With a full VASP license from Dubai, OKX eyes Middle East dominance

OKX exchange confirmed it has secured a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license in Dubai that will see it offer services to retail and institutional investors.

The new license, granted by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), will allow OKX Middle East to offer both fiat and spot trading services to users via its website and mobile app. Users can access AED deposits and withdrawals, spot trading pairs, and other digital exchange services.

OKX’s statement reveals that the exchange has yet to receive an “operational approval” from VARA but expects a green light from the regulator in the coming weeks.

Rifad Mahasneh, General Manager at OKX MENA, describes the new license as a “game-changer” for the exchange looking to put consumer safety at the top of its operations. Mahasneh added that the milestone points to OKX’s dedication to achieving regulatory compliance and Dubai‘s positive stance toward digital currencies.

In mid-2023, OKX obtained a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) preparatory license from VARA, laying the foundations for the award of a full VASP license. The leap from a preparatory license to full approval was an uphill climb for OKX as the firm’s operations went under intense scrutiny from VARA, including the consistent publication of proof of reserves.

OKX indicated its desire to be regulated in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following the launch of an office complex at the Dubai World Trade Center. Since 2023, the firm has increased its staff strength, hiring locals and foreigners in an eclectic blend to portray its diversity.

With full regulatory compliance attained in Dubai, OKX says it has the rest of the Middle East in its crosshairs, citing the region’s potential to become a global Web3 hub in the future.

OKX joins the growing list of firms with VASP licenses from Dubai’s VARA, which also include Komainu, CoinMENA, GCEX, TOKO, and Trek Labs.

Trouble in other jurisdictions

While OKX enjoys a smooth relationship with VARA, things have not been rosy in other jurisdictions with the exchange. In early 2023, OKX announced an exit from Canadian markets, citing new regulations after several brushes with the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).

Earlier this year, in an attempt to play by the new rules rolled out by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), OKX said new and existing clients will be required to fill out questionnaires to ascertain their suitability to trade digital assets.

“In line with these new requirements, those unable to complete the questionnaires or demonstrate a grasp of the risks will become ineligible to hold an OKX account,” said OKX.

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