26 November 2020

The Virtual Assets Services Regime in the Cayman Islands 开曼群岛虚拟资产服务立法

The Cayman Islands Government and the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (“CIMA”) have committed to developing a bespoke regulatory framework for the issue of virtual assets and for certain services related to virtual assets including services for trading and exchange. This framework will be implemented by the Virtual Asset (Service Providers) Law, 2020 (the “VASP Law”) of 25 May, 2020 and related legislation.

The VASP Law and other elements of the virtual assets regime will come into force by a phased roll-out. On 31 October, 2020 certain provisions of the VASP Law, the Monetary Authority (Amendment) (No. 2) Law, 2020, and the Securities Investment Business (Amendment) Law, 2020 came into force along with the Mutual Funds (Amendment) (No. 2) Law, 2020 and the Virtual Asset (Service Providers) Regulations, 2020 (the “Regulations”). This legislation comprises phase 1 of the virtual assets regime. An industry advisory published by the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs on October 30, 2020 sets out the proposed time-line for the phased implementation of the remaining provisions of the VASP Law along with operational details concerning the licensing, registration and notification processes under the VASP Law.

Key features of the VASP Law

The VASP Law introduces a framework for the regulation of businesses which provide certain services relating to virtual assets. It does not impose restrictions on virtual assets themselves or limit the ability of any person to deal with virtual assets for his/her own account. If a person performs a relevant service then the applicable licensing, registration, notification and reporting obligations contained in the VASP Law will apply to that person.

A “virtual asset” is defined as a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded or transferred and can be used for payment or investment purposes. An entity that is incorporated or registered in the Cayman Islands which provides a virtual asset service as a business or in the course of business will be a ‘virtual asset service provider’ (a “VASP”) within the meaning of the VASP Law. “Virtual asset service” is defined as the issuance of virtual assets and/or the business of providing any of the following services or operations for or on behalf of another person or entity: 

  • exchange between virtual assets and fiat currencies;
  • exchange between one or more other forms of convertible virtual assets; 
  • transfer of virtual assets; 
  • virtual asset custody service, which is the business of safekeeping or administering of virtual assets or the instruments that enable the holder to exercise control over virtual assets; or 
  • participation in, and provision of, financial services related to a virtual asset issuance or the sale of virtual assets. 

Under the VASP Law all virtual asset service providers are required to either: (i) register with CIMA under the VASP Law; (ii) in the case of a virtual asset custodian or operator of a virtual asset trading platform, hold a virtual asset service licence; or (iii) hold a sandbox licence (see below). In addition, any virtual asset service provider that is already licensed in the Cayman Islands under any other regulatory law may apply for a waiver from the licensing requirements of the VASP Law.

A sandbox licence is applicable to service providers who utilise an innovative service, technology or method of delivery (for whom a normal VASP licence is inadequate). This licence is available for a period of up to one year and allows CIMA to assess and regulate the relevant service. Following such assessment, CIMA may exempt the sandbox licensee from certain VASP requirements or impose additional requirements tailored to the specific activities. 

The prior approval of CIMA is required for:

  • the issue of shares (or equivalent ownership interests) in a VASP (where such issue represents 10 per cent or more of the total shares (or equivalent ownership interests) in that VASP); and
  • the voluntary transfer or disposal of shares (or equivalent ownership interests) in a VASP. 

Phased Implementation 

The virtual assets services regime will be introduced in phases. Phase one brought into force the anti-money laundering (“AML”), counter financing of terrorism (“CTF”), compliance and supervision provisions of the VASP Law. Following this, on the 31 January 2021, the provisions which relate to enforcement, penalties and offences will come into effect. Persons engaged in or wishing to engage in virtual asset services should register with CIMA by that date or if any such person currently holds a licence granted by CIMA under another law, that person must notify CIMA of the nature and scope of the virtual asset service it wishes to carry on. CIMA has commented that applications should be made by 12 December 2020 in order to ensure that all applications are processed by the end of January 2021.

Phase two is currently set to begin in June 2021 when the remaining provisions of the VASP law will come into effect, including the licensing requirements for virtual asset custodians and trading platform operators and the provisions for sandbox licenses. Entities conducting custodial services or operating virtual asset trading platforms must register in phase one and will then need to apply for a licence.

Registration/Licensing Process and Associated Fees 

The Virtual Asset (Service Providers) Regulations, 2020 set out the applicable fee schedule and the VASP registration form that is to be submitted on CIMA’s Regulatory Enhanced Electronic Forms Submission (“REEFS”) system. The forms and processes for licensing and waiver requests have not yet been published. 

The Regulations set out the fees payable. A non-refundable CI$ 1,000/US$ 1,200 assessment fee must be paid when an application is submitted. Should an application be successful, an additional fee of between CI$ 1,000/US$ 1,200 and CI$ 15,000/US$ 18,000 will be payable depending on the type of virtual asset services and, if applicable, CIMA’s assessment of other factors including the nature, size and complexity of the services. 

Statement of Principles

CIMA is expected to issue a Statement of Principles for VASPs in the near future which will set out principles applicable to the conduct of any virtual asset services in or from the Cayman Islands. In addition, CIMA has also stated that individual VASP entity rules, procedures and guidance will be issued as its understanding of the virtual asset sector develops.  

Should you require further information or professional advice please contact one of our Cayman Islands team.

Download the English version of this briefing.

开曼群岛政府和开曼群岛金融管理局(“CIMA”)确认为虚拟资产的发行和与虚拟资产有关的特定服务(包括交易和兑换服务)制定专门的监管框架。该框架已于2020年5月25日发布的《2020年虚拟资产(服务提供商)法》(简称 “虚拟资产法”)中确定且即将施行。

虚拟资产法和其它有关虚拟资产的制度将分阶段生效。2020年10月31日,《虚拟资产法》、《2020年金融管理法(修订)(第2号)》和《2020年证券投资业务法(修订)》中的某些条款与《2020年共同基金法(修订)(第2号)》和《2020年虚拟资产(服务提供商)条例》(“条例”)一起生效。该等法规组成虚拟资产制度的第一阶段。开曼群岛金融服务和内政部于2020年10月30日发布的行业咨询意见中,列出了分阶段实施虚拟资产法其余条款的拟议时间表,以及有关虚拟资产法下的许可、注册和通知程序的操作细节。

虚拟资产法特点

《虚拟资产法》为监管提供某些虚拟资产相关服务的企业提供了一个框架。该法案不对虚拟资产本身加以限制,也没有限制任何人为自己的账户管理虚拟资产的能力。但如果提供虚拟资产相关服务,那么将适用于《虚拟资产法》中所载的许可、登记、通知和报告义务。

“虚拟资产”被定义为价值的数字表达方式,可以进行数字化交易或转让,并可用于支付或投资目的。在开曼群岛注册成立或登记的实体,若将提供虚拟资产服务作为一项业务,将构成《虚拟资产法》所定义的“虚拟资产服务提供者”。“虚拟资产服务”定义为代理或代表自然人或法人发行虚拟资产或提供以下一项或多项服务或业务:

  • 虚拟资产与法定货币之间的兑换;
  • 一种或多种其他形式的可转换虚拟资产之间的交换;
  • 虚拟资产的转让;
  • 虚拟资产托管服务,是指对虚拟资产或使持有人能够对虚拟资产行使控制权的工具进行保管或管理的业务;或 
  • 参与和提供与虚拟资产发行或虚拟资产销售有关的金融服务。

《虚拟资产法》要求所有虚拟资产服务提供商都必须: (1)根据《虚拟资产法》向CIMA注册;(2) 如果是虚拟资产托管人或虚拟资产交易平台运营商,则必须持有虚拟资产服务许可证;或(3)持有沙盒许可证(见下文)。此外,任何已根据任何其他监管法律在开曼群岛获得许可的虚拟资产服务提供商可申请豁免《虚拟资产法》的许可要求。

沙盒许可证适用于利用创新服务、技术或方法提供服务的服务提供商(一般的虚拟资产服务许可证不足以满足其需求)。该许可证的有效期最长为一年,允许CIMA评估和监管相关服务。经评估后,CIMA可豁免沙盒许可证持有人遵守某些虚拟资产要求或针对具体活动提出额外要求。

分阶段实施

虚拟资产服务制度将分阶段实施。第一阶段生效的条款主要为《虚拟资产法》中有关反洗钱、打击资助恐怖主义、合规和监督等。之后,在2021年1月31日,与执行、处罚和违法有关的条款将生效。从事或拟从事虚拟资产服务的实体应在该日期前向CIMA注册,如该实体目前持有CIMA根据其他法律颁发的资质,则该实体必须通知CIMA其拟开展的虚拟资产服务的性质和范围。CIMA表示,该等申请应在2020年12月12日前提出,以确保所有申请在2021年1月底前处理。

第二阶段目前定于2021年6月开始,届时《虚拟资产法》的其余条款将生效,包括对虚拟资产托管人和交易平台运营商的许可要求以及沙盒许可证的规定。开展托管服务或运营虚拟资产交易平台的实体必须在第一阶段注册,然后需申请许可证。

注册/许可程序及相关费用

《2020年虚拟资产(服务提供商)条例》规定了适用的费用和虚拟资产登记表,该表应通过CIMA 电子系统REEFS提交。有关许可、豁免申请的表格和流程尚未公布。

《条例》中规定了应缴纳的费用。在提交申请时,须支付1000开曼元/1200美元的不可退还的评估费。如果申请成功,则应支付1000开曼元/1200美元至15000开曼元/18000美元的额外费用,这取决于虚拟资产服务的类型,以及在适用情况下CIMA对其他因素的评估,包括服务的性质、规模和复杂性。

原则声明

预计CIMA将在不久的将来发布《虚拟资产原则声明》,其中将规定适用于在开曼群岛或从开曼群岛开展任何虚拟资产服务的基本原则。此外,CIMA还表示,随着对虚拟资产板块了解的加深,将发布个别虚拟资产项目实体的规则、程序和指南。

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