Portugal-based Bison Bank has been given the go-ahead to operate as a virtual asset service provider (VASP) by the country’s central bank.
The announcement makes Bison the first bank to receive regulatory approval to provide crypto custody and exchange services, local reports confirmed. Bison Digital Assets will remain a fully-owned subsidiary of Bison Bank.
Banco de Portugal updated its list of virtual asset service providers adding Bison Digital Assets as the country’s fifth licensed crypto exchange.
The company was newly created to operate under Bison Bank, which is fully owned by a Chinese private capital firm based in Hong Kong, and will offer crypto services to high net worth clients.
Portugal is known as a crypto-friendly country and a crypto tax haven.
Cryptocurrency income remains exempt from VAT and capital gains taxes unless it derives from professional trading activity.
The Portuguese government has formed a working group of public and private entities along with experts to formulate a sector-wide national blockchain strategy.
Portugal will announce its blockchain strategy in June
The government expects that this strategy will be released for consultation by the end of the month, and its final version will be published in June.
In April 2020 the country established plans to create Technological Free Zones (ZLTs), areas in which businesses can test products and services, with the country outlining that it was looking at testing blockchain technology as part of its digital transformation plan.
Valentin Sotov, a software developer, also sees Portugal as a key crypto market. Sotov, a refugee from Ukraine, is working on a crypto-based metaverse game called Amber. He said that Portugal offers “a big opportunity for our product because we can work with a lot of IT people in one place.”
Portugal hosts the annual Web Summit, an important technology conference, and informal meetups at bars to discuss crypto topics.
Portuguese entrepreneurs have founded a small number of private crypto startups, worth over $1 billion. Anchorage Digital, a digital asset bank with offices in northern Portugal, has a Portuguese founder.
Last year, the central bank classified the Portuguese exchanges Criptoloja and Mind the Coin as virtual assets service providers. There are currently five virtual asset service providers (VASPs) listed on the central bank website.