– European crypto exodus to Switzerland is accelerating
Wind up against new regulations deemed too restrictive, the European crypto industry – French in particular – is accelerating its exodus. Switzerland is positioning itself as a land of welcome. A French flagship is preparing to settle in Neuchâtel.
He is a rising star of the French tech and crypto scene who is coming to French-speaking Switzerland. Sébastien Gouspillou, head of the “green” bitcoin mining company BigBlock Data Center was this Wednesday in Neuchâtel with the representative of Economic Promotion to open an account at the cantonal bank BCN. Its series of fundraisers – 200 million targeted in six months, to become one of the main world players in mining – began in Paris in February. It will therefore in all likelihood end in Switzerland, where his new company BBZ should be registered within a few weeks. A pinch in the heart for this ambassador of French tech, “very patriotic” by his admission, and committed for five years to “wear the blue white red on the international scene”.
“The atmosphere had become too unfavorable”, regrets the one who was recently ejected by his French bank overnight. “Nothing to blame me for, just too big, too many turnovers, too visible. A double page in The echoesthe newspaper that my banker reads, was the trigger.” Although having found a bank in France, the one who advises many governments – including El Salvador where he made a high profile stay – has made his decision: to relocate to Switzerland. “Regulatory uncertainty now adds to banking uncertainty. In France, practically everyone is currently considering the possibility of a departure.
Anger in Europe over regulatory uncertainty
Accelerated by fears of circumvention of Russian sanctions and rhetoric on the authorities’ money laundering, the tightening of the regulatory noose around the European crypto industry is setting fire to the powder. Two weeks ago, this is a very problematic article of the new regulations MICA (markets in crypto assets) – debated in Brussels – which raised fears of the worst. The proposal provided for a very strong restriction – de facto ban – on the use of so-called proof of work cryptocurrencies – including bitcoin and ether – directly threatening three quarters of the industry’s activity.
The big French players then multiplied their positions in the media and on the networks. In a post titled “Defend financial freedom”, the Unicorn register warned against the “disappearance of the innovative and buoyant economy of digital assets” in Europe.
The article was finally rejected in committee, without however the new version of MICA not being enough to reassure the actors. This week, it is an adaptation of the European regulation on funds transfers – the travel rule – including cryptocurrencies, which was perceived as a risk for the competitiveness of European companies against their American and Asian competitors. The restriction to hold a private portfolio and the control of the origin of all crypto transactions operated by intermediaries (regardless of the amounts) do not pass. Spokesperson for the French crypto scene, Alexandre Stachchenko, founder of Blockchain Partners and head of KPMG’s crypto division, ignited on Twitter.
The climate is electric between MEP Aurore Lalucq, defender of a strict framework for cryptocurrencies, and industry players. The socialist has been under the wrath of the French crypto sphere for several weeks, with the two parties accusing each other.
At the end of the afternoon on Thursday, the first package of measures, including those repressive against the private wallets of users, passed the ramp in committee at the European Parliament. The others would follow. In the evening, the reactions were not long in coming.
Switzerland more than ever a welcoming land
Alexandre Stachchenko confirms that in this explosive context, “the exodus of European companies, French in particular, will accelerate” and to cite as potential destinations El Salvador or Switzerland. An acceleration of the exodus for which Switzerland is preparing. Alexis Roussel, COO of Nym and pioneer of bitcoin in Neuchâtel, says he regularly receives “requests for information to settle here. This movement is already underway and is likely to grow in the future.”
Thus, Quentin de Beauchesnes, founder ofOwner in Paris, a blockchain solution for traceability in logistics, created in October 2021 in Neuchâtel Beyond Blockchain. A structure to develop new crypto projects. He is now working to set up a branch of Ownest in Switzerland, for the management of crypto-assets. “In France, we already had a big banking problem, with the virtual impossibility of getting crypto out to an account and prohibitive taxation. Now comes regulatory uncertainty.” He is getting closer to “friends in Neuchâtel” and is currently looking for accommodation to settle with his family in the Lake Geneva region.
Switzerland dredge up the French crypto ecosystem
Aware of the economic opportunity for Switzerland of a deleterious European climate, associations and economic promotions are working to seduce and attract French crypto entrepreneurs in disarray. As proof, the organization – on the sidelines of the Blockchain Week Summit which will be held in Paris on April 12 and 13, event at the Swiss Embassy in Parisentitled “Switzerland, the ideal place to develop your blockchain and crypto projects”. Co-organized by Promotion économique romande (GGBA), as well asEmi Laurincz, President of the Crypto Valley Associationhe will see crypto entrepreneurs intervene in Switzerland, including a Frenchman who has come to create his company in Geneva.
Among the messages that Emi Lorincz wishes to convey during her speech, the “pragmatic and open to business” attitude of the authorities, who make Switzerland “a natural choice” to develop projects around the blockchain, DLTs and ” global applications in a tokenized economy”. Emi Lorincz highlights “a stable regulatory framework” and the strength of the communities, particularly in Zurich, Zug and Neuchâtel.
Spicy detail, Emi Lorincz works for the French unicorn Ledger, emblematic of the French crypto scene, which supports the event. The director of the Cryptovalley Association specifies that “Ledger seeks to attract talent”, and that in the event of a more massive exodus, she would be “happy to welcome them to our Zurich offices”.
Jeanne Plancade is an economic and investigative journalist for Bilan, a critical observer of the Swiss and international tech scene. He is interested in fundamental trends that are reshaping the economy and society.
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