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“funds are safe. we’ve done a risk assessment and found that 100% of hacks happen when someone has access to their coins, so we’re revoking that access to make them even safer”— Boxturret
Transactive: Lithuania shuts down a money laundromat
Crypto exchanges have trouble finding stable gateways for actual money. Proper banks won’t talk to them, so they turn to shadow banks, which cater to high-risk clients and use lots of tricks to skirt the traditional banking system.
Sometimes the exchanges just lose their gateway — and your money.
We wrote earlier about how Crypto.com customers’ euro deposits were seized by the Lithuanian government as part of an anti-money laundering enforcement action against the exchange’s payment provider, Transactive Systems UAB. Cryptadamus has a great post explaining what happened. [Substack]
If you had EUR on Crypto.com before this, it’s gone. The “EUR” you see in your account is unbacked. Work out what you can do to extract value from your outstanding balance, while Crypto.com gives you the runaround.
Transactive was also the payment channel for crypto lender Nexo, whose Bulgarian offices were recently raided by authorities. Transactive has an office in the UK as well — Transactive Systems Ltd. [Transactive]
After getting authorization from the UK Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of Lithuania to act as an electronic money institution (EMI), Transactive grew astonishingly quickly in just five years — thanks to its clientele in crypto, gambling, and forex, and whoever else they were processing money for. [Bloomberg, archive]
Given Transactive’s sordid history, it’s amazing that the FCA authorized them at all.
Transactive emerged from the rubble of PacNet Services, an international payments company that started in Vancouver. PacNet was forced to wind down after the US Treasury sanctioned it as a “transnational criminal organization” — specifically, being the middleman for mail-fraud scam artists. Several PacNet executives were charged with fraud and money laundering. [US Treasury, 2016; DOJ, 2019]
A CNN investigative report from 2016 details how PacNet employees moved large piles of money around the world. PacNet set up bank accounts in the names of shell companies, they sent packages of cash labeled “legal documents,” they bribed Russian banking officials, and they even used a private plane to ferry cash to customers. [CNN, 2016]
So the money launderers left PacNet and moved over to a totally legitimate new business —Transactive, co-founded by convicted healthcare scammer Scott Roix.
In February 2022, the Bank of Lithuania fined Transactive 20,000 EUR for commingling customer and company funds. Transactive had also misreported its customer balances and its equity capital. [Lieutvos Bankas, in Lithuanian]
In January 2023, the Bank of Lithuania accused Transactive of massive money laundering and froze the company’s funds. It ordered Transactive to stop servicing clients in finance, forex, and crypto, pending a review. [Lietuvos Bankas, in Lithuanian]
Transactive notified clients about this trivial hiccup and said their funds were being “safeguarded” — a word meaning “you’ll never see your money again.” If an investigation discovers any of the money was dirty (if!), the government will seize the funds. [Reddit]
Crypto.com has told its euro-using customers that their SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) transfers are being migrated to a new provider. Now the exchange has to find a new provider.
Here are Crypto.com customers screaming into the void to get their funds back. Crypto.com has yet to tell them what actually happened to their money. [Twitter, Twitter]
Unless Crypto.com had euros stored somewhere other than Transactive Systems UAB, they are likely insolvent in EUR and will have to start from scratch, paying withdrawals with new deposits until they can somehow fill the gap — or not.
US crypto banks are out of favor
In the US, Crypto.com still banks with Silvergate, which allows their institutional clients to transfer USD from their bank accounts to the exchange. This channel may have problems in the near future, due to Silvergate’s dealings with FTX.
The US Federal Reserve really, really hates banks touching crypto and is not putting up with it even a bit — especially after Silvergate needed a $4.3 billion bailout. The Fed issued a policy statement on January 27: [Federal Reserve; Federal Reserve, PDF]
“The statement makes clear that uninsured and insured banks supervised by the Board will be subject to the same limitations on activities, including novel banking activities, such as crypto-asset-related activities.
In particular, the preamble would provide that the Board would presumptively prohibit SMBs from holding most crypto-assets as principal, and also would provide that any SMB seeking to issue a dollar token would need to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Federal Reserve supervisors, that the bank has controls in place to conduct the activity in a safe and sound manner, and to receive a Federal Reserve supervisory nonobjection before commencing such activity.”
That second paragraph directly addresses Silvergate’s plan to revive Diem (née Facebook’s Libra) and do their own private stablecoin for retail customers. Yeah, no. Silvergate says it’s written off its Diem investment after previous regulator refusals to let them print private money, but the Fed evidently thought it was still worth emphasizing their “no.”
The US Department of Justice is investigating Silvergate over its FTX and Alameda Research dealings. FTX customers were wiring money to Alameda and to Alameda’s dubious subsidiary North Dimension via the bank, thinking that money was going directly to FTX. The DOJ wants to know what Silvergate knew, and when they knew it. [Bloomberg]
Binance: increasingly freed from the chains of filthy fiat
In the UK, the Binance crypto exchange should have no access to pounds, ever. After the Financial Conduct Authority warned in March 2022 that “in the FCA’s view, Binance Markets is not capable of being effectively supervised,” UK banks cut off direct deposit to Binance immediately. [FCA, 2022]
But Binance knows you can’t keep a dedicated gambling addict down, so they keep trying to weasel their way back into the UK’s Faster Payments network, most recently through payments processor Paysafe. Sometimes this works. Binance recommends UK customers send money in and out via Visa — but even that’s being cut off by the banks. [Twitter; CoinDesk]
Cryptadamus traces Binance’s Visa connection — Binance owns crypto debit card issuer Swipe, which it bought in 2021! Swipe also issued a crypto debit card for FTX. [Twitter; Binance; FX Empire]
Australian users also report payment issues with Binance — even via Visa. [Twitter]
In the US, Binance users say they can’t withdraw funds in amounts of less than $100,000 from American banks. Binance says that’s fake news and everything is fine. Cryptadamus has been documenting the difference between Binance’s official statements and what customers report. [Reddit]
When Bitfinex was cut off from banking in 2017, users would buy bitcoins just to get their funds out of the exchange. This drove the price of bitcoin up and may have helped trigger the 2017 crypto bubble. So all of this is good news for bitcoin!
FTX in bankruptcy
At the next FTX bankruptcy hearing on February 6, Judge John Dorsey will hear arguments for and against appointing an examiner. FTX and the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee are against hiring an examiner, but the US Trustee and various state regulators want one. John Reed Stark thinks it’s absolutely necessary. [Agenda, PDF; LinkedIn]
Brian Glueckstein of Sullivan & Cromwell for FTX filed a declaration in support of FTX’s objection to an examiner. It’s 3,855 pages of mainly exhibits. But the US Trustee wants it stricken from the record because the deadline to file was January 25, and Glueckstein filed on February 3, one business day before the hearing. Oops. [Declaration, PDF; Doc 617, PDF]
FTX is suing Voyager for repayment of $446 million of loans. After Voyager filed for bankruptcy in July, it demanded repayment of all outstanding loans to FTX and Alameda. FTX paid the money back for Alameda — but because they paid it back so close to FTX’s bankruptcy filing, FTX wants to claw it back again. [Complaint, PDF; Reuters]
In the legal case against Sam Bankman-Fried, Judge Lewis Kaplan has barred Sam from using Signal or Slack and from contacting any former FTX employees without lawyers present until February 9, when he’ll hear arguments. He wasn’t impressed when Sam reached out to a key witness, who we assume is FTX US counsel Ryne Miller, to “vet” things on the phone. [Order, PDF]
SBF’s bail conditions required two more sureties. These are now in, with their names redacted: $200,000 and $500,000. Judge Kaplan has agreed to unseal the names, but they’ll remain redacted pending possible appeals. [Bond, PDF; Bond; PDF, Memorandum Opinion, PDF]
Digital Currency Group
The second day hearing in the Genesis bankruptcy is February 22. No agenda yet. We wonder if anyone will attempt to go after Genesis’ owners, DCG. [Notice, PDF]
The Gemini crypto exchange implied to its Gemini Earn customers in 2022 that their deposits were protected by FDIC insurance, and customers took Gemini’s statements to mean they were protected by the FDIC from Genesis failing. But Gemini didn’t technically say that! So it must be fine, right? [Axios]
DCG’s crypto news site CoinDesk claimed to have prospective buyers approaching them unsolicited and offering hundreds of millions of dollars for the site. The new rumor is that the prospective buyers are looking at buying only parts of the site — the conference business or the media outlet — and certainly not at paying hundreds of millions of dollars. [Twitter]
Other good news for bitcoin
Coinbase was fined 3.3 million EUR (USD$3.6 million) by De Nederlandsche Bank for not registering as a money transmitter in the Netherlands. [Reuters]
Coinbase bragged about having proper registration in September 2022. But the violation occurred in the years prior when they weren’t properly registered. [Coinbase, 2022]
MicroStrategy posts another loss. This is its eighth straight quarterly loss in a row. Before former CEO Michael Saylor started to amass bitcoin in 2020, the company had $531 million in cash. Now it’s down to $43.8 million in cash. [Bloomberg]
MicroStrategy is one of the loans that Silvergate is particularly worried about. In March 2022, MicroStrategy borrowed $205 million in a three-year loan from Silvergate. The loan was collateralized with bitcoin — and Silvergate will need to worry about that too.
Image: PacNet’s part owner Don Davis (on the left) posted on LinkedIn. Airplanes are great for moving piles of cash.