OKX Chooses Malta Over France for EU Hub Amid MiCA Compliance

OKX shifts European hub from France to Malta to comply with MiCA, settling for €304,000 with Maltese regulator.

By Athena Xu

7/11, 14:51 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • OKX, the world's second-largest crypto exchange, shifts its European hub from France to Malta for more lenient MiCA compliance.
  • Malta's Financial Services Authority updated rules to align with MiCA, attracting crypto firms like OKX seeking CASP licenses.
  • OKX is hiring key roles in Malta and recently settled regulatory issues with a $329,000 payment to Maltese authorities.

OKX Chooses Malta for European Hub

OKX, the world's second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, has decided to establish Malta as its European hub, shifting its focus from France. This strategic move aligns with the newly implemented Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) regulatory framework. According to sources familiar with the matter, OKX aims to leverage Malta's regulatory environment to comply with MiCA's requirements.

Shift from France to Malta

Initially, OKX had planned to make France its primary European base, registering with France's financial regulator, Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), in December. However, the exchange has now pivoted to Malta. A person with direct knowledge of OKX's European regulatory efforts commented, "Compliance in Malta is way more lenient, and that's not the tag you want to have when you're in crypto and trying to make it in the EU." Despite this, OKX has declined to comment on the decision to move to Malta.

MiCA Compliance and Malta's Appeal

The MiCA framework requires crypto firms to secure a Crypto Asset Service Provider (CASP) license with an EU nation to operate across the entire bloc. To obtain this license, firms must have a physical presence, conduct business, and be registered in the chosen country. While MiCA's stablecoin rules are already in effect, the remaining regulations will be enforced starting December.

Malta has become an attractive destination for crypto companies, thanks to its updated rules that align with the MiCA regime. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) revised its regulations in late 2023 to accommodate the new MiCA standards. The island nation, already home to numerous gaming and investment firms, has embraced the crypto industry in recent years.

High-Profile Roles and Regulatory Challenges

OKX is actively recruiting for several high-profile positions in Malta, including head of compliance, operations lead, and head of internal audit. This move indicates the exchange's commitment to establishing a robust operational and compliance framework in its new European hub.

Earlier this year, OKX agreed to a "goodwill" settlement of 304,000 euros ($329,000) with the Maltese financial watchdog for certain regulatory failings. This settlement underscores the challenges and complexities of navigating the regulatory landscape in Malta.