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Dubai Crypto Chief Stepping Down Amid Regulatory Push

UAE flag with bitcoin

The head of Dubai’s cryptocurrency authority is reportedly resigning after 11 months on the job.

Henson Orser, who became CEO of the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) in January, is stepping down as regulators are set to impose broad-scale fines against non-compliant crypto companies doing business in Dubai, Bloomberg News reported Thursday (Nov. 16).

“It was a great experience and I’m fully vested in a consultative capacity to support VARA,” Orser said. “I’m leaving to pursue other interests.”

Orser will be replaced by Matthew White, a partner at PwC who has consulted for VARA, the agency said in a statement to Bloomberg. The transition will happen “over the coming months,” said VARA.

VARA announced earlier this month that it was set to issue fines against crypto companies that hadn’t filed applications or registered to operate in Dubai by Nov. 17.

Sources told Bloomberg that VARA was preparing to fine more than a dozen firms that hadn’t complied with its guidelines. According to Bloomberg’s sources, crypto exchanges such as Binance, Bybit and OKX are not among those facing fines.

The report notes that Orser, formerly of Nomura, guided VARA as the authority adopted its crypto regime in the wake of last year’s FTX collapse, which rocked the digital asset world.

Since then, companies like Coinbase have looked to Dubai’s home country of the United Arab Emirates as a more welcoming environment as the U.S. ramps up regulatory pressure against their industry.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said in May that his company was considering the UAE a possible international hub.

“We are looking for a home to set up an international hub that could serve the long tail of countries in the world,” Armstrong told Bloomberg TV, adding that he viewed the UAE’s approach to regulation as more forward-thinking than America’s.

And in a blog entry around the same time, Coinbase wrote that the Middle East acts as a “strategic bridge” between its customer bases in Europe and Asia.

Likewise, in comments during the Dubai FinTech Summit earlier this year, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse pointed to VARA as an example of a regulator that was more forward-thinking than the U.S.

“Blockchain technologies are being invested and pursued and entrepreneurship outside the United States,” Garlinghouse said. “One of the first pieces of advice I give entrepreneurs when they come and ask me, getting something started, I’ll say, ‘If I were you, I would not start in the United States,’ and I think there’s a lot of U.S.-based companies and even U.S. public companies that would agree with that.”