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Why Are the Winklevoss Twins Threatening to Move Their Gemini HQ out of Ireland?

Last Updated January 8, 2024 1:35 PM
Josh Adams
Last Updated January 8, 2024 1:35 PM
Key Takeaways
  • Ireland is one of the most successful tech hubs in the world, with many companies establishing a HQ there.
  • Gemini, the crypto exchange founded by the Winklevoss twins, announced Ireland as its European base in 2023.
  • Only months after, it is threatening to leave because of a disagreement over licensing.

The Winklevoss twins made headlines when they announced plans to set up the European headquarters for their cryptocurrency exchange Gemini in Dublin. The move, in May 2023, was hailed by officials and came ahead of new EU regulations for crypto assets. 

Just eight months later, the twins have issued a warning. They now claim problems with Ireland’s approach to implementing these laws could force them to relocate their European base.

Gemini Asks for More Time

According to Ireland’s Business Post , Gemini has expressed concerns that the country’s implementation of the Markets in Crypto Assets Regulation (MiCA) would not provide enough flexibility for crypto companies like theirs that already have licensing from the Central Bank of Ireland. 

Speaking directly to regulators, Gemini’s head of Europe Gillian Lynch said the 12-month transition period was too short. She said it needed to be extended to 18 months to give firms more time to get the new rules.

Lynch argued that the Department of Finance should recognize the “two-entity structure” of platforms like Gemini that already have dual registrations from the central bank—one as a electronic money institution and another as a virtual asset service provider.

Failing to provide a more adaptable pathway to licensing under MiCA would make other EU countries more appealing, she said. She effectively delivered an ultimatum. Gemini could pack up its planned European HQ in Dublin if Irish regulators don’t loosen their proposed rules.

EU-wide regulators have pushed for countries to shorten the transition period from 18 months to 12 months for consumer protection. Irish regulators accepted this move.

The warning from the Winklevoss twins casts doubt on the future of Gemini’s presence in Ireland. Only a few months ago, the brothers met with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to announce the selection of Dublin for its base to access the European market. 

During their meeting last year, the twins cited their “positive view of the Irish regulatory landscape, coupled with the capital’s deep talent base in technology and innovation, and thriving startup scene” as reasons for setting up their base on the island.

Ireland’s Quest to Remain a Tech Hub

The move could be an embarrassment for the country as it seeks a balanced tech economy, with smaller companies countering the dominance of large firms. Its current tax haven status makes it overly dependent on major companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon, which all have their headquarters in Dublin.

While the presence of tech giants brings in billions of euros in tax revenue, it leaves the country with little practical influence over them. Research from 2023 indicates that just three companies  contributed to a third of Ireland’s corporate tax revenue from 2017 to 2021, totaling €5.2 billion in 2021, a figure likely to have risen last year, according to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.

In a bid to stay tech-friendly and diversify its tax base, Ireland may be flexible. There is certainly room to maneuver. Although, there is a chance that Gemini is overplaying its hand, especially for a six month difference in licensing timelines. 

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