Kazakhstan bans Coinbase amid larger controversy

Coinbase faces a money laundering investigation in Kazakhstan as the country expands its crypto industry crackdown.

Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States, has become the target of an investigation in Kazakhstan on allegations of money laundering, according to a recent report by local news outlet Kursiv.

The Ministry of Culture and Information in Kazakhstan has confirmed blocking major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in the country, citing local digital asset regulations violation. Meanwhile, the government has quietly unblocked access to global trading platforms Interactive Brokers and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) after blocking them earlier this year.

According to the Ministry of Information, access to Coinbase was restricted at the request of the Ministry of Digital Development due to the trading of cryptocurrencies on the exchange. This violates Clause 5, Article 11 of Kazakhstan’s Law on Digital Assets, which prohibits the issuance and circulation of uninsured digital assets and the operation of exchanges trading such assets.

Licenses to operate crypto exchanges in Kazakhstan have been granted to several platforms like Binance and Upbit, but only within the special economic zone of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC).

Coinbase was blocked under the provisions of the Communications Act, which requires providers to restrict access to websites containing prohibited information. The company operates one of the largest crypto trading platforms globally but does not have permission to offer services in Kazakhstan outside of the AIFC jurisdiction.

Previously, access disruptions also affected broker Interactive Brokers and commodities exchange NYMEX. The Financial Monitoring Agency had included Interactive Brokers in the state censorship database, alleging signs of fraudulent activities. NYMEX was accused of allowing Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) futures trading unauthorized by the AIFC.

However, the Information Ministry has restored access to Interactive Brokers after receiving a request from the Financial Monitoring Agency. No reasons were provided for unblocking NYMEX, which continues offering crypto futures trading outside AIFC regulations.

The recent blocking of major foreign trading platforms has drawn criticism from experts like economist Rasul Rysmambetov, who called it “an absolute mistake.” He speculated that technology specialists had failed to analyze the sites correctly before making the decision.

Under AIFC rules, foreign companies can obtain licenses to offer financial and technology services in the special economic zone. This involves submitting an application vetted by the AFSA regulatory committee. Those unable to meet all requirements immediately can still win admission by joining a special “FinTech Lab” regulatory sandbox.

So, while Coinbase remains blocked in Kazakhstan over cryptocurrency violations, the unexplained unblocking of Interactive Brokers and NYMEX has puzzled experts. The government continues holding foreign trading platforms to strict standards for any activities seen contradicting local regulations.

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