UPDATED | March 23, 2018:
As anticipated, Japan's Financial Services Agency has published a document, dated March 23, which warns the cryptocurrency exchange Binance that it has been operating in the country without the agency's approval.
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao took to Twitter to report that upon receiving the letter, the company's "lawyers called JFSA immediately, and will find a solution." He also recently told a journalist that while the exchange had opened an office in Japan and was pursuing licensure there, it had made the choice to remove its employees over fears of interference from regulators.
ORIGINAL | March 22, 2018:
According to reports, Japan's Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to warn the cryptocurrency exchange Binance to cease its operations in the country, where it has been offering its services without FSA approval, or face criminal charges. In order to operate legally in Japan, exchanges must apply to the FSA for licensure .
The Japanese newspaper Nikkei broke the story on March 22 and later reported that its information had come from "sources close to the agency." Bloomberg also attributed its information on the allegedly impending warning to "a person familiar with the matter."
Changpeng Zhao, Binance's billionaire CEO, struck back at Nikkei's report on Twitter, claiming it to be an example of "irresponsible journalism" and asserting that the exchange is engaged in "constructive dialogs with Japan FSA." In light of these ongoing talks, he opined, it "does not make sense for JFSA to tell a newspaper before telling us."
Nikkei also reported that the FSA believes cryptocurrency investors using the exchange could lose funds for reasons not related to market fluctuations, including theft, and that "Japanese officials" suspect it of failing to implement sufficient anti-money laundering measures. Apparently, if the firm does not bring an end to its Japanese operations after the FSA publishes the warning on its website, the agency will work with police in bringing charges against it.
In the event that a warning is issued, the newspaper's coverage suggests, the financial watchdog may not have a strategy in place to compel the Hong Kong-based exchange to return Japanese investors' cryptocurrency holdings.
The website CoinMarketCap lists Binance, which was established in 2017, as boasting the second highest 24-hour trading volume of any cryptocurrency exchange on the day that the reports were published.