According to data obtained by The Wall Street Journal in connection with investigations being carried out by authorities in the United States, as of the year 2018, only four people owned 86% of the stablecoin issuer Tether Holdings Limited. These investigations are being carried out by authorities in the United States.
The previously unknown ownership structure of Tether Holdings was disclosed in 2021 as a consequence of investigations that were carried out by the office of the New York Attorney General in conjunction with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. According to CoinMarketCap, the company is the issuer of Tether (USDT), which is the largest stablecoin in circulation with 68 billion dollars’ worth of it now in circulation. This information was obtained from the website.
According to the documents, Giancarlo Devasini, a former cosmetic surgeon, and Brock Pierce, a former child actor who is now a cryptocurrency entrepreneur, worked together to create Tether. Brock Pierce is now a businessman in the cryptocurrency industry. In September of 2014, the British Virgin Islands served as the location for the formal launch of Tether Holdings as a limited liability corporation.
After another four years, Pierce had already left the company, and at that time, Devasini had around 43% of the company’s shares of Tether. Additionally, Devasini was essential in the founding of the cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex, where he now works as the chief financial officer. Devasini’s contributions to the construction of this platform may be seen here. According to the available evidence, both Jean-Louis van Der Velde, the Chief Executive Officer of Bitfinex, and Stuart Hoegner, the Chief Counsel of Bitfinex, held around 15% of Tether in 2018.
The dual citizen identified as Christopher Harborne in the United Kingdom and Chakrit Sakunkrit in Thailand owns 13% of Tether as of the end of 2018, making him the fourth-largest investor in the firm. Christopher Harborne is known as Chakrit Sakunkrit in Thailand.
According to the findings of the inquiry, four individuals held close to 86 percent of Tether, either via their own personal assets or through another company that was connected to them.
El Salvador has recently passed historic legislation that will provide the legal basis for a Bitcoin-backed bond to be issued in the country. This bond, also known as the “Volcano Bond,” will be put toward the reduction of the country’s overall debt as well as the funding of the construction of the “Bitcoin City” that is envisioned for El Salvador.
On January 11, 62 individuals cast their ballots in support of the measure, while 16 individuals cast their ballots against it. When President Bukele gives the bill his stamp of approval, it will be well on its way to being enacted as a statute.
As stated by the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, which is the technology provider for the bonds, the Volcano Bond, which is also known as Volcano Tokens, would make it possible for El Salvador to raise capital to pay down its sovereign debt, fund construction of the Bitcoin City, and create Bitcoin mining infrastructure. All of these goals could be accomplished with the proceeds from the sale of the bonds.
The bonds were given the volcanic description because of the location of the country’s Bitcoin City, which is planned to become a self-sustaining crypto-mining center that will be fueled by hydrothermal energy obtained from the nearby Conchagua volcano. As a direct result of this, the bonds were presented in the form of an active volcano.
According to Bitfinex, the city would function as a special economic zone, analogous to those that can be found in China. Such a zone would offer residents of the city tax breaks, rules that are friendly to cryptocurrencies, and other incentives to encourage them to engage in Bitcoin-related business.
It is anticipated that the issuance of these bonds will bring in one billion dollars for the country, of which half a billion dollars will be allocated to the building of the special economic zone. The first hypothesis suggested that the maturity date of the tokenized bonds would be in ten years, that they would be denominated in U.S. dollars, and that they would bear an annual interest rate of 6.5%.
In addition, the measure creates a legal framework for all digital assets that are not Bitcoin, in addition to those that are issued on Bitcoin, and it also establishes a new regulatory body that will be responsible for administering securities legislation and providing protection from malicious actors.
As the ongoing bear market in cryptocurrencies continues, investors continue to find attractive projects to invest in, demonstrating that this market is, in reality, a builders’ market. Despite the present market conditions, investors continue to find promising projects to invest in.
In order to develop its ground-breaking protocol, the ecosystem known as Onomy, which is driven by the Cosmos blockchain, has recently successfully crowdfunded millions of dollars from various investors.
The purpose of the project is to integrate decentralized finance (DeFi) with blockchain technology in order to bring the foreign exchange market onto the distributed ledger.
According to the people who initiated the project, the most recent investment round was a success, and it was able to successfully raise $10 million from significant players in the industry. Some of these significant players include Bitfinex, Ava Labs, the Maker Foundation, and CMS Holdings, amongst others.
According to Lalo Bazzi, one of the co-founders of Onomy, the primary goal of constructing a decentralized autonomous organization with a public infrastructure should be to support the “core tenant of crypto,” which is self-custody, without sacrificing the user experience. This can be accomplished without compromising the security of the network.
Both decentralized financial institutions (DFIs) and self-custody have emerged as prominent topics of conversation among the cryptocurrency community as a direct result of the FTX liquidity-bankruptcy episode.
Despite the fact that another difficult year is anticipated according to estimates made for the industry’s not too distant future, the sector will continue to draw the attention of investors.
The results of a survey that was conducted between September 21 and October 27 of this year and was sponsored by Coinbase indicate that institutional investors are still interested in the industry.
It was discovered that 62% of the institutional investors who were questioned and who had cryptocurrency holdings increased such holdings over the course of the preceding year.
On November 9, just a few days after the FTX event came to light, Cathie Wood of ARK Investment raised the company’s existing shares in Coinbase by an additional $12.1 million. This was done by ARK Investment.
In addition, financial institutions continue to show interest in the sector, as evidenced by JP Morgan’s use of DeFi for international transactions and BNY Mellon’s creation of its very own Digital Asset Custody Platform, both of which are examples of how JP Morgan and BNY Mellon are participating in the industry.
Despite this, there is a body of evidence that projects the blockchain industry will continue to confront adverse settings, which have the potential to endure into the next year. These environments include:
A longstanding crypto price manipulation case between Tether and Bitfinex and some of its users may be turning against the stablecoin firm as the presiding judge has ordered the firm to provide evidence of the USDT backing of its reserves at the time.
With the case dating back to 2019, Bitfinex, and iFinex, Tether’s parent company, both denied the fact that they were falsely inflating the USDT reserves at the time to manipulate prices.
In their defense, they told the judge for the case is baseless and that it should be thrown out, considering the fact that they had already provided sufficient documentation to both the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in their previous enforcement actions against it.
With their defence and earlier permission to withhold the documents, Katherine Polk Failla, the judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York believes providing the required documentation is important to bolster the Plaintiff’s argument and, as such, ordered the defendants to produce it.
While it is unclear whether iFinex and Bitfinex kept the right records to present to the District Court, the company has actually been more transparent with its attestation reports detailing the composition of its reserve.
This new approach to transparency came with the settlement reached with the Office of the New York Attorney General (NYAG) back in February of last year. The company paid the sum of $18.5 million to the regulator and was made to pledge to publish regular updates of its reserve backing, as well as, blocking New York residents from using its products.
While Tether was notably not anticipating a judgment like this, the company recently tapped the services of BDO Italia as the primary attestator for its USDT reserves. With BDO ranked as the fifth largest accounting firm in the world, many consider the move as one of Tether’s most ambitious to gain the trust of regulators around the world.
Blockchain startups Bitfinex and Tether have launched a Peer-2-Peer (P2P) video calling application dubbed Keet, a product that was spawned over the past five years in collaboration with P2P infrastructure developer Hypercore.
The launch of Keet by the trio was through the startup they co-founded dubbed Holepunch.
The Keet app, which is currently closed sourced and in Alpha, is a direct competitor to Google, Zoom and other major social media and networking platforms. While working in a decentralised environment, enabling users to schedule audio and video calls, send text chat and share files for free.
The shared files are encrypted, and the entire application is powered by a new technology dubbed Distributed Holepunching (DHT). This new DHT tech permits users to locate and connect to each other “using only cryptographic key pairs upon authorisation.
With the Web3.0 ecosystem expanding by the day, projects and teams now find the need to connect with one another, and the majority of this is done via big tech giants that monetise users’ data. With Keet, Hypercore is convinced that the narratives will be changed, and communications can now be done without any hindrance.
“So what we have been working towards is to create a platform that would allow users to access applications that are unstoppable and provide freedom of speech,” said Paolo Ardoino, CTO of Bitfinex and Tether and the Chief Strategy Officer of Holepunch.
“In many places around the world, freedom of speech is extremely more limited than what we are used to say in the US or the UK. And freedom of speech is not just going to sit there and say whatever you want, but it’s like sharing and talking with the people you want all the time without having concerns that big tech is listening to you or using your data, is collecting your data, and potentially either monetising your data or using that against you.”
With about $10 million committed to building Keet and Holepunch thus far, Bitfinex and Tether’s efforts mimic those of Bluesky and the Lens Protocol from Aave founder Stani Kulechov.
American rapper and entrepreneur Heather Morgan, indicted for contriving with her husband Ilya Lichtenstein to launder money, has been permitted by a judge to seek proper employment.
Her case will still be on trial, but she is authorized to get a job that can earn her more than $10,000 in a month.
The digital currencies stolen from the Bitfinex 2016 heist are presently worth $4.5 billion in Bitcoin (BTC). So far, the United States authorities have successfully recovered over $3.6 billion in crypto connected to the hack.
Recalling, the United States Department of Justice attested that the Bitfinex heist was the biggest crypto robbery it had ever unravelled. The couple Heather Morgan and Ilya Lichtenstein were picked in Manhattan due to their suspected connections to the hack.
How Did the Couple Achieve the Heist?
The man and his wife conspired to launder about 119,754 Bitcoin that were redirected from Bitfinex through a breach of the exchange’s security system. With the loopholes created in the system, the hackers were able to perform 2000 unauthorized transactions. Upon investigation, the transactions were traced down to wallets linked to Lichtenstein.
Several transfers worth about 25,000 BTC were noticed to have been authorized from Lichtenstein’s wallet. The transferred funds ended up in a financial account that belonged to both Lichtenstein and Morgan. The remaining crypto worth about 94,000 BTC is yet to leave the initial account to which it was sent during the heist.
Further investigations led to the discovery of online files linking the ownership of the account to Lichtenstein. Private keys needed to access the wallets where the funds were deposited were discovered in those online files. Strapped with this information, the authorities were able to retrieve the 94,000 BTC left.
However, the analysis showed the complex money laundering techniques that the couple used. Lichtenstein and Morgan utilized computer programs to automate the transactions and created false identities to set online accounts. They also involved anonymity-enhanced virtual currency (AEC) in converting the BTC to other cryptocurrencies.
While the Bitfinex hack mimics those of MtGox, other less draining hacks have been recorded by other exchanges like KuCoin and Crypto.com.
Barely two days after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seized about $3.6 billion worth of BTC related to the 2016 Bitfinex hack, dozens of individuals have started laying claims on the bitcoin fortune.
According to a Bloomberg report, the DOJ has seen a massive surge in the number of people who wish to regain their funds after it revealed plans to set up court proceedings for victims of the hack.
Speaking to Bloomberg, David Silver, a lawyer who specializes in financial and crypto-related fraud, noted that since the DOJ recovered the $3.6 billion worth of BTC on Tuesday, he has been approached by dozens of people claiming to have been affected in the hack.
“The world has changed dramatically since 2016, and everyone is going to lay claim to this newfound bag of Bitcoins,” Silver noted.
Bitfinex Wants it
Bitfinex has also joined the long list of those vying for rights to the recovered bitcoins. The exchange noted that it had fully settled all affected users after the hack.
Following the attack, which led to the theft of over 119,000 BTC from Bitfinex, the exchange generalized the losses to more than 30% of all users’ accounts and moved to compensate the victims.
It created and issued BFX coins to customers, one BFX token for every $1 lost, and they could either exchange the tokens for the U.S. dollar or the company’s stock.
Bitfinex also created a Recovery Right Token (RRT), which will allow customers who had converted the BFX coin to the company’s shares to lay claims on the stolen bitcoins if they were ever recovered.
According to Bitfinex, there are currently about 30 million RRT tokens outstanding. With a ratio of one RRT to $1, the exchange has to reimburse $30 million to holders of the RRT token.
In a statement on Tuesday, the crypto exchange explained it would ensure that it solidified its rights to the recovered funds.
“Bitfinex will work with the DOJ and follow appropriate legal processes to establish our rights to a return of the stolen bitcoin,” the company said.
Affected Users Disagree
Several customers have expressed their opposition to Bitfinex getting rights to the recovered bitcoins, considering how much the asset has appreciated over the past five years.
The stolen bitcoins, which were worth an estimated $71 million at the time of the hack, are now more than $4.5 billion.
Speaking on this, Alan Aronoff, a victim of the hack who claims to hold about $50,000 worth of Bitfinex stock, said,
“I think that’s ridiculous. That’s my Bitcoin that they took from my multisig wallet. I would like my Bitcoin back… They can have their equity back. I’ll take my Bitcoin, thank you very much.”
Who Gets the Bitcoin Fortune?
With many people seeking to get the funds, former assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer noted that the legal processes involved in the case could likely take a couple of years.
“That process could take the heck of a long time. It certainly could be multiple years before anybody sees any cash,” he said.
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A top-30 crypto asset by market cap is skyrocketing after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it had seized nearly 80% of Bitcoin (BTC) stolen years ago from the Bitfinex crypto exchange.
UNUS SED LEO (LEO), the utility token of the Bitfinex crypto exchange, is up 43% over the last 24 hours.
At time of writing, LEO is trading at $7.12. The utility token of the Bitfinex crypto exchange currently boasts a market cap of $6.7 billion, ranking it as the 26th–largest crypto asset by valuation.
In a statement announcing the seizure by the US authorities, Bitfinex says that if it receives the seized Bitcoin, it will use 80% of the funds to repurchase LEO tokens before sending them to an inaccessible wallet address.
“If Bitfinex receives a recovery of the stolen Bitcoin, as described in the UNUS SED LEO token white paper, Bitfinex will, within 18 months of the date it receives that recovery use an amount equal to 80% of the recovered net funds to repurchase and burn outstanding UNUS SED LEO tokens.”
According to the U.S. Justice Department, federal authorities seized more than 94,000 Bitcoin directly linked to the August 2016 hacking of Bitfinex. Alongside the seizure, two individuals were arrested in Manhattan, NY, and charged with a conspiracy to launder the billions of dollars worth of Bitcoin.
The seized Bitcoin is currently worth over $3.6 billion. Approximately 119,754 Bitcoin were stolen from Bitfinex in the 2016 security breach. Bitcoin was trading at around $600 in August of 2016, giving the stolen Bitcoin a value of just under $72 million at the time of the theft.
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The U.S. Department of Justice has charged Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan for conspiracy to launder funds tied to the 2016 Bitfinex hack.
The couple’s quirky online persona’s have led some to suggest that they are not behind the hack, despite the DoJ accusing them of laundering the stolen funds.
While evidence suggests that Lichtenstein and Morgan had the expertise required to pull off the Bitfinex hack, it doesn’t mean they were the ones responsible.
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U.S. authorities have confiscated $3.6 billion from Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan in the largest asset seizure in history. However, the eccentric personalities of the suspects have left many wondering if the pair really are the ones responsible for hacking Bitfinex back in 2016.
Who Are the Alleged Bitfinex Hackers?
When the U.S. Department of Justice arrested two suspects and confiscated $3.6 billion worth of cryptocurrencies Tuesday morning, the world was eager to learn the identities of the alleged thieves. Onlookers probably imagined the quintessential shady hackers: pasty, reclusive, and antisocial. So it came as a big surprise when authorities revealed they had taken Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan into custody, a successful power couple living in New York with a penchant for zany behavior and a side hustle making amateur rap videos.
Media pundits quickly revealed the pair’s highly-cultivated and colorful online presence, rooting through YouTube videos, TikTok’s, and even Morgan’s op-eds as a former Forbes Columnist. Morgan, 31, is described in her Forbes bio as “an expert in persuasion, social engineering, and game theory.” In her rap videos, where she performs under the alias Razzlekhan, she calls herself “the crocodile of Wall street.” Other hijinks she’s shared on social media include eating and drinking with her feet, explaining how she built a multimillion-dollar business with “zero outside funding,” and lots and lots of dancing and rapping.
Outside of managing her online persona, Morgan has run talks titled “How to Social Engineer Your Way Into ANYTHING” to packed audiences in New York Salons. In the talks, she explains how social engineering is about exploiting people’s cognitive biases and “triggering people to do what they’re already programmed to do.” She appears to have a strong aptitude for her brand of social engineering, and gives several examples of how she’s used it in her day-to-day life.
Lichtenstein, 34, presents a more grounded image online. In his Twitter bio, he describes himself as a “human angel investor, web3 developer, and serial entrepreneur.” He also has a strong technical background, cofounding MixRank, a Y-Combinator-backed start-up that helps companies analyze marketing data around customers and competitors. However, he also stars in many of Morgan’s online antics, dancing around dressed in a Viking helmet and sharing his opinions on Keto diet lemon cookies.
The pair are far from what many people expected in a pair of multi-billion-dollar hackers. Some have suggested that Lichtenstein and Morgan are merely accomplices or “fall guys” for the real hacker who is yet to be caught. Others believe that the pair are indeed responsible, citing Morgan’s social engineering prowess and the pair’s technical backgrounds as evidence that they are capable of the heist. As no official post-mortem on the 2016 Bitfinex hack was ever released, it’s unclear how the exchange’s wallets were compromised.
Crypto Briefing looked into the available facts and evidence surrounding the pair and the criminal charges levied against them. Join us as we assess how likely it is that Lichtenstein and Morgan are the criminal masterminds behind the Bitfinex hack.
Were Lichtenstein and Morgan Behind the Hack?
Despite Lichtenstein and Morgan’s eccentric persona’s and relative internet celebrity, the couple appear to have the expertise needed hack Bitfinex. Lichtenstein’s technical background in coding and data analysis likely provided him with many of the skills necessary to crack into the crypto exchange, more so back in 2016 when security standards were less rigorous.
Additionally, Morgan is a self-proclaimed cybercrime expert, with her Linkedin profile claiming she is “currently focused on building software that combats the rampant increase in fraud and cybercrime.” With high-level knowledge on how to counter cybercrime, it’s not inconceivable that Morgan would possess knowledge of how to bypass Bitfinex’s defenses.
More shockingly, Morgan appears to have connections with BitGo, the wallet solution provider for Bitfinex at the time of the 2016 hack. In a 2020 Forbes article, Morgan discussed ways to protect businesses and clients from cyber criminals with BitGo’s Chief Compliance Officer, Matt Parrella. While Parrella only held his position as BitGo between July 2019 and November 2020, the fact that Morgan was in contact with BitGo employees and seen as an authority on cyber security after the Bitfinex hack took place raises several red flags.
As mentioned previously, Morgan’s love for social engineering could also factor into her involvement in the Bitfinex hack. Suppose Morgan had access to, or was in contact with Bitfinex or BitGo employees prior to the hack. In that case, she could have used her social engineering techniques to gain access to private or sensitive information that aided the heist, if she and Lichtenstein were indeed involved.
However, while evidence suggests that the couple had the competence to pull off the Bitfinex hack, it doesn’t mean they were the ones responsible. Court documents released Tuesday provide more insight into the pair’s money laundering activities, and reveal some embarrassing mistakes that are uncharacteristic of supposed multi-billion dollar hackers.
The most obvious evidence against Lichtenstein and Morgan’s involvement in the initial theft of funds from Bitfinex is that the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet charged them with such a crime. The two charges currently brought against the pair are conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. If authorities had evidence to suggest Lichtenstein and Morgan were behind the Bitfinex hack, there would likely be an additional charge of Grand Larceny in the first degree.
Furthermore, the same documents revealed that Lichtenstein had kept the private keys to the wallets containing the stolen cryptocurrency unencrypted on a cloud storage service. It seems strange that a self-professed cybersecurity expert and data analyst would have such poor operation security for wallets containing large amounts of stolen cryptocurrency.
Authorities connected email addresses used by Lichtenstein and Morgan on an Indian crypto exchange to a Bitcoin address tied to the stolen funds. Law enforcement then got a warrant to access Lichtenstein’s cloud data account, quickly revealing him to be in possession of addresses containing the stolen funds. If Lichtenstein hadn’t made the mistake of signing up for his cloud storage account using the same identity as he used for the Indian exchange, it is likely he and Morgan would have evaded detection.
A final point against Lichtenstein and Morgan’s involvement in the hack is how the pair were cashing out their ill-gotten gains. The couple had used Walmart gift cards, Uber, Hotels.com, and the PlayStation store to cash out small amounts of their fortune, in addition to withdrawing funds from Bitcoin ATMs around New York to purchase gold bullion. Overall, the vast majority of Lichtenstein and Morgan’s wealth was inaccessible to them. It again makes little sense that the pair would go to great lengths to steal so much cryptocurrency without having a viable plan to cash it all out.
Further developments in the case will likely shed more light on the situation and reveal if Lichtenstein and Morgan’s arrests were part of a wider, more sophisticated operation. The one thing that seems clear is to expect the unexpected—just because the situation is already absurd doesn’t mean the truth can’t turn out to be even wilder.
Disclosure: At the time of writing this feature, the author owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies.
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Unus Sed Leo (LEO) surged by almost 70% on Feb. 9 to reach its record highs as traders assessed the potential of an incoming supply crunch in its market.
The token was issued in 2016 to refinance crypto exchange Bitfinex after it lost about $70 million worth of Bitcoin (BTC) in a hacking incident. In its original whitepaper explaining LEO, Bitfinex had promised that if they could recover the lost funds, they would use 80% of the proceeds to buy back and burn LEO.
Around 80% of stolen Bitcoin recovered
On Feb. 8, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it last week had seized over $3.6 billion worth of Bitcoin stolen — around 94,000 BTC — from Bitfinex in 2016, valued as per the current bitcoin-to-dollar exchange rates. Overall, Bitfinex had lost 119,754 BTC to the hack, meaning the cryptocurrency tied to the incident was worth around $4.5 billion at the time of DOJ’s seizure.
Bitfinex confirmed its promise to use the recovered funds to buy back and burn LEO tokens in a statement issued Tuesday, noting that the process would complete within 18 months of the date it receives the amount.
DOJ officials told the press that they plan to set up a court process for victims to reclaim their stolen Bitcoin funds.
Nonetheless, they did not disclose how long the process would take to finish. If past is any indication, crypto refunds tied to exchange-related hacks take time. For instance, victims of Mt. Gox’s $460-million hack — from 2013 — are still waiting for their refunds.
But LEO bulls ignored such red flags and went ahead with raising their bids for the token this Tuesday, anticipating that the upcoming supply crunch would make the token more valuable in the long run. As it happened, LEO’s price rose to its all-time high of $8.144, only to follow the upside move with a correction that saw the token going to as low as $7.04 early on Wednesday.
Mixed outlook for LEO
Adam Cochran, Partner at activist venture capital firm Cinneamhain Ventures, identified problems with the ongoing LEO price rally, noting that not all the recovered funds would go through Bitfinex unless those holdings belong to the exchange themselves.
“There could, of course, be some weird deal structure in place, with the custom tokens Bitfinex issued, where they essentially claim they bought the loss off of other customers and so the Bitcoin is theirs and they can claim it all, and then later distribute,” the executive tweeted Tuesday, adding that he “personally” won’t be purchasing LEO while expecting a quick buyback from Bitfinex.
But if you are buying LEO for recovery plans, I’d dial down the % chance it happens that way, and maybe wait for impatient buyers who expect an instant recover to sell into stronger hands over coming months.
— Adam Cochran (adamscochran.eth) (@adamscochran) February 8, 2022
Related: Bitfinex hack recovery spurs crypto community responses
Conversely, Alexander Mamasidikov, co-founder of crypto wallet service, MinePlex, called the recovery of Bitfinex funds a “right fundamental” that could back LEO’s growth in the future.
“Native to Bitfinex, LEO has the chance of tagging along with the future ecosystem growth of the trading platform, a move that is billed to guarantee the coin’s continuous uptrend,” said, adding:
“LEO is arguably underpriced when compared to the native tokens of its major competitors. In the mid-term, LEO is poised to touch the $10 resistance point while a quarterly close of $12 is likely should this current growth pace be sustained.”
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.