By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 July 2022
Two Indian brothers and their Indian-American friend have been charged in the US in the first-ever cryptocurrency insider trading scheme in which they made illicit profits totalling over a million dollars. Ishan Wahi, 32, and his brother Nikhil Wahi, 26, are citizens of India and were residing in Seattle while Sameer Ramani, 33, resides in Houston.
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams and Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Michael J Driscoll announced on Thursday the unsealing of an indictment.
The Wahi brothers and Ramani were charged with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to commit insider trading in cryptocurrency assets by using confidential Coinbase information about which crypto assets were scheduled to be listed on Coinbase’s exchanges.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also announced insider trading charges against the three men.
The Wahi brothers were arrested on Thursday morning in Seattle and will be presented in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.
The SEC complaint said Ramani is believed to currently be in India.
Ramani and Ishan Wahi attended the University of Texas at Austin at the same time and remain close friends.
Prosecutors said the three have been charged in the first-ever cryptocurrency insider trading tipping scheme, in which the defendants made illegal trades in at least 25 different crypto assets and realised ill-gotten gains totalling approximately $1.5 million (roughly Rs. 11 crore).
The charges “are a further reminder that Web3 is not a law-free zone. Just last month, I announced the first-ever insider trading case involving NFTs, and today I announce the first-ever insider trading case involving cryptocurrency markets,” Williams said.
“Our message with these charges is clear: fraud is a fraud, whether it occurs on the blockchain or on Wall Street. And the Southern District of New York will continue to be relentless in bringing fraudsters to justice, wherever we may find them,” Williams added.
Ishan Wahi is charged with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Similarly, Nikhil Wahi and Ramani are charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Bitcoin falls below $19,000 as cryptos creak under rate hike risk
By: Reuters, Updated September 19, 2022
SINGAPORE, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Cryptocurrencies fell to fresh lows on Monday on regulatory concerns and as investors globally turned shy on risky assets with interest rate rises looming around the world.
Bitcoin , the biggest cryptocurrency by market value, fell about 5% to a three-month low of $18,387.
Ether , the second largest cryptocurrency, dropped 3% to a two-month low of $1,285 and is down more than 10% in the last 24 hours. Most other smaller tokens were deeper in the red.
The Ethereum blockchain, which underpins the ether token, had a major upgrade over the weekend called the Merge that changes the way transactions are processed and cuts energy use.
The token’s value has fallen amid some speculation that remarks last week from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler implied the new structure could attract extra regulation. Trades around the upgrade also were unwound.
“It’s speculation as to what might or might not happen,” said Matthew Dibb, COO of Singapore crypto platform Stack Funds, on the regulatory outlook.
“A lot of the hype has come out of the markets since the Merge,” he said. “It’s really been a sell-the-news type of event,” he added, given the nervous global backdrop, and said ether could test $950 in coming months.
“Looking at the landscape right now, both fundamentally and technically, it’s not looking great. There’s no immediate bullish catalyst that we can see that’s going to prop up these markets and bring in a whole lot of new money and liquidity.”
Bitcoin once again slips below $20,000
By: Reuters, September 18, 2022
Sept 18 (Reuters) – Bitcoin on Sunday dropped 1.54% to $19,804, slipping from the 20,000 mark after losing $310 from its previous close.
The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency is down 58.9% from the year’s high of $48,234 on March 28.
Ether , the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, dropped 3.2 % to $1,422.1 on Sunday, losing $47 from its previous close.
U.S. seizes $30 mln in crypto from North Korea-linked hackers
By: Reuters, September 9, 2022
Sept 8 (Reuters) – The United States has seized over $30 million in cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean-linked hackers Lazarus from the popular online game Axie Infinity, crypto intelligence firm Chainalysis said on Thursday.
The company said in a blog post it played a role in the recovery with U.S. law enforcement and other crypto organizations, without naming them, in the first ever recovery of stolen cryptocurrency by a North Korea hacking group.
Chainalysis and North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The seizures represent about 10% of the total funds stolen in March from Ronin Network, a sidechain built for the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, Chainalysis said.
Ronin said in March hackers stole about $615 million in cryptocurrency.
“We estimate that so far in 2022, North Korea-linked groups have stolen approximately $1 billion of cryptocurrency from DeFi protocols,” Chainalysis said. He was referring to decentralized finance protocols, an umbrella term for financial services offered on public blockchains.
The U.S Department of Treasury in May sanctioned virtual currency mixer Blender, saying it was used in the laundering process for the Axie Infinity heist.
The Treasury Department in April also linked Lazarus to the attack.
Crypto gaming firm Animoca Brands raises $110 million
By: Reuters, September 8, 2022
LONDON, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Hong Kong-based blockchain gaming developer Animoca Brands has raised $110 million from investors, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
The company said the fund raising values the company “similar to its previous funding round” but did not specify its new valuation.
In July, Animoca said it had a valuation of around $5.5 billion. read more
(This story corrects paragraph 1 to read Hong Kong-based not Singapore)
Binance to convert users’ USDC into its own stablecoin
By: Reuters, September 6, 2022
Sept 5 (Reuters) – Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, said on Monday it is introducing “BUSD Auto-Conversion,” which will be used to convert any existing user balances and new deposits of USD Coin (USDC), Pax Dollar (USDP) and True USD (TUSD) into its own stablecoin.
The move is intended to enhance liquidity and capital efficiency for users, the company said in a statement.
Binance said it will remove and cease any trading on spot pairs that include USDC, USDP and TUSD; it will start the conversion on Sept. 29.
USDC, which is principally operated by Circle Internet Financial and is the second largest stablecoin, has a nearly $51.9 billion market capitalization. Binance’s stablecoin, BUSD, is valued at about $19.4 billion, according to crypto data provider CoinGecko.
USDC products affected include saving accounts, DeFi staking subscriptions and crypto loans, which will be closed and liquidated on Sept. 23.
Crypto Exchange FTX Ordered to Halt ‘False and Misleading’ Claims by US Bank Regulator
By Reuters | Updated: 20 August 2022
A US bank regulator ordered crypto exchange FTX on Friday to halt what it called “false and misleading” claims the exchange had made about whether funds at the company are insured by the government. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said a July tweet by Brett Harrison, head of FTX’s US operations, contained misleading claims that funds held at and stocks purchased through FTX were FDIC insured, and ordered the company to remove any misleading language from its social media accounts and websites.
In the tweet, which Harrison has since deleted, he stated that direct deposits from employers to the crypto exchange are “stored in individually FDIC-insured bank accounts” and that stocks purchased via FTX US “are held in FDIC-insured” brokerage accounts. The FDIC said in its cease and desist letter to FTX US that those statements implied that FDIC insurance was available for cryptocurrency and stock holdings, and that the agency does not insure brokerage accounts.
The order, one of five sent to crypto firms by the FDIC on Friday, comes as regulators have ramped up efforts to police crypto firms that may be misleading investors on whether their funds enjoy a government backstop. The issue has come to a head of late, as turmoil in the crypto market has led to stress and the collapse of some high profile firms.
The bank regulator issued a similar cease and desist letter to bankrupt crypto firm Voyager Digital, arguing that the company had misled customers by claiming their funds with Voyager would be covered by the FDIC. Later, the FDIC issued an advisory urging banks dealing with crypto companies to ensure that customers are aware of what types of assets are government-insured, particularly in cases where firms offer a mix of uninsured crypto products alongside insured bank deposit products.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
In a tweet on Friday, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried emphasised FTX is not FDIC-insured, and apologised if anyone misinterpreted previous comments.
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