Bitcoin paradise? Brit creates ‘crypto utopia’ in South Pacific | cryptocurrencies

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For the past 12 years, Anthony Welch and his partner Theresa have lived a Robinson Crusoe life alone on a largely untouched South Pacific island.

Welch, a retired British property investor, hopes the calm will soon be shattered by 21,000 cryptocurrency investors he is trying to persuade to move to his island and create a regulation-free “crypto-utopia.”

Under Welch’s plan, the 3,000-square-foot island, part of the Vanuatu archipelago between Australia and Fiji, would be transformed from 90% undisturbed rainforest into a “sustainable smart city” with multi-story apartment blocks and offices for cryptocurrency investors from around the world.

Welch, who renamed the island from its native name Lataro to Satoshi (in reference to Satoshi Nakamoto, the alias of the person who invented Bitcoin), has teamed with cryptocurrency evangelists to promote “blockchain-based democracy” and “the crypto “ to create capital of the world“.

However, Welch must first dissolve its previous marketing of the island as a “Wildlife Nature Reserve” with rare giant crabs.

In his earlier attempt to sell the island for $12 million (£9 million), Lataro is described as an ecological paradise “covered by lush rainforests, along with a wonderful diversity of flora and fauna that have been here for thousands of years.” years is undisturbed and surely someone who believes to have gone back in time will remain”.

A video promoting the island’s sale in 2017 boasts that the 4-mile stretch of “pristine coral reef surrounding the island is a marine sanctuary” “teeming with beautiful fish and coral.” It is said that only a handful of people have ever dived the reef and “most parts of it have never been explored”.

The Welsh have previously petitioned the Vanuatu government to designate the island as a wildlife sanctuary to prevent “the extinction” of the rare coconut crab. “The ultimate goal is to re-establish the breed strongly on the island,” Theresa said.

A website describing the couple’s efforts to establish the game reserve was taken down shortly after the Guardian asked Welch for comment. He said the reserve is “voluntary” and one that he “can mine at any time” to allow for the construction of the crypto city.

“That was the last place with coconut crabs, her [the local population] had decimated them absolutely everywhere else on Espiritu Santo [Vanuatu’s largest island nearby]’ Welch told the Guardian.

“We started the reserve to try and stop them decimating them here to get the numbers back up…the Environment Department helped us create a wildlife sanctuary here.”

The Satoshi Island project is the latest in a series of projects aimed at bringing cryptocurrency fanatics out from behind the blockchain in their bedrooms and into the real-world community of small island nations.

The president of Palau, another Pacific island nation about 3,000 miles northeast of Vanuatu, has launched plans to become “the world’s first government-backed national stablecoin” by the end of the year.

President Surangel Whipps Jr. says the country has partnered with Ripple, a US cryptocurrency firm whose executives have been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of stealing $1.3 billion worth of tokens “to create a national digital currency to create greater financial access available to the citizens of Palau”.

Plans to build Cryptoland on an island in Fiji — where investors were told they would “enjoy a premium crypto lifestyle” — fell through earlier this month when promoters failed to buy the island.

Welch says Satoshi Island will succeed where Cryptoland failed because he and his partners own the island, and claims the development plans have the support of both the Vanuatu government and the local community.

However, the Vanuatu government did not respond to requests for comment, and Welch was unable to provide contact details of current residents.

“We’re trying to build a community,” Welch said in an interview over a satellite link to the island, which currently has no electricity, water, phone or internet service. “We’re not trying to develop and make a profit.”

He said a team of cryptocurrency evangelists who were looking around the world for a place to start a “crypto society” approached Welch after his island was listed on a $12 million private island real estate website had been put up for sale.

Welch took the island off the market and entered into a complex partnership with Hong Kong-based architect James Law, an Australian crypto entrepreneur Denys Troyak and Daniel Agius, chief operating officer of the Vanuatu Investment Migration Bureau, an agency that sells Vanuatu citizenship.

“The crypto paradise they’re looking to build is a really cool idea and a wonderful use of a place that we’ve been able to live in for 12 years,” Welch said.

“The team had been working to find a location for some time, the main problem was trying to find a government that would… allow a society to exist on crypto transactions. Most countries in the world want to collect taxes and therefore don’t want crypto transactions to happen because they can’t monitor what’s happening. Vanuatu has no income taxes whatsoever.”

The trio pledge to 21,000 investors that the island will “become a home for crypto professionals and enthusiasts, aiming to be the crypto capital of the world.”

questions and answers

What is cryptocurrency?

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Cryptocurrencies are an alternative way to make payments with cash or credit cards. The technology behind it allows the “money” to be sent directly to others without having to go through the banking system. Because of this, they are outside the control of governments and not regulated by financial regulators – and transactions can be conducted in a way that remains reasonably pseudonymous.

When you own a crypto asset, you control a secret digital key that allows you to prove to anyone on the network that a certain amount of that asset is yours. When you spend it, you’re letting the whole network know you’ve transferred ownership of it, and using the same key to prove you’re telling the truth. Over time, the history of all these transactions becomes a permanent record of who owns what: this record is known as the Blockchain.

One of the first and biggest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin has been on a wild ride since its inception in 2009, sometimes skyrocketing in value as investors flocked — and occasionally crashed. Dogecoin — which started out as a joke — has also seen a stratospheric surge in value.

Skeptics warn that the lack of central control makes crypto assets ideal for criminals and terrorists, while libertarian monetarists revel in the idea of ​​a currency with no inflation and no central bank.

The whole cryptocurrency concept has been criticized for its environmental impact, as “mining” new coins requires huge reserves of energy and the associated carbon footprint of the entire system.

Richard Partton and Martin Belam

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“Living on the island will be an experience like no other, giving the crypto community the opportunity to live and work among like-minded people in a place designed around the industry we love,” they say on one Website promoting the island.

Successful applicants wishing to reside on the island will receive a non-fungible token (NFT) granting them Satoshi Island Citizenship. However, the fine print indicates that they must also obtain Vanuatu citizenship in order to live on the island.

Vanuatu citizenship costs $130,000 and allows visa-free “Golden Passport” travel to 129 countries, including the United Kingdom and all Schengen countries in Europe.

Despite fears that the program has been exploited by refugees, politicians and disgraced businessmen, the country has been heavily promoting its citizenship through investment program.

A Guardian investigation last year found that among the 2,200 foreigners granted citizenship in 2020 were a Syrian businessman with US sanctions on his businesses, a suspected North Korean politician, and an Italian businessman accused of blackmailing the Vatican and South African brothers accused of $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency robbery.

Vanuatu this month hired Mayfair-based citizenship marketing firm CS Global Partners to attract more to purchase Vanuatu citizenship, which is granted with an online oath-taking ceremony and does not require the new citizen to ever visit the country.

The sale of citizenships, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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