Cryptocurrency, where left under-regulated and under-supervised, can be a conduit for risky business.

The global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has repeatedly warned of the potential for cryptocurrency to be used for money laundering and terrorism financing.

FATF is expected to release international regulations this year.

Only in April last year, Pakistan's State Bank tweeted cautioning of the risks of virtual currencies.

A new framework

Fast forward 12 months and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has just issued Regulations for Electronic Money Institutions, a new framework that will regulate the use of cryptocurrency in Pakistan and remove entry barriers for non-banking entities. 

In addition to providing safeguards against misconduct and enhancing cyber security, these regulations are aligned with Pakistan's policy objectives, with Federal Minister for Finance Asad Umar noting the government's commitment to encouraging a "culture of e-commerce" in Pakistan.

In addition, the framework is designed to obligate entities to monitor, mitigate and manage money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

To operate, electronic money institutions (EMIs), for example entities offering low-value digital payment prepaid instruments like e-wallets, prepaid cards, contactless wearables, must now apply for an EMI license with the SBP.

Vested with broad discretion, the SBP can reject any application for a license without giving reasons, and it can also revoke or suspend licenses in circumstances including where it is in the public interest to do so.

EMIs must have an initial capital of PKR200 million (approximately $1.4 million) to be able to operate, with ongoing capital requirements continuing under the regulations.

A prescribed proportion of this figure (usually at least 10%) must be kept with the SBP as a deposit.

To be compliant, EMIs need to undertake "fit and proper" tests in respect of its sponsor shareholders, key executives, CEOs and directors.

Adequate corporate governance frameworks, including customer due diligence, and screening procedures for employees are additionally required.

Next steps

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