Tuesday, the Justice Department filed charges against John Barksdale, an executive behind Ormeus Coin after allegedly misrepresenting the value of the coin’s mining assets.
It is alleged that investors were erroneously told that the coin was backed by a mining operation which delivered $5 million in monthly revenue. The Barksdales raised over $120 million from more than 20,000 investors over the past five years. Charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy, he faces up to 65 years in prison.
“The country has been doing much better, over the past few years, with tracking down bad actors and charging them. Now, it is time to move forward with preventative actions. Hopefully, the new executive order will inspire agencies and the industry to come together and create a commonsense set of regulatory guidelines that protect investors while allowing innovation to continue to thrive,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.
Barksdale, with his sister as an accomplice, “acted as modern-day snake-oil salesmen” said Melissa Hodgman, Associate Director of the SEC Enforcement Division.
“Bad actors deserve to face punishment which is appropriate for the crime. Notably, the Barksdales are facing significantly more punishment than the BitMEX co-founders, who were each only hit with a $10 million fine. The fraud associated with this case is terrible, and the charges are worthwhile. However, to think that the BitMEX co-founders, who purposely and knowingly avoided KYC and AML regulations, which, in effect, turned their exchange into a money laundering operation, only had to pay a fine… well, that’s curious,” said Gardner.
Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Modulus has provided its exchange solution to some of the industry’s most profitable digital asset exchanges, including a well-known multi-billion-dollar cryptocurrency exchange. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable institutions, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.
“Money laundering is extremely serious because it could provide funding to terrorists, drug cartels, and other nefarious enterprises. Politicians talk about the great threat of money laundering. However, our actions must match our words. In such a situation, a small fine is simply not good enough. Society deserves better,” said Gardner.
Binance Disables Naira Feature to Halt Possible Capital Outflow
Binance, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange platform, on Wednesday disabled the Naira pair on its Peer-to-Peer (P2P) platform shortly after Financial Times (FT) reported the arrest of two of the company’s executives.
The two executives reportedly flew into the country following the Federal Government’s decision to ban cryptocurrency exchanges to rein in speculation and curb currency manipulations.
However, the two were arrested by the authorities at the airport and their passports were confiscated pending investigation into Binance activities in Nigeria.
Binance which had sustained operations on its mobile application despite the ban imposed by the government on the organisation a week earlier and even released a statement to that effect suddenly disabled its Naira pair on Wednesday after FT broke the news of the arrest.
It should be recalled that Binance introduced the P2P service to beat the impact of sanctions on its operations after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) restricted all financial institutions from facilitating cryptocurrency transactions in 2021.
This means that Binance disabled its Naira pair to curb capital outflow in the aftermath of the report and it is not in compliance with the Federal Government’s position as people are insinuating.
During the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) press conference, Olayemi Cardoso, the Governor, CBN had heaped most of the woes of Nigeria’s currency on operations of Binance and other similar platforms.
According to him, a total of $26 billion was moved through Binance Nigeria in the last one year from both unknown sources and users.
He “We are concerned that certain practices go on that indicate illicit flows going through a number of these entities [crypto platforms] and suspicious flows at best. In the case of Binance, in the last one year alone, $26bn has passed through Binance Nigeria from sources and users who we cannot adequately identify”.
Therefore, the news of the arrest would have triggered an exodus outflow of capital to other cryptocurrency exchange platforms like Kucoin and dragged on Binance’s activity level at a time when activity was just picking up ahead of Bitcoin Halving and the subsequent bullish run.
Nigeria is by far the largest cryptocurrency market in Sub-Saharan Africa and between July 2022 and June 2023 received $60 billion in crypto value, according to Chainalysis.
“Nigeria is one of only six countries in the top 50 by size globally whose crypto transaction volume grew year-over-year in the time period we studied. Its growth rate of 9.0% places it third among those six.”
Nigeria Detains Binance Executives in Crackdown on Cryptocurrency Speculation
Nigeria has detained two senior executives of Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, over currency exchange manipulation on the company’s platform.
The crackdown comes amidst escalating concerns over the rampant devaluation of the naira, which has propelled inflation to a nearly three-decade high of 29.9%.
The detained executives flew to Nigeria in response to the government’s recent ban on several cryptocurrency trading platforms, only to find themselves detained by the office of the national security adviser, who also confiscated their passports.
While Binance has remained tight-lipped about the incident, Nigerian authorities have intensified their scrutiny of cryptocurrency exchanges as they seek to stem illicit financial flows and establish control over the nation’s monetary policy.
Nigeria’s central bank governor, Olayemi Cardoso has raised concerns over the flow of funds through crypto exchanges, citing $26 billion passing through Binance Nigeria in the past year alone from unidentifiable sources and users.
The government’s aggressive stance has prompted demands for detailed user lists from Binance since its inception, indicating a broader investigation into cryptocurrency activities within the country.
This crackdown marks a significant setback for Binance, which has been attempting to overhaul its internal operations following a $4.3 billion penalty imposed by US authorities for money laundering and sanctions violations.
The detention of its executives underscores the challenges cryptocurrency exchanges face in navigating regulatory landscapes worldwide, particularly in emerging markets like Nigeria where authorities are grappling with economic instability and currency devaluation.
As Nigeria intensifies its efforts to attract foreign investment and revitalize its struggling economy, the clash between regulatory oversight and the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies underscores the complexities and tensions inherent in the global financial system.
Cryptocurrency Market Surpasses $2 Trillion Milestone
The cryptocurrency market has breached the historic $2 trillion milestone following Bitcoin’s rally through the $60,000 price level on Wednesday amid the influx of investments into exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
This milestone underscores the cryptocurrency’s growing mainstream acceptance and investment appeal.
Bitcoin had surged by 5.1% on Tuesday to $57,443 to extend its year-to-date rally to 32% before jumping by another 13% on Wednesday to over $63,000.
This surge in Bitcoin’s value has catalyzed speculative interest in smaller tokens like Ether and Dogecoin as other cryptocurrencies rally.
A noteworthy catalyst behind this surge is the influx of approximately $6.1 billion into Bitcoin ETFs that commenced trading in the United States on January 11.
This surge in demand for Bitcoin, coupled with anticipation surrounding the upcoming reduction in its supply growth through the halving event, has fueled optimistic sentiment among investors and analysts alike.
Despite concerns about potential supply squeezes and volatility, industry experts remain optimistic about Bitcoin’s outlook, pointing to its breakout and positive momentum in the intermediate term.
This monumental achievement reflects the maturation and resilience of the cryptocurrency market, solidifying its position as a formidable asset class in the global financial landscape.
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