$830M fraud arrests, Nobody’s 3,000% premium, Binance snitches get riches: Asia Express


Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments.

Stephen Chow NFTs impress

Hong Kong director Stephen Chow, best known for the iconic filmKung Fu Hustle, has launched a novel NFT collection dubbed “Nobody.” It’s seen more than 10,609 Ether in total volume traded since its inception earlier this month.

On February 8, Ray Chan, the Hong Kongese co-founder of entertainment platform 9GAG, purchased a Nobody NFT avatar for 19.527 Ether, representing a premium of 3,155% to their current floor price of 0.6 Ether.

Nobody's popularity on OpenSea reached a peak on February 7.
Nobody’s popularity on OpenSea reached a peak on February 7.

“One actor a year, Stephen Chow for a century; There are millions of little people, but the supreme treasure is unparalleled; Pictures are valuable, [but] memories are priceless,” Chan wrote in praise of the collection.

Amid its popularity, Chow himself changed his X and Instagram profile pictures to Nobody NFTs. “Does anyone have any great ideas forNobody’@realnobodyxyz’s community events? Leave your comments,” the director wrote in a post.

Nobody NFTs have a maximum supply of 10,000, a quarter of which were given away in a promo with crypto exchange OKX that attracted more than 125,000 applicants. They were created last December in collaboration with Chinese-American rapper Jin Au-Yeung, also known as MC Jin, and launched on the Moonbox platform created by the namesake Hong Kong startup.

UBS and OSL tokenize call warrant on Xiaomi stock in Hong Kong

Swiss multinational bank UBS’s Hong Kong subsidiary has tokenized a call warrant option on shares of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi using Ethereum. In the February 7 announcement, UBS disclosed that the tokenized financial derivative was sold to Hong Kong cryptocurrency exchange OSL.

Winni Chuek, head of sales at UBS Global Markets, said that the product “enhances transparency, reduces transaction fees, streamlines settlement processes, and allows for more flexible trading hours.”

Patrick Pan, the CEO of OSL, explained the firm is attempting to simulate the “whole product life cycle of an equity-linked structured product token, from token mint, through simulated secondary market transactions, and finally to token burn at maturity.”

UBS previously facilitated the issuance of 200 million Chinese yuan ($28 million) worth of digital structured notes minted on Ethereum. OSL is currently exploring options to tokenize retail fund products in the region.

A Xiaomi 13T Pro smartphone.
A Xiaomi 13T Pro smartphone.

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Haru Invest executive busted in alleged $830M crypto lending scam

Three key executives affiliated with South Korean crypto lender Haru Invest, including CEO Hyung-soo Lee, have been arrested on charges of fraud by Korean prosecutors for allegedly failing to return over 1.1 trillion won ($830 million) worth of digital assets belonging to more than 16,000 customers.

Local news agencies reported on February 6 that the coins were invested on behalf of customers by Haru from March 2020 to June 2023 while falsely advertising that the investments were “risk-free due to diversified investment techniques,” with promised returns of up to 12% per annum. 

On June 13, 2023, Haru Invest suspended withdrawals and deposits, citing “fraudulent information” provided by a consignment operator. The decision soon prompted fellow South Korean crypto lender Delio, which held $1.2 billion in Bitcoin and Ether at the time, to suspend its deposits and withdrawals as well due to counterparty exposure to Haru. Criminal and civil proceedings are ongoing against both firms in South Korea. 

Han Chang-joon, CFO of Terraform Labs which was behind the failed Terra Luna protocol worth $40 billion at its peak, was extradited from Montenegro to South Korea on February 5.

On arrival South Korean prosecutors charged Han with fraud for allegedly profiting 53.6 billion won ($40 million) from fraudulent marketing of the Terra stablecoin and leaking upwards of 100 million records of customer transactions from payment processor Chai Pay to the Terra Luna project.

Han could potentially face a life sentence in South Korea if convicted. Meanwhile, co-founder and former CEO Do Kwon is currently awaiting extradition in Montenegro. Both men were arrested on March 23, 2023, in Podgorica airport for using forged Costa Rican passports to flee to Dubai. They were sentenced to four months in prison on June 19, 2023, over the fake document charges.

Zipmex in trouble once again 

Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed charges against Akalarp Yimwilai, former CEO and director of troubled Thai crypto exchange Zipmex, for allegedly making false and deceptive statements during his tenure. The Thai SEC said on February 8 that Zipmex had allegedly transferred customers’ digital assets abroad and submitted falsified reports on customers’ account status to the regulator before the exchange halted withdrawals on May 8, 2022.

“The SEC therefore filed a complaint against Mr. Akalap with the Office of the Provincial Crime Suppression Division to consider taking further legal action.”

In Summer 2022, Zipmex filed for bankruptcy protection in Singapore after disclosing a $53 million exposure to failed crypto lenders Babel Finance and Celsius. On November 29, 2023, media reports revealed that Zipmex creditors would receive as little as 3 cents on the dollar for initial claims, with further payouts in a recovery scenario. 

Snitches get riches: Binance

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has implemented a whistleblower program for tips relating to alleged misconduct of its employees. In a February 5 tweet, Yi He, co-founder of Binance and spouse of former CEO Changpeng Zhao, said that the exchange would award bounties of $10,000 to $5,000,000 for successful tip-offs of employee corruption within the exchange concerning listing of new tokens.

“It is much easier [money to make] and more profitable than the rat warehouse [Chinese slang for insider trading]. Report email: audit@binance.com,” the Binance co-founder wrote.

The same day, the price of Ronin tokens, ecosystem token of the gaming blockchain created by Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis, saw significant volatility before and after its listing on Binance. It saw a 28% gain in the week prior to listing then dumped more than 40% after. Prior to the listing, a combination of token accumulation visible on blockchain explorers and leaked external communications from Binance led to the accumulation of RON by those in the know, who then swiftly sold after the actual token was listed, driving down its price. Binance has since stated it would cancel any new token listing if insider information is leaked beforehand.

Ronin token price movement before and after the Binance listing (CoinMarketCap)
Ronin token price movement before and after the Binance listing (CoinMarketCap)

Zhiyuan Sun

Zhiyuan Sun is a journalist at Cointelegraph focusing on technology-related news. He has several years of experience writing for major financial media outlets such as The Motley Fool, Nasdaq.com and Seeking Alpha.

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