By Reuters | Updated: 2 August 2022
The Securities and Exchange Commission said on Monday it charged 11 people for their roles in creating and promoting a fraudulent crypto pyramid and Ponzi scheme that raised over $300 million (roughly Rs. 2,500 crore) from retail investors worldwide, including in the United States.
Those charged included the four founders of the scheme named Forsage. They were last known to be living in Russia, the Republic of Georgia, and Indonesia, the SEC said in a statement.
The charged individuals could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the SEC’s complaint, the scheme’s website was launched in January 2020 and allowed millions of retail investors to enter into transactions via smart contracts. It allegedly operated as a pyramid scheme for more than two years, in which investors earned profits by recruiting others into the scheme, the SEC said.
Forsage also allegedly used assets from new investors to pay earlier investors in a typical Ponzi structure, the SEC complaint added.
“Forsage is a fraudulent pyramid scheme launched on a massive scale and aggressively marketed to investors,” said Carolyn Welshhans, acting chief of the SEC’s Crypto Assets and Cyber unit. “Fraudsters cannot circumvent the federal securities laws by focusing their schemes on smart contracts and blockchains.”
Without admitting or denying the allegations, two of the defendants agreed to settle the charges and one of them agreed to pay penalties, the SEC said.
In March, a crypto Ponzi scheme was busted in India when the ED arrested an accused in connection with its money laundering probe against a Kerala-based businessman, who is alleged to have cheated more than 900 investors to the tune of Rs. 1,200 crore in lieu of providing cryptocurrency to them.
Abdul Gafoor, one of the main stockist of the ‘Morris Coin cryptocurrency’, was taken into custody on March 24. He was produced before a court the next day and sent to Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody till March 31.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
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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