The Marshall Islands is gearing to release a digital currency — known as “SOV” — this year, although officials said on Friday that much work remains to be done to alleviate concerns of US regulators and a launch date has yet to be set.
“We plan to launch SOV this year,” said Barak Ben-Ezer, chief executive officer of Neema, the Israel-based company that is partnering with the Marshall Islands government to develop the digital currency.
A primary issue for the launch is that following the boom in 2017 and early last year, the value of the cryptocurrency market has plummeted.
“We are working day and night to prepare the foundations of the SOV initial coin offering, with the goal of being ready to launch once positive momentum is back in the markets,” Ben-Ezer said.
“It will be done once all stakeholders are convinced that SOV is ready, risks have been mitigated and momentum is building,” he added.
Neema and the Marshall Islands are working through a multitude of US regulatory concerns as well as the technological and logistical side of issuing the SOV using blockchain technology.
The Marshall Islands, a tiny Pacific atoll nation with a population of just 55,000, passed legislation a year ago to develop digital currency as legal tender.
The plan has since been criticized by the US Department of the Treasury, the IMF and bank officials in the Marshall Islands.
The plan could negatively affect existing banks and money laundering, the officials have said, but Ben-Ezer said that once fully developed, SOV would be one the safest monetary systems in the world.
The US Treasury has concerns about “anonymous digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, [which] are often used for illicit purposes by people who want to conceal their identity,” Ben-Ezer said.
However, with SOV, every account would be fully identified and buyers would be checked against the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, “so only legitimate, law-abiding people can use the SOV,” Ben-Ezer added.
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