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Is Saudi Arabia changing approach to cryptocurrencies?

Although Saudi Arabia seems to be warming to cryptocurrencies, it is unlikely to displace the UAE as the region’s crypto hub anytime soon.
Saudi staff are pictured where the Financial Sector Conference was held in Riyadh on April 24, 2019.

The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), which also acts as the kingdom’s national banking regulator, recently appointed Mohsen AlZahrani to lead its virtual assets and central bank digital currency program. This hire potentially indicates a change in the country’s approach to cryptocurrencies, which regulators there have tended to treat with suspicion.

In 2018, SAMA warned against trading in virtual currencies because of their “negative consequences and [the] high risks on the traders as they are out of government supervision.” The central bank emphasized that cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, “are not approved as official currencies in the kingdom and no parties or individuals are licensed for such practices by regulators in the kingdom.” The regulators further noted that Saudi citizens should not pursue the “illusion” of crypto-related “get-rich schemes.”

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