In brief

  • Dubai-based IBC Group says it plans to launch a Miami 2.0 Blockchain Strategy Foundation.
  • There are questions about the reliability of the group's publicly stated plans.
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has been actively trying to attract crypto firms and investment.

Editor's Note: This story was updated on Feb. 27 at 1pm EST.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has been making the rounds promoting his city as a global cryptocurrency hub. As it turns out, investors are taking him seriously. 

IBC Group, a Dubai-based private equity firm that invests in real estate and tech, says it has earmarked $4.8 billion in Bitcoin for the Magic City. In a press release issued last week, IBC will use the 100,000 BTC to establish the Miami 2.0 Blockchain Strategy Foundation and support other projects.

"Making the largest Bitcoin investment in history is proof of our commitment to assisting cities adopt Blockchain, which we see as the key to enabling widespread adoption," said IBC Chairman Khurram Shroff in the release.

Some in the crypto community have questioned the veracity of the group's claims.

An IBC Group spokesperson has not provided comment to Decrypt, after an initial response that said a comment would be forthcoming, and a call to the spokesperson went to voicemail. In 2019, the fund reportedly partnered with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services to buy up 10,000 vacation properties in Dubai; and this past November, The Block reported that IBC Group said it would stake $10m of ETH to help the Eth 2 launch.

The investment in Miami would be no coincidence, in more ways than one. In January, Mayor Suarez voiced his plan to make Miami “the most crypto competitive city in the world.” He’s subsequently hired a chief technology officer and forwarded a resolution to the city commission that would facilitate municipal use of Bitcoin. 

The city commissioners voted 4-1 to look for a vendor that could facilitate municipal payments of taxes and fees in cryptocurrency as well as for a third party that could make payments in Bitcoin to employees who chose that option. The city will also research whether to hold Bitcoin as a municipal asset. However, the city has made no promises that it would actually hire a vendor or hold Bitcoin on the city’s books.

IBC Group’s involvement in Miami, if it happens, would make sense in another way. The press release notes that real estate developer Burkhan World Investment, headed by CEO Shahal Khan, approached IBC Group; Burkhan says it has over $1 billion invested in Miami real estate projects. “Enabling investment into Real Estate utilizing Bitcoin as a collateral asset will further enhance its use case as a tool to create a hybrid investment vehicle for BTC holders,” said Khan in the release.

Though Burkhan is new to Bitcoin investment, IBC is not. In addition to Shroff's previous announcement that he had invested 21,984 ETH (then worth $10 million) toward staking the Ethereum 2.0 proof-of-stake network, he said IBC Group has been investing in blockchain projects since at least 2014. In January 2018, on the downslope of the last bull run, Shroff said his family had “substantial stakes in currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, Ripple and many others.”

The Miami mayor’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment on whether it has had dealings with IBC. Decrypt also reached out to IBC for details about its planned Miami 2.0 Blockchain Strategy Foundation.