Govt Asks Apple to Remove Crypto Apps Including Binance From Local App Store

The Indian government stepped up its crackdown on offshore crypto exchanges operating without local registrations, asking Apple Inc. to take the apps of platforms including Binance off its App Store in the country. Bitfinex, HTX and Kucoin are among eight exchanges whose apps are no longer available on the App Store in India. They were removed on directions from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the request isn’t public. 

The move marks a significant escalation of India’s clampdown on offshore crypto platforms like Binance, which started Dec. 28 when authorities notified nine exchanges that they are suspected of misconduct. Indian crypto traders had already began moving deposits to local exchanges that abide by the nation’s regulations, fearful of losing access to their funds. 

Authorities also asked Alphabet Inc.’s Google to remove the apps, one of the people said. Google Play Store in India still featured the exchange apps that were taken off the App Store as of 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Apple, Google and India’s technology ministry did not respond to requests for comment. 

India’s Financial Intelligence Unit issued so-called compliance show-cause notice to the nine offshore platforms on Dec. 28 and also asked the information ministry to block the URLs of the entities. The FIU at the time said the exchanges are operating illegally in India without complying with anti-money laundering laws. The websites are still accessible from India. 

Of the exchanges singled out in that announcement, only Bitstamp was still available to download on the local App Store on Wednesday. Of the two versions US-based Kraken offers, only the Pro version was available. 

Binance, the biggest crypto exchange, has come under intense pressure from regulators around the world who accuse it of catering to local users without a license. India joins countries including Belgium and Australia in moving to block the company, which says it doesn’t have a global headquarters and in November agreed to pay $4.3 billion as it pleaded guilty in the US to anti-money laundering and sanction violations. 

“The ongoing situation is not unique to Binance and impacts certain other web3 industry apps as well,” a Binance spokesperson said by email. “We are working hard to inform constructive policy-making that seeks to benefit every user and all market participants.”

HTX, formerly known as Huobi, said it has no operations in India. Bitfinex, KuCoin, Bitstamp and Kraken didn’t respond to requests for comment.

India’s government last year imposed money-laundering provisions on the crypto sector as it tightens oversight of digital assets along with other countries. In 2022, authorities delivered a major blow to local crypto exchanges by introducing a tax on transactions that caused trading volumes to instantly plummet.

Local exchanges had complained that the 1% levy, known as Tax Deducted at Source, drove Indian crypto traders to offshore platforms that didn’t impose it, further hurting their revenues. CoinDCX Chief Executive Officer Sumit Gupta in October estimated that 95% of trading volume had moved to offshore venues.

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