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1 Legal and enforcement framework
1.1 What general regulatory regimes and issues should
blockchain developers consider when building the governance
framework for the operation of blockchain/distributed ledger
The primary regulatory regime to consider in the Cayman Islands
is the Virtual Assets (Service Providers) Act (‘VASP Act’).
The VASP Act regulates certain blockchain-related activities and
therefore may be relevant for certain protocols.
The other regulatory regime that may be relevant for protocols
with an associated token or which enable trading of securities is
the Securities and Investment Business Act (SIBA).
1.2 How do the foregoing considerations differ for public and
The Cayman Islands regulator, the Cayman Islands Monetary
Authority (CIMA), does not differentiate between public and private
blockchains. However, the VASP Act and SIBA could be relevant for
public and private blockchains, depending on their characteristics
and operation. For example, both a private and public blockchain
could involve the issuance of a token which could be captured under
the VASP Act and may also be considered a security under SIBA.
Specialist advice is recommended.
1.3 What general regulatory issues should users of a blockchain
application consider when using a particular blockchain/distributed
The user of a blockchain or protocol should consider:
- the security of the blockchain or protocol; and
- the recourse it might have in the event of a loss due to
hacking or some event negative event.
1.4 Which administrative bodies are responsible for enforcing
the applicable laws and regulations? What powers do they have?
CIMA (as defined above) is the government body tasked with
enforcing the VASP Act and retains wide-reaching powers to regulate
persons and entities regulated pursuant to the VASP Act.
1.5 What is the regulators’ general approach to
CIMA has generally been fairly open and friendly in its approach
to blockchain, while at the same time adopting a degree of caution
in order to maintain the very high standards of the financial
1.6 Are any industry or trade associations influential in the
The most influential industry body is the Cayman Islands
Blockchain Association, whose stated goal is to “promote
everything blockchain related in the Cayman Islands”.
2 Blockchain market
2.1 Which blockchain applications and protocols have become
most embedded in your jurisdiction?
The principal blockchain applications which have become embedded
in the Cayman Islands relate to digital assets and cryptocurrencies
- governance and utility tokens;
- trading and exchange platforms; and
- decentralised finance and non-fungible tokens.
2.2 What potential new applications/protocols are most actively
In the Cayman Islands, a wide range of applications and
protocols are being explored, with decentralised autonomous
organisations the most popular given the existence of the Cayman
Islands foundation company.
2.3 Which industries within your jurisdiction are making
material investments within the blockchain space?
Many service providers (eg, lawyers, accountants, corporate
service providers) are investing time and resources in being able
to understand, advise on and facilitate newer blockchain
applications through the provision of crucial infrastructure and
support. There are also specific anti-money laundering and
compliance services for cryptocurrency-related projects.
2.4 Are any initiatives or governmental programmes in place to
incentivise blockchain development in your jurisdiction?
Aside from the Virtual Assets (Service Providers) Act discussed
inquestion 1, there are various organisations and bodies looking to
attract talent in the Cayman Islands, including:
- Cayman Enterprise City, which facilitates entry into the
special economic zone; and
- Tech Cayman.
3.1 How are cryptocurrencies and/or virtual currencies defined
and regulated in your jurisdiction?
The Virtual Assets (Service Providers) Act (‘VASP Act’)
governs any entity that issues virtual assets or provides certain
virtual asset services.
The VASP Act’s implementation is occurring over two phases
and began in October 2020. Phase 1 brought into force the
anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing of terrorism,
compliance and supervision provisions of the VASP Act.
Phase 2 has yet to come into force. When implemented, Phase 2
will introduce additional licensing requirements applicable to
custody services and trading platforms and will provide for sandbox
The VASP Act defines ‘virtual assets’ as “a digital
representation of value that can be digitally traded or transferred
and can be used for payment or investment purposes but does not
include a digital representation of fiat currencies”. In this
regard, the VASP Act distinguishes between virtual assets and
‘virtual service tokens’, which are defined as
“digital representations of value which are not transferable
or exchangeable with a third party at any time and includes digital
tokens whose sole function is to provide access to an application
or service or to provide a service or function directly to its
The VASP Act requires all virtual asset service providers
(VASPs) to register or obtain a licence (as applicable). A
‘virtual asset service’ is defined as the issuance of
virtual assets or the business of providing one of more of the
following services or operations for or on behalf of a natural or
legal person or legal arrangement:
- exchange between virtual assets and fiat currencies;
- exchange between one or more other forms of convertible virtual
- transfer of virtual assets;
- virtual asset custody service; or
- participation in, and provision of, financial services related
to a virtual asset issuance or the sale of a virtual asset.
3.2 What anti-money laundering provisions apply to
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2020 Revision) and the
Anti-Money Laundering Regulations (2020 Revision), and their
applicable guidance notes (together, ‘the AML laws’), any
person, formed, registered or based in the Cayman Islands
conducting “relevant financial business” is subject to
various obligations aimed at preventing, identifying and reporting
money laundering and terrorist financing. VASPs must comply with
the AML laws.
The requirements include (but are not limited to) the
- appointing a managerial level employee as an AML compliance
officer (who must be approved by the Cayman Islands Monetary
Authority (CIMA) under the VASP Act);
- appointing a managerial-level employee as the money-laundering
reporting officer and a deputy for the same; and
- implementing comprehensive procedures to ensure that clients
are properly identified, risks assessed and requisite records
3.3 What consumer protection provisions apply to
Aside from the requirements of the VASP Act, which provides a
level of consumer protection, CIMA has in the past made statements
concerning the operation of certain exchanges from the jurisdiction
where those exchanges may have been operating without licences or
3.4 How are cryptocurrencies treated from a tax
No Cayman Islands taxes currently apply to cryptocurrencies.
3.5 What regulatory requirements apply to a cryptocurrency
No regulatory requirements apply to an individual who is trading
cryptocurrencies on his or her own behalf, provided that he or she
is not offering any virtual asset services as defined under the
VASP Act. An exchange operating as a business may be subject to the
VASP Act and therefore will need to register as a ‘registered
person’ or obtain a licence under the VASP Act.
3.6 How are initial coin offerings and securities token
offerings defined and regulated in your jurisdiction?
On the basis that the coin being offered falls within the
definition of a ‘virtual asset’ as defined in question 3.1,
and that the initial coin offering falls within the definition of
an ‘issuance of virtual assets’ as set out in question 3.1,
the entity conducting the issuance will be required to register as
a ‘registered person’ under the VASP Act.
A securities token offering may be regulated by both the VASP
Act and the Securities and Investment Business Act (SIBA). This
will be the case where the token falls within the definition of a
‘virtual asset’ as set out in question 3.1 and the
definition of a ‘security’ as set out in Schedule 1 of
SIBA. Currently this would require the issuing entity to become
regulated under both acts; however, a waiver process is expected to
be introduced whereby regulation under both regimes should not be
Once the waiver provisions are brought into force, CIMA may
grant a waiver to any person already licensed under another
regulatory act (eg, SIBA). Section 16 of the VASP Act expressly
provides that CIMA may issue such waiver if it determines that:
- the virtual asset service does not materially change the nature
of the activity for which the existing licensee is already
- the supervision and oversight in relation to that licensee is
sufficient to include the virtual asset service carried on by
The aforementioned waiver provision in the VASP Act appears
designed specifically to address a securities token offering
situation and in that context, were the entity already regulated by
SIBA, it could apply for a waiver from the VASP Act (or vice
4 Smart contracts
4.1 Can a smart contract satisfy the legal requirements of a
legal contract under the laws of your jurisdiction? What will be
considered when making this determination?
While there is no Cayman Islands precedent addressing this
question, we see no reason why a smart contract could not be
enforceable as a legal contract under the laws of the Cayman
4.2 Are there any regulatory or governmental guidelines or
policies within your jurisdiction which provide guidance on
regulating/defining smart contracts?
There are no regulatory or governmental guidelines regarding the
enforceability of smart contracts. However, the Electronic
Transactions Act (2003 Revision) helpfully provides that that the
offer and acceptance of a contract may be expressed by means of
electronic record. On the face of it, this would suggest that smart
contacts are enforceable under Cayman Islands law.
4.3 What parts of traditional contract might smart contracts be
able to replace?
Aspects of contracts which require third-party involvement may
be replaceable by smart contract. Escrow arrangements and
notification provisions are two obvious examples. Certain insurance
contracts can also be improved upon by the use of smart contracts
where trigger events and pay-outs can be hardcoded.
4.4 What parts of traditional contracts might smart contracts
be unable to replace?
Due to their self-executing nature, the possible outcomes of a
smart contract are typically limited to being binary. The risks of
an unintended outcome can be high if the smart contract itself
contains errors or has not been properly coded. In addition, common
yet subjective terms (eg, ‘good faith’) are incapable of
being incorporated into smart contracts.
4.5 What issues might present themselves in your jurisdiction
with regard to judicial enforcement of smart contracts?
No specific issues have presented themselves before the courts
in the Cayman Islands. However, issues that might arise are likely
to centre on the way in which a smart contract might be undone or
4.6 What are some practical considerations that parties should
consider when drafting a smart contract?
Given that smart contracts are immutable, it is extremely
important to consider in detail all aspects of the contract before
executing it. Such considerations include:
- performance measures;
- pricing metrics;
- execution authority (including the potential use of
multi-signature mechanisms for additional security); and
- wallet addresses.
4.7 How will the foregoing considerations differ when smart
contracts are running on a private versus public blockchain?
Presumably a private blockchain will be more amenable to change
and alteration, and therefore issues which could arise may be more
easily resolved for a private blockchain compared with a public
blockchain (which will likely require the consensus of a much
5 Data and privacy
5.1 What specific challenges or concerns does blockchain
present from a data protection/privacy perspective?
The Cayman Islands has implemented data protection legislation
largely based on the UK/EU standards of the General Data Protection
The GDPR and other data protection laws are constructed around
the notion that centralised entities should control and process
personal data, with statutory obligations relating to attributed to
‘data controllers’ and ‘data processors’.
This approach is fundamentally at odds with blockchain’s
decentralised nature, making it hard to reconcile current data
protection laws with blockchain’s other principal
characteristics – that is:
- the lack of centralised control and storage;
- the immutability of the blockchain; and
- the storage of data forever.
The following principal issues arise:
- It is often difficult (if not impossible) to identify within a
blockchain application who the ‘data controllers’ and
‘data processors’ actually are for the purposes of
compliance with data protection legislation.
- Stakeholders in the blockchain space may have a different
attitude to anonymity and pseudonymity, which has an impact on how
data protection and privacy laws can (or should) apply.
- The global participation in blockchain applications (eg, in the
trading of cryptocurrencies) means that transactions are often
conducted on a cross-border basis, which raises questions of:
- whether any restrictions might apply to the transfer of
personal data to another jurisdiction; or
- whether that other jurisdiction has equivalent data protection
or privacy legislation.
- whether any restrictions might apply to the transfer of
- It must further be considered whether, in a blockchain
application, the use of personal data is for legitimate
- An individual’s ‘right to be forgotten’ is
difficult to reconcile with the blockchain’s immutable nature
– a data subject could find his or her personal data encased
onto a blockchain forever.
5.2 What potential advantages can blockchain offer in the data
The area of data protection/privacy on which blockchain may
likely have the biggest positive impact is the recording and
retention of anonymised data. The ability to continuously update
and record important records and statistics (eg, medical journals,
government statistics) could offer the ability to ensure that such
information is public, easily accessible, auditable and at the same
time secure and uneditable. This has many potential benefits
– one of which is that a person need not rely a on a third
party to provide safe keeping of important records.
6.1 What specific challenges or concerns does blockchain
present from a cybersecurity perspective?
Private keys: Private keys are used to interact
with the blockchain and, in contrast to user passwords, cannot be
restored. If a user loses the private key, all data encrypted with
it will most likely be impossible to recover. This can be mitigated
by the use of third-party custody services; albeit that in reality,
this passes the responsibility of ensuring safekeeping to the third
Hacking: Like all technology, blockchain
applications are at risk of hacking or being compromised. This risk
can be mitigated by the use of third-party custody solutions;
however, those providers can themselves be hacked.
Out-of-date software/vulnerability coverage:
The fast pace of the blockchain space means that it is often
difficult to keep blockchain software updated. In the same vein, it
is hard to keep track of security updates to enterprise blockchain
software because there is a lack of coverage on relevant national
6.2 What potential advantages can blockchain offer in the
Blockchain applications offer the following major advantages in
the cybersecurity context:
- Secure data storage and processing: Blockchain records are
immutable and any change recorded on the blockchain is transparent
and non-removable. Therefore, data stored on a blockchain is
protected better than traditional digital or paper-based
- Transfer of data in a secure manner: Blockchain facilitates
fast and secure transactions of data and finances. Features such as
smart contracts allow for the automatic execution of agreements
between several parties.
- Traceability/transparency: All blockchain transactions are
digitally signed and time stamped, so participants can trace
transaction history and track accounts at a point in time.
- User confidentiality: The confidentiality of blockchain network
participants is high due to the public key cryptography that
- No single point of failure: Permissionless blockchains are
decentralised so the failure or compromise of a single node will
not compromise the operation or security of the blockchain as a
6.3 What tools and measures could be implemented to mitigate
The most effective tool we are aware of that can help to
mitigate cybersecurity risk (in all blockchains, but specifically
in new and therefore more centralised chains) is a security audit.
In short, this is a process whereby a blockchain security entity is
contracted to run a rigorous analysis of a blockchains code,
identifying weak points and allowing the developers to patch them
prior to (or after) a public launch. Many of the recent
decentralised finance hacks and exploits could have been prevented
by a thorough security audit.
7 Intellectual property
7.1 What specific challenges or concerns does blockchain
present from an IP perspective?
One challenge for intellectual property is that different
protocols can involve intellectual property in different ways, from
code to branding. For decentralised projects, it is not always
clear where the ownership of the relevant intellectual property
7.2 What type of IP protection can blockchain developers
Blockchain developers can take advantage of the UK Copyright,
Design and Patents Act 1988, which has been extended to apply (in
part) in the Cayman Islands. This can, for example, afford
automatic copyright protection for code. However, anyone looking to
register any kind of intellectual property in the Cayman Islands
should consider the potential impact of the International Tax
Co-operation (Economic Substance) Act.
7.3 What are the best open-source platforms that could be used
to protect developers’ innovations?
7.4 What potential advantages can blockchain offer in the IP
It is predicted that blockchain technology will transform the
way in which IP rights are recorded or evidenced.
An example of this trend in action is evidenced by the meteoric
rise in popularity in non-fungible tokens. While they were
initially used to represent digital artwork, their use in other
industries is increasing as a way of providing digital
identifiability and authenticity for property of all varieties.
8 Trends and predictions
8.1 How do you think the regulatory landscape in your
jurisdiction will evolve in the blockchain space over the next two
years? Are any pending changes currently being considered?
The most obvious change will be the implantation of Phase 2 of
the Virtual Assets (Service Providers) Act (‘VASP Act’),
discussed in question 3.1. Aside from that, it is hoped that the
process for becoming registered (and licensed when Phase 2 has been
implemented) will become more streamlined and certain with regard
8.2 What regulatory changes would you like your jurisdiction to
implement to further advance the blockchain industry?
The VASP Act as drafted is a solid piece of legislation and
gives certainty to persons wishing to operate in the crypto space
in the Cayman Islands. One change that may be helpful would be to
streamline processes so that an applicant can have some level of
certainty as to how long it may take for an application to be
8.3 What is the largest impediment within your jurisdiction to
the adoption of blockchain technology?
Blockchain is complicated and comes with challenging technical
concepts and much jargon. It can therefore be difficult for persons
that are completely unfamiliar with these to enter the space. That
is likely to slow the adoption overall as service providers come up
9 Tips and traps
9.1 What are your top tips for effective use of blockchain
technologies in your jurisdiction and what potential sticking
points would you highlight?
The most important factor when considering offering blockchain
technology to the public from the Cayman Islands is to understand
the potential impact of the Virtual Assets (Service Providers) Act.
We would always recommend obtaining product-specific advice as a
first step to understand the regulatory implications of the product
before undertaking any blockchain-related activities.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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