and verifying the identity of its customers even without prompt from the government.

Bbfpro plans to appeal the seizure operation, according to the lawyer.

On its website, Bbfpro said its machines support purchases of cryptocurrencies like BTC. The company works with crypto exchange Exmo, offering technical support for the ATMs. According to Bbfpro, installing one terminal costs 155,000 rubles ($2,300). It charges 1 percent on the registered turnover, which is considerably less than other crypto ATMs in other countries. For example in Malta, ATM operators charge no less than 8% on each transaction.

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Canadian Police Seize $1.8 Million in Bitcoin From Alleged Silk Road Drug Dealer

The Canadian province of British Columbia is seeking to set a precedent in cryptocurrency-related law enforcement by laying claim to $1.8 million worth of bitcoin, which it seized from a convicted drug dealer who allegedly operated under the pseudonym “ MarijuanaIsMyMuse” on the infamous dark web platform Silk Road.

The Vancouver Star reports that the unnamed man was arrested in 2015 after a fluke occurrence saw police raid his home and seize more than $100,000 worth of sealed and packaged marijuana. Seized alongside the marijuana were several memory cards, laptops and hard drives, of which three held varying bitcoin amounts.

He was sentenced in 2015 to nine months in prison for trafficking marijuana, but the issue raising dust now is the fate of the 226.4 BTC on his seized hard drives. Worth a total of approximately $31,893 in 2013, that bitcoin amount is now worth over $1.8 million.

Allegations and Counter Allegations

The man, who was never convicted of carrying out drug trafficking operations on Silk Road, argues that the Vancouver Police and the Civil Forfeiture Office have no legal right to seize or hold on to his bitcoin since their allegation that he earned them through illegal activities .

In a statement provided to the media, his lawyer, Lolita Rudovica said:

“The property subject to civil forfeiture seized by the police in this proceeding is neither proceeds of crime nor an instrument of unlawful activity. We are currently in the very early stages of the case.”

The matter is complicated by the fact that before his arrest, he apparently had no criminal record. He alleges that when he went to pick up the seized items in April 2017, the hard drives were missing. Subsequent information revealed that the drives were sized by the police as part of an ongoing investigation.

He argues that this is a clear violation of a court order in 2017 to return his seized electronics four years after they were seized. He also argues that their seizure was unlawful in the first place.

A statement read out in court says:

“The defendant seeks a finding from the court that his rights were breached and seeks the exclusion of any evidence obtained by searching private property and obtaining evidence in contravention of the Charter and in violation of a court order by the VPD.”

The Beginning of a Pattern?

The Civil Forfeiture Office, on its part, says that the seized hard drives contain records of sales of several illegal and controlled substances including MDMA, ketamine, marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, and Viagra. These records, the agency says, link the man to the “MarijuanaIsMyMuse” identity on Silk Road, and hence the drives cannot be returned.

Over and above the investigation, however, the Civil Forfeiture Office seems to be adopting a different stance on enforcement relating to cryptocurrency. According to the Office, this is the first-ever cryptocurrency seizure in its 12 years of existence, and similar seizures are likely to become a distinct possibility going forward.

A statement from the Civil Forfeiture Office provided to the media reads as follows:

“Given the proliferation of cryptocurrency and its documented use in facilitating criminal transactions in other jurisdictions, the Civil Forfeiture Office anticipates receiving more referrals from B.C. law-enforcement agencies involving alternative currencies.”

CCN recently reported that the U.S. Marshals Service auctioned off nearly $25 million worth of bitcoin linked to jailed Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht.

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Author: David Hundeyin
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