Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies stage rally to start the new year

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      The last year was ghastly for those with big investments in cryptocurrencies.

      But Bitcoin has started 2019 off on a high note.

      As of this writing, it's up 2.84 percent, trading at US$3,875.77.

      Marketwatch has reported that other cryptocurrencies have also rallied, adding $8 billion to the value of all of these coins.

      It comes in the wake of the 2018 cryptocurrency crash, which saw the value of Bitcoin fall by about 65 percent from early January to early February of last year.

      Back on December 15, 2017, one Bitcoin was selling for $25,000 in Canadian currency.

      By late November, Bitcoin was down 80 percent from its peak.

      Other cryptocurrencies also fell about 80 percent from their peak by September 2018.

      Confidence was rocked by some high-profile thefts and scams.

      The Cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering Report revealed that nearly US$1 billion in these funds were stolen in the first nine months of 2018

      The report by Cipher Trace noted that the top exchanges "laundered a significant amount of bitcoin, representing approximately $2.5 billion at today's prices".

      "Essentially, criminals are flowing large amounts of dirty bitcoin into these poorly regulated exchanges and other services—such as mixers—turning it into 'clean' cryptocurrencies," the report stated. "Then, they can move funds into the global financial payments system with little risk of being detected."

      One of the biggest heists occurred when Coincheck was hacked, resulting in thieves making off with more than US$600 million.

      Not surprisingly, this sector came under greater scrutiny last year from financial regulators, including the B.C. Securities Commission

      It remains to be seen if crytocurrencies will come under scrutiny by B.C.'s expert panel on money laundering. It's expected to release its recommendations in the spring.

      The panel is looking at "gaps in compliance and enforcement of existing laws, consumer protection, financial services regulations, regulation of real estate professionals, and jurisdictional gaps between B.C. and the federal government".

      Panel members are former deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney, money-laundering expert Brigitte Unger, and Sauder School of Business professor Tsur Somerville.