New Federal Virtual Assets Law in the United Arab Emirates

New Federal Virtual Assets Law in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has given the thumbs up to a new law that governs virtual assets and aims to regulate cryptocurrency at a federal level. Any person who acquires a virtual asset will be recorded and validated through Distributed Ledger Technology.

In 2022, Dubai established its crypto regulator, the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA). VARA determines the digital representation of value that may be used, transferred, or traded as payment, as an exchange tool, or for investment purposes, including virtual tokens and any other digital representation of value. Before the new federal law on virtual assets, the UAE had already introduced several initiatives that were anticipated to operate together with Emirate-level regulations. Legal experts explained in detail what the new law entails and the changes it brings, as well as its implications. 

UAE-based crypto and blockchain lawyer Irina Heaver noted, "Failure to comply leads to heavy sanctions, such as a fine of up to 10 million AED ($2.7 million), disgorgement of profits, and even criminal investigation by the public prosecutor." Heaver added that a "new law" ensures that entities that engage in crypto activities must secure a license and approval from the new regulator. "Non-compliance could lead to a hefty fine." The new law came into effect in mid-January 2023 and requires crypto entrepreneurs operating in the country to comply. Heaver noted, "Every crypto and Web3 project operating in the UAE will have to structure a way to comply with the new federal law and all existing laws."

CEO of Dubai Blockchain Center Marwan Alzarouni said, "The new legislation will encompass a comprehensive list of technical requirements, including cyber security controls and custodial measures to ensure the safekeeping of virtual assets, such as the use of cold wallets." It is crucial to be aware of the scope and limitations of the recent federal regulations on virtual assets in the UAE. These regulations do not apply to Virtual Asset Service Providers operating within the financial free zones of the UAE, but apply to all other entities within the country." Additional measures include financial credit guarantee requirements to prevent potential abuse of users' funds by custodians.

According to Heaver, although the minimum requirements for virtual asset service providers (VASPs) can be attainable, many firms may need help. Heaver also noted, "Those are rather realistic." However, the practice shows that most crypto companies fall short of basic requirements. Legal experts highlighted that the law has set up minimum requirements for VASPs. According to Alzarouni, depending on the nature of the VASP's operations, there may be various new technologies and compliance requirements, such as Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering regulations.

Heaver added that "regulators will be granted the authority to implement inspection programs and control procedures, with all legal entities that fall into the VASP category being given three months to adapt and comply with the new law." These new rules are dedicated to preventing FTX-like entities from attempting to commit fraud. She added, "From the evidence that emerged, FTX is a case of serious fraud at a level that will make Madoff look like an angel." Unfortunately, no level of law can protect us from people wanting to commit crimes intentionally. Insiders from the Bitsoft 360 AI review mentioned that VARA initially granted FTX approvals before revoking them in November 2022.

VARA objectives   

The new law also states that only one person may oversee the activity in the Emirate by obtaining a permit from VARA. The permit will be issued under the applicable legislation and the relevant requirements and procedures approved by the Director General. Any person wishing to conduct or set up their business in the Emirate must have one of the legal forms approved by the competent commercial licensing authority. They are first obtaining the required approvals and permits from VARA before initiating the procedures for licensing by the competent commercial licensing authority, subject to the requirements, rules, and regulations stated in the permit.

According to Heaver, the new development is suitable for founders, investors, and consumers within the UAE, and regulatory clarity gives the country the right ingredients to be the Web3 capital of the world despite the challenges that could be encountered. The new federal law on virtual assets is intended to establish common ground for regulating businesses across the United Arab Emirates. The jury is still out on the new law regarding how it will be accepted and applied in practice. While we wait for the new law to take effect, we thank the legal experts for clarifying and explaining the new law in detail. This article is for educational purposes and should not be used as legal advice. We urge you to do your research.

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