Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments.
On Aug. 11, a Chinese individual known only as Mr. Chen was sentenced to nine months in prison after helping his friend, Mr. Lin, purchase 94,988 Chinese yuan ($13,104) worth of Tether (USDT) and earning a commission of 147.1 Yuan ($20.24).
Because Mr. Chen shared his personal bank information for the peer-to-peer fiat-to-crypto transaction, Chinese authorities considered the act to be money laundering and imposed a harsh sentence.
Officially, Chinese authorities attribute the tough-on-crypto approach to a spree of data theft and the use of crypto to launder proceeds of crime. However, sources tell Cointelegraph that the crackdown is more related to the country’s stringent capital control rules, where Chinese nationals are prohibited from buying more than $50,000 worth of foreign currencies each year without a state permit. The same applies to large-sum Chinese yuan transactions with foreign banks.
The capital controls had been almost complete until the advent of crypto, sources say. The problem is further exasperated by a looming recession in China, making senior government officials wary of further money moving out of the country.
In July, Jingmen municipal police were tipped off about an online poker platform operating in the city. Raiding the offices, police discovered the group had “laundered” over 400 billion Chinese yuan ($54.93 billion) worth of gambling funds using cryptocurrencies and involving over 50,000 individuals.
However, the underlying criminal act that resulted in the “tainted money” was never mentioned. Unlike other jurisdictions, the act of gambling itself and the transfer of currencies abroad without applicable permits are deemed to be illicit activities. According to user reports, fiat-to-crypto transactions stemming as far back as 2021 are currently being audited by “special police task forces.”
Crypto projects and their Chinese founders are also disappearing at an alarming rate. The well-known Multichain incident aside, in May, employees of Chinese offshore yuan stablecoin issuer CNHC were detained by police following an office raid. They have not been heard from since. Commenting on the story, Wuwei Liang, a former employee of defunct crypto exchange CoinXP, claimed:
“Suddenly, despite there being no complainants nor victims, the Wuxi police who came to Beijing from across the province took away all the members of the CoinXP team of China’s domestic blockchain entrepreneurial team.”
Liang further alleged that Chinese police would resort to “intimidation” to force a confession and the surrender of a project’s private key. Armed with this as “evidence” police then charge the co-founder with “fraud and multilevel marketing,” bringing about a sham trial where the accused is convicted, resulting in the seizure of enterprise and user funds alike. (These allegations have not been proven in court.) We reported earlier on allegations of intimidation, detention, and even suggestions of the “kidnapping” of the defense counsel at the ongoing CoinXP trial.
CBDC printer goes brrrr
Don’t misinterpret the Chinese government, however; they are quite fond of blockchain, so long as they are the ones in charge.
In the interest of revitalizing China’s ailing economy via consumer spending, government officials have recognized the role of the Chinese yuan central bank digital currency and made its adoption a political priority. On July 27, the city of Suqian airdropped 20 million ($2.75 million) of digital yuan shopping vouchers to residents.
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This was followed by a 10 million ($1.37 million) digital yuan food voucher airdrop by the city of Hangzhou, a 40 million ($5.49 million) digital yuan airdrop by the city of Shaoxing, a 30 million ($4.12 million) digital yuan airdrop by the city of Jianyang, and a 3 million ($0.412 million) digital yuan airdrop by the city of Ningbo, all within less than two weeks. At one test site in Chengdu, China’s largest food delivery platform, Meituan, reported a 65.5% daily increase in the number of digital yuan transactions on its platform.
So there are definitely real-world results to help revitalize the economy — something desperately needed right now. On Aug. 15, China announced it would stop reporting its youth unemployment figures after the metric reached a record 21.3% in June. Perhaps we can expect the (blockchain) printer to go brrr in the months ahead?
3AC creditors suffer humiliating defeat
Lawsuits can be tough, especially when it comes to matters such as liquidating a $3.5 billion Singaporean hedge fund through multi-jurisdictional litigation. This is why a high level of competency is generally required for the attorneys who take part in such proceedings.
And so, creditors of Three Arrows Capital (3AC) were dealt a significant setback on Aug. 11, when United States Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn said civil contempt rulings against 3AC co-founder Kyle Davies were invalid.
Judge Glenn explained that the subpoenas issued by law firm Teneo on behalf of creditors to Davies via Twitter starting in December were made on the basis that Davies held U.S. citizenship. However, it emerged earlier this month that Davies’ renounced his U.S. citizenship to acquire Singaporean citizenship a few years prior.
“Because Mr. Davies’ United States citizenship was a prerequisite for valid service on him in the manner effected, he was not properly served with the subpoena issued by this Court.”
As a result, the U.S. court could not exercise jurisdiction against Davies, with Judge Glenn suggesting that creditors’ attorneys bring a motion to a Singaporean court to compel Davies’ compliance instead. It has been over a year since 3AC filed for bankruptcy.
In other words, after one year’s time, creditors have just found out that the jurisdiction where they filed to claim debtors’ assets had no jurisdiction over the debtors. 3AC co-founder Zhu Su, by the way, also has Singaporean citizenship and cannot be compelled by U.S. courts on this matter.
Now don’t get me wrong, everyone makes mistakes, but often trivial mistakes have trivial consequences. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here. Since the inception of proceedings, 3AC creditors have reportedly spent millions in legal fees, with some estimates going as high as $30 million. The proceedings have so far led to the recovery of several nonfungible tokens (NFTs) owned by 3AC, which were sold at two Sotheby’s auctions for a combined … $13.4 million.
In another setback, a Singaporean court ruled on Aug. 15 that the city-state would be the convenient forum for hearing 3AC creditors’ $140 million dispute with DeFiance Capital, and not the British Virgin Islands as suggested by Teneo. 3AC creditors allege that funds held with DeFiance Capital belong in the estate of 3AC, while DeFinance Capital says that its assets belong to its independent investors. Commenting on the double whammy, Su Zhu wrote:
“As the current acting liquidator for 3AC, we believe Teneo is repeatedly overreaching in their attempt to seize other investors’ funds. Even on a technical and legalistic approach, the DC [DeFiance Capital] and SNC assets rightfully belong to the feeder funds of 3AC,”
But in the overall context, winning a battle is easy; winning a war is difficult. On Aug. 16, Dubai regulators reminded Davies and Zhu that their new OPNX exchange for trading crypto bankruptcy claims remains unregistered in the Emirate and, correspondingly, faces a 10 million Dirham ($2.72 million) penalty for operating without a proper license.
Unlike in the U.S., Davies and Zhu actually own assets in the UAE vulnerable to seizure, including Davies’ prized chicken restaurant. Whether the co-founders can really keep their assets sheltered from the path of angry creditors (and regulators alike) remains to be seen.
Just before we published Asia Express, 3AC liquidators filed a committal order against Zhu Su in the court of Singapore.
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