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Which Countries Regulate ICOs?

Johannesburg - January 2, 2020

Many clients wishing to launch an ICO often wonder whether this operation is regulated or not by the security legislation of the country where their company is established.

For the most part, ICOs have remained largely unregulated, due to the fact that they only received mainstream notoriety in recent years.

Indeed, very few countries have licensing requirements specifically geared towards ICO crowdfunding and oftentimes is not clear whether an ICO is subject to the securities legislation of the country in which the offer is made.

There are, however, three countries that have developed a regulatory framework for ICOs and crypto-exchanges, namely Belarus, Estonia, and Malta.

Below is a synthesis providing at a glance the ICO legislative framework of these three jurisdictions:


Estonia has made significant strides in positioning itself as a crypto-hub in recent years, whilst most other countries have either outright banned it or have failed to identify the opportunity it creates for foreign direct investment.

Estonia currently has two types of licenses for crypto projects, namely:

- Providers of a service exchanging a virtual currency against a fiat currency; and

- Providers of a virtual wallet service.

Both licenses can only be obtained after a company is registered in Estonia and the application must be filed with the Financial Supervisory Authority through the Financial Intelligence Unit.


Malta has positioned itself squarely as a fin-tech hub by developing the most robust regulatory framework for crypto-exchanges and ICOs. Malta has drafted a legal framework to regulate various forms of Virtual Financial Assets and a company that intends to operate a crypto-exchange or ICO must obtain a license from Malta Financial Services Authority. The three primary laws which regulate the above are as follows:

- Malta Digital Innovation Act (MDIA Act);

- Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Act; and

- Virtual Financial Assets Act.


Whilst not as popular as Estonia and Malta, Belarus has developed its own regulatory framework for ICOs and crypto-exchanges through the creation of the Belarus High Technologies Park (“HTP”). The HTP is a national special economic zone created in 2005 and recently gained popularity when it launched the first regulated tokenized securities exchange,

The licensing requirements for the HTP are governed by the Presidential Decree No. 8 on the Development of the Digital Economy (ratified on 21 December 2017) which took effect in March 2018. Obtaining a HTP license is possible only under stringent criteria of admission; for this reason, only a limited number of companies have obtained the license to operate under this law.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance with Cryptocurrency! I will be immediately available to assist you.

Melvin Naidu