Bitcoin Daily: Blockchain Payment Platform Celo Raises $20 Million; Europol Arrests Eight Over Celeb SIM Swap Hack

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Open-source decentralized finance (DeFi) blockchain ecosystem Celo raised $20 million from partners including Andreessen Horowitz, Greenfield One and Electric Capital, according to a press release. This brings its total backing to over $65 million.

Celo also announced the official launch of its mobile remittance and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments app, Valora, in the release. The P2P app charges as little as $0.01 per transaction. Celo completed a pilot program of the app late last year and counts its users in the tens of thousands.

“When we first began supporting Celo two years ago, we saw the opportunity to build a ‘full stack’ global payments platform that anyone with a smartphone could use to send, receive and store money,” said Katie Haun, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in the release.

The platform has also developed a stablecoin, the cUSD; a native asset, CELO; and a Mainnet.

In other news, Europol arrested eight people Tuesday (Feb. 9) in connection with a SIM swapping scam that targeted celebrity and other high-profile victims. Two other arrests were made previously, according to a press release.

Throughout 2020, the criminal gang allegedly targeted thousands of victims and stole more than $100 million in cryptocurrency, the release stated. Targets included sports stars, musicians, internet influencers and their families.

SIM swap fraud occurs when criminals deactivate a victim’s SIM card and carry the phone number over to a SIM in the criminal’s possession. They can then change passwords and steal money, cryptocurrency and personal information.

“This type of fraud is known as ‘SIM swapping,’ and it was identified as a key trend on the rise in the latest Europol Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment,” according to the release.

Meanwhile, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square and Twitter, donated $1 million to Coin Center, a cryptocurrency think tank, to support the nonprofit’s research and lobbying aims in Washington, D.C.

Dorsey’s donation follows an equal donation from digital currency management firm Grayscale Investments last month, according to Coin Center’s executive director, Jerry Brito, who announced the news in a tweet Wednesday (Feb. 10).

“I’m thrilled to announce that Coin Center has received donations to claim the amazing $1 million match from @Grayscale in full,” Brito said on Twitter. “We’ve been stunned by the outpouring of support from the community.”

Dorsey has been vocally bullish on bitcoin, investing $50 million of Square’s assets in bitcoin last fall.

“Coin Center has received and incredibly generous gift of $1 million from @jack — we’re speechless,” Brito added in the tweet. “We were almost to our goal for the matching campaign when he put us over the top and then some. Your confidence in our work is incredibly humbling.”