Secures Provisional Approval To Open Crypto Exchange in Dubai

Blockworks exclusive: is on its way to offering digital asset services in Dubai, joining the likes of Binance, FTX and Bybit


Dubai skyline | Source: Shutterstock


key takeaways

  • Singaporean exchange has furthered its commitment to servicing Dubai’s burgeoning digital asset ecosystem
  • Unlike Binance and Bybit, the firm won’t be moving its headquarters to the emirate has secured critical government approval to expand into Dubai, joining a string of top crypto exchanges given the greenlight to launch localized platforms in the region.

The Singapore-headquartered exchange first received provisional approval of its Virtual Asset MVP License from the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). 

The government launched VARA — which oversees crypto trades and new product issuances — in March. shared plans to set up a regional outpost in Dubai just three weeks after VARA’s inception. The firm plans to eventually provide a full suite of crypto exchange products and services, including offerings geared toward institutional investors, the firm told Blockworks. 

In February, Dubai issued its first law specifically regulating digital assets. It prohibits anyone in Dubai from engaging in digital asset dealings without VARA’s prior authorization – including running crypto exchanges and overseeing custodial solutions. 

The law also requires crypto companies looking to do business in the region to incorporate in Dubai, which explains’s recent move to open a regional office. 

All approved crypto operators must operate within Dubai’s strict market model of testing, adapting then scaling. Initially, only limited exchange products and services can be rendered to pre-qualified investors and professional finance service providers. VARA then monitors the markets before deciding whether to open them to retail investors. 

So far, no regulated crypto exchange offers crypto-to-dirham trading pairs in the UAE, with Kraken pegged to be the first to do so sometime in the near future. declined to comment on its initial crypto offerings. 

Indeed,’s operating license is conditional — until it meets certain mandated requirements. VARA gave the company a conditional go-ahead based on documents outlining’s assurance of compliance checks, pending further due diligence.

“We are excited to provide more of our products and services in a market of great importance to our business, and one that is equally committed to regulation and compliance,” co-founder and CEO Kris Marszalek said in a statement. 

Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA), which oversees VARA, called “one of the anchors partnering with VARA in the development of a global, future-focused regulatory framework.”

Last December, DWTCA established a crypto hub in the Dubai World Trade Centre – a government-run exhibition and events facility – which exchange Binance quickly joined. The idea is to give crypto companies a controlled environment in which to set up.

Multiple major crypto players have now secured approval to provide services in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). FTX Europe and Binance both acquired VARA’s Dubai-focused license in March – the latter pledged to move its headquarters to the region shortly after. 

Singaporean crypto derivatives platform Bybit – which is joining Binance in relocating its headquarters to Dubai – also gained VARA approval in April. Crypto hedge fund firm Three Arrows Capital is likewise making the switch from Singapore to Dubai.

San Francisco-based exchange Kraken, on the other hand, opted for neighboring Abu Dhabi, where it received the emirate’s first virtual asset exchange license. 

In any case, formally joining the mix (albeit without relocating its headquarters) proves the UAE is well on its way to becoming a global hub for digital assets – although one that’s very closely regulated., founded in 2016, has more than 50 million users worldwide.

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