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Chinese billionaire’s $1B fraud charges, Kwon’s $11M bet, Zhu Su and Islam: Asia Express

Chinese billionaire using crypto to fight communism charged over $1 billion fraud, Do Kwon’s $11M bet comes due, Zhu Su bonds with Islam.

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

Chinese billionaire arrested in U.S. for $1B financial fraud 

According to an announcement published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Mar. 15, Chinese billonaire Ho Wan Kwok (aka Miles Guo and more commonly as Guo Wengui), has been arrested on a total of twelve charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Among many items, the DOJ alleges that Kwok/Guo “fraudulently obtained” more than $262 million from victims through cryptocurrency platform Himalayan Exchange. 

The Himalaya Exchange included assets such as Himalaya Dollar (HDO), a purported stablecoin, and Himalaya Coin (HCN), a purported trading coin. According to the indictment, Guo told investors that HCN was 20% backed by gold and that he would personally compensate investors for “100%” of trading losses. 

“If anyone loses money, I can say that I will compensate 100%. I give you 100%. Whoever loses money, I will bear it.”

Guo launched both HCN and HDO coins in an initial coin offering (ICO) around Nov. 1, 2021, when HCN was trading at around $0.10 apiece. Two weeks later, the Himalaya Exchange website stated that each HCN was worth 27 HDO, or $27, and had a total market cap of $27 billion.

Between Sept. 2022 to Mar. 2023, U.S. Authorities subsequently seized $634 million in Guos alleged fraud proceeds, including $278 million from bank accounts held by Himalaya Exchange and related entities. At the time of publication, social accounts and Himalaya Exchange’s website appears to be still online and active.

Guo Wengui promoting the purported benefits of the Himalaya Coin in 2021 (Youtube)
Ho Wan Kwok/Guo Wengui promoting the purported benefits of the Himalaya Coin in 2021 (Youtube)

In another incident, Guo allegedly sold $452 million in common stock in an initial public offering (IPO) to over 5,500 investors for shares of GTV Media Group. The DOJ allege that in both incidents, the entreprenuer misappropriated a substantial portion of investors funds and will seek forfeiture for the seized assets. Back in 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission took enforcement action against three of his companies with unregistered ICOs and IPOs. At the time, the firms agreed to pay $486.6 million in fines, prejudgment interest of $17.6 million, and a civil penalty of $35 million combined.

The billionaire is reportedly a close-friend of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Rising to prominence through real-estate and construction in China, he fled the country in 2014 after receiving information of his imminent arrest on charges of bribery, kidnapping, money laundering, fraud and rape. He has since lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S., sought asylum, and is a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, several documents used by Guo to critique the CCP have been alleged to be forged. An Interpol red notice for his arrest has been reportedly active since 2017.

To defeat communism buy my coin

For the Chinese billionaire, “taking down the CCP” is a goal that neatly lines up with the promotion of crypto. In 2020, Guo founded the political movement “New Federal State of China” (NFSC) with the stated aim of overthrowing the CCP alongside the non-profit organization Himalaya Supervisory, which is related to the aforementioned cryptocurrency exchange.

Aside from educating viewers on the evils of communism, Guo also used official NFSC and Himalaya Supervisory branding to shill his followers about the purported benefits of his HDO and HCN coins:

“Himalaya Coin will crush Bitcoin in the snap of a finger if a certain country grants Himalaya Reserve or Himalaya Coin a visual banking license and a virtual banking exchange.”

In another “lecture” dated shortly before his arrest, Guo explained to viewers that the “U.S. and Communist China are fighting over the power to establish blockchain standards that will govern all digital currencies,” but the major takeaway is that the NFSC will be the one to emerge victorious in the struggle:

“In the end, people will have to use digital U.S. dollars, and then, the U.S. will be in charge of setting up the future blockchain standards. However, the U.S. has encountered a rival called the CCP. So when these two tigers are fighting, we [the NFSC] will end up being the winner.”

Guo claims to have invested $100 million into the NFSC movement. However, the source of funds is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Chinese billionaire was arrested on Mar. 15 in New York and shortly afterward, his luxury apartment in Manhattan caught fire. It is not clear if the two incidents are related.

Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui explaining to followers how the NFSC will be the ultimate winner in a global battle between the U.S. and CCP for blockchain supremacy. (Youtube)
Guo explaining to followers, shortly before his arrest, how the NFSC will be the ultimate winner in a global battle between the U.S. and CCP for blockchain supremacy. (Youtube)

Do Kwon officially loses once highly publicized LUNC bet

In March 2022, South Korean Terraform Labs CEO and co-founder Do Kwon accepted two bets from cryptocurrency traders GiganticRebirth (GCR) and Algod, totaling $11 million, wagering that the price of Terra Luna (LUNC) would not be lower than $92.4 and $88 per token, respectively, by March 13, 2023. The bets resulted in a $22 million prize money pool, held in escrow by blockchain personality Cobie.

After LUNC’s price plummeted to near-zero in May 2022 as part of the $40 billion Terra Luna ecosystem collapse, Cobie paid out the bets, purchasing LUNC as a hedge in case its price recovered. However, Cobie’s hedge was reportedly lost when cryptocurrency exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy in Nov. 2022, freezing over one million creditors’ assets and nine million users’ deposits. The current status of the funds remains unclear.

Do Kwon listening intensely as convicted felon Martin Shkreli outlines why
Do Kwon listening intensely in a Twitch stream post-Terra collapse as convicted felon Martin Shkreli explains why “jail’s not that bad.” (UpOnly)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has since charged Terraform Labs and Kwon with “defrauding investors in crypto schemes,” while the FBI and Department of Justice began investigating the company’s collapse in March 2023.

If losing his nearly entire net worth in the LUNC implosion and being out an additional $11 million from the bet wasn’t enough, Kwon is also reportedly on the run from authorities in Serbia, a country with no extradition agreement with South Korea. Interpol issued a red notice arrest warrant for Kwon in September 2022 at the request of South Korean prosecutors, accusing him of fraud related to Terra Luna’s downfall. South Korean prosecutors have also been in Serbia in search of the blockchain executive since Feb. 2023.

Zhu Su’s spiritual journey through bankruptcy and Islam

Compared to the precarious situation faced by Do Kwon, Zhu Su, and Kyle Davies, both co-founders of the now-bankrupt Singaporean hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC), appear to be doing quite well. Despite being on the run from creditors with a total claim of over $10 billion, the two have yet to face any criminal charges over their role in the 3AC bankruptcy that brought down themselves and major counterparties in the centralized finance space such as Voyager Digital and Genesis Global.

Liquidators claim that Davies and Su are located somewhere in Indonesia or United Arab Emirates, where foreign court orders are reportedly tough to enforce. Nowadays, Davies actively shares his views on trending financial stories via Twitter, while occasionally trying to solicit sympathy over the “frustrations” of 3AC’s current bankruptcy process.

Su is also active on Twitter, except his interests have turned from the material world to the much more sophisticated realms of philosophy, religion and, introspection. On Mar. 15, Su quoted Prophet Muhammud (PBUH), the founder of Islam, as follows:

“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, There is no forbearance unless one has blundered, and there is no wisdom unless one has experience.”

Su previously made a similar reference to Islam on Nov. 27, 2022, writing that “Allah does not charge a soul except that which is within its capacity.”

Interestingly enough cryptocurrency and blockchain is currently a matter of intense controversy within Islam circles. Some Islamic scholars have labeled all cryptocurrencies and blockchain-related activity as haram (forbidden), making them prohibited under all circumstances. Others, such as Dubai’s crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, support the technology and he wants to incentivize at least 5,000 blockchain and metaverse companies to relocate to the United Arab Emirates by 2027.

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

Thailand’s $1B crypto sacrifice, Mt Gox final deadline, Tencent NFT app nixed: Asia Express

South Korea is throwing another $51 million at the metaverse, Mt. Gox saga is drawing to a close, Canaan BTC miner sales revenue plunges 60%.

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

South Korea invests another $51M in metaverse tech

South Koreas plans for metaverse domination are gathering pace. A March 8 document prepared by the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the National IT Industry Promotion Agency and the Korea Radio Promotion Association, says the three entities will invest a total of 27.7 billion Korean won ($21 million) in metaverse projects across 13 sectors such as healthcare, tourism and education. One example use case is about telemedicine in the metaverse:

Establish a virtual counseling space and provide mental health recovery and promotion services through expert psychological counseling, healing contents, and community activities.”

The same day, South Koreas Ministry of Science and ICT also announced the creation of a 40 billion Korean won ($30 million) metaverse fund to be operated by local investment management companies. It cited the need to incubate domestic metaverse-related companies to become big enough to compete with global companies through the expansion of business areas and scale.

The South Korean government is betting big on the development of VR (Korean Tourism Organization)
The South Korean government is betting big on the development of VR. Source: Korean Tourism Organization

Mt. Goxs final deadline for claims

Mt. Gox creditors have until April 6 to complete registration to receive repayment, trustees of the bankrupt Japanese cryptocurrency exchange announced on March 9. Mt. Gox was the biggest Bitcoin exchange in the world when it filed for bankruptcy in 2014, after discovering that 850,000 of its customers Bitcoin (BTC) had been stolen via discreet hacks and siphoning over a number of years. The exchange has since recovered around 200,000 BTC. The funds have been held in trust for the creditors, with 162,106 BTC ($3.49 billion) sitting in wallet addresses tracked by Token Unlock.

Over the years, the trustees, attorney Nobuaki Kobayashi and the Japanese Bankruptcy Courts have repeatedly extended the deadline for registration, likely due to the sheer volume of affected users located all around the world and the manual processing needed for every individual involved during such a legal procedure.

Everyone appears well and truly tired of the nine-year-long bankruptcy process and just wants their money back (or to move on to the next case in the judicial backlog). Kobayashi wrote that anyone who misses the deadline is out of luck:

“Please note that, in the interest of making the repayments to rehabilitation creditors as early as possible, unless there are unavoidable reasons, further extension of the Deadline will be difficult.

From one perspective the enforcing hodling could have been a blessing in disguise for some, as Bitcoin was worth around $580 at the time of Mt. Goxs collapse but is now worth more than $20K. Many users will likely see positive returns on investment, even accounting for the fact that the repayment is only a fractional recovery.

Tencent to shutdown NFT app

An in-app message posted on Chinese internet giant Tencents NFT platform Huanhe states that users will have until June 30 to file for a refund before the app goes permanently offline. Dubbed the first digital collectibles App in China,” Huanhe launched in August 2021 and featured both traditional and modern Chinese concept art, video, audio, photos and 3D models. However, Tencent halted all activity on the app on July 1.

Though the company did not explicitly state its reasons, some users have speculated that NFT sales volumes did not meet expectations. The app also didnt offer a secondary market where users could buy and sell collectibles, nor a feature that allowed users to gift their NFTs to others. On Tencents official app store, Huanhe has recorded 134,000 downloads since its inception.

Thai government sacrifices $1 billion to enhance crypto industry

Thailands cabinet has approved a plan to waive corporate income tax and value-added tax for companies that issue digital tokens for investment, according to a March 7 Reuters report. The decision incentivizes companies to raise capital using investment tokens in addition to more traditional methods such as debentures.

A Tencent Huanhe digital collectible. (8btc)
A Tencent Huanhe digital collectible. Source: 8btc

The Thai government estimates that there will be around 128 billion Thai baht ($3.71 billion) worth of investment token offerings over the next two years and the new measures will see it forgo around $1 billion in tax revenue. Cryptocurrencies have gained popularity in Thailand since the Securities Exchange Commission began regulating digital assets. Still, the countrys central bank and other regulators have banned the use of digital assets as a means of payment.

Canaans Bitcoin ASIC sales fall

On March 7, Chinese Bitcoin mining equipment manufacturer Canaan reported its fourth quarter and full-year 2022 financial results. During the final quarter of 2022, Canaan brought in 391.9 million yuan ($56.8 million) in sales, representing a decrease of 59.9% from the previous quarter. The firm attributed the decrease to the ongoing crypto winter.

For the full year, Canaans revenues decreased from 4.986 billion yuan ($715 million) in 2021 to 4.378 billion yuan ($635 million) in 2022.

Going forward, the company expects its total installed mining computing power to be around 5 exahash per second (EH/s) by the end of this quarter. In context, the Bitcoin network currently has a hash rate of around 250 EH/s, an all-time high.

Canaan has also established strategic partnerships with two data center companies, which are expected to provide stable and cost-effective hosting solutions for the companys expanding mining business. For the first quarter of this year, Canaan projects its total net revenues to slightly improve to 450 million yuan ($65 million) but cites continued challenging business conditions.

A Canaan Avalaon ASIC Bitcoin miner (eBay)
A Canaan Avalon ASIC Bitcoin miner. Source: eBay

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

$54B fund partner runs women-only DAO, LatAm blockchain gaming guild

Clara Bullrich helps run a $54B investment fund, a women-only DAO and she founded a gaming guild to teach gamers in Latin America play to earn.

Clara Bullrich must have cloned herself or possibly invoked dark forces that shouldnt be meddled with. Somehow, shes managed to cram about four careers into one life.

Her main gig is leading her own financial entity, AlTi, managing a whopping investment fund, which grew to $54 billion under management following a recent merger. Thats a big enough job in itself.

A member of Women in Blockchain, she also runs a women-only DAO, Komorebi, that concentrates on funding female and non-gender-specific projects.

Ive seen in crypto that theres very few women, and I really want to push that as much as I can, she says. For me, its always important to have skin in the game.

And if that wasnt enough, shes also the founder of a gaming guild, Ola Guild Games (OlaGG), that hopes to upskill the quarter of a billion mobile gamers in Latin America so they can boost their incomes using play-to-earn blockchain games. 

She tells Magazine she feels lucky to have been involved with cryptocurrencies, DAOs and the metaverse at this early stage.

My sons are nine and 11 and will live through the entire cycle of what blockchain and crypto are creating right now. And I feel super hopeful around that.

Hailing from Argentina, after studying in the United States and Ireland, she worked for a short time for the Spanish Santander bank in the United States. She didnt stay there long. Laboring in the stuffy, conventional world of traditional finance clearly does not float her boat. Her favorite word is disruptive.

Bitcoin is just money supported by math. I came across it about seven years ago. At first, I was very uncomfortable with that, then I thought: The big disruptions are the ones you should walk towards.

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Disruptive innovation

After a short stint at Santander, she was headhunted by an Argentine tech company called Collective Mind, which grew rapidly. Then in 2000, she started a family office business for high-net-worth clients under the umbrella of Guggenheim Partners. In those days, family offices werent as prevalent as today.

Over 23 years, she expanded her operations from Latin America to other parts of the world. Three years ago, this fund management business became Alvarium Investment Advisors, managing over $20 billion in investments, then recently merged with two other companies to form Alvarium Tiedemann Holdings, AlTi, with over $54 billion under management.

Bullrich had some challenges persuading her clients to invest in disruptive technology, including Bitcoin, but first, she had to persuade her colleagues of the merits of investing in progress rather than simple money-making schemes. 

My discussions with my partners were very much around: We should be investing in tech with tech expertise, not financial expertise. 

Her intention was to back technology that would have beneficial effects in the longer term, rather than simply looking at a financial balance sheet.

She set up the Digital Assets Committee at Alvarium Tiedemann in 2019.

What you have to realize is that most people there are traditional investors, so the idea of crypto, blockchain, Web3, digital assets these were really foreign to them.

She continues, And so being able to start that committee has allowed me to educate traditional investors about the potential of digital assets and blockchain technology. She continues, I wanted to create that level of expertise to be able to understand trends, why certain disruptions make more sense than others.

She feels the mindset required is more technological and over a longer time span than in conventional finance. This led, in 2016, to her second company, which is called The Venture City.

Venture City
The Venture City is an accelerator to nurture innovative projects. Source: Venture City

The Venture City is an accelerator to nurture innovative projects, so it has the financial backing, expertise and support to reach its potential.

A major impetus behind TVC is to improve access to financial products and services. In some Latin American countries, up to 60%70% of people do not have bank accounts, restricting their ability to improve their situation. Bullrich sees TVCs investments as a means of combining technology and financial expertise with a beneficial social product.

We have already 100 companies who passed through the accelerator, and were actually starting Fund 3. So, we did Fund 1 with $52 million, Fund 2 with $75 [million], and were going in 2023 with the launch of Fund 3. It was an amazing experience. Because very early on, we were talking about community and creating a lot of events and educational sessions around the products.

Here are some examples of the many projects The Venture City has invested in:

Sturdy Exchange: Sturdy.Exchange is an NFT-based Web3 token in the Flow ecosystem. It aims to decentralize music distribution. It is a platform for artists, musicians and entertainers to reach their audiences with a new form of ownership and utility using NFTs. 

Belo: A wallet app that uses Argentine pesos and crypto with a DeFi yield platform built in so users can receive regular returns. It aims to be an accessible cryptocurrency introduction.

Gamer Safe: This is an app to make online multiplayer gaming safer and more pleasant, by removing cheaters, fake and duplicated accounts, and policing toxicity and dishonesty in games. 

Women in Blockchain

She joined Women in Blockchain (WiB) last year and hopes to develop womens skills, opportunities and aspirations in the cryptocurrency sector.

We are providing that platform where women can meet and be part of those conversations and move forward in terms of education, she says. We can become connectors of people needing a certain kind of expertise and people with that expertise can link up with those who need it.

So, WiBs a completely different animal from my Venture City, which is doing that deep dive looking for companies and deciding what companies the fund is going to invest in.

Komorebi is a DAO aimed at improving the representation of female and non-binary crypto folk. Source: Komorebi

Diversity in DAOs

Komorebi is a poetic, almost untranslatable, Japanese expression that describes sunlight filtering through trees. It is also a DAO on the Syndicate Protocol, dedicated to increasing diversity and breaking down barriers to entry in the blockchain space.

The thought process behind this was that women-led startups receive only 2.3% of venture funding but perform 63% better than investments with all-male founding teams, according to Venture Capital firm First Round.

Read also

Championing Blockchain Education in Africa: Women Leading the Bitcoin Cause


Decentralized social media: The next big thing in crypto?

My involvement with Komorebi allows me to support and amplify the voices of women in tech and finance. Im grateful I didnt have as many hurdles of being a woman in finance, but I encountered them more in technology. So, whats crucial for me here is being able to find an opportunity to help women find their voice in blockchain and crypto.

She says adding more diversity to the crypto and blockchain world is a win-win for everyone.

Im not saying womens voices should be dominant over men; its not one or the other. What I truly believe is having diverse perspectives and experiences in decision-making leads to better outcomes, and my role is to provide an additional platform for women to showcase their passion, their vision.

When Bullrich finds a project that interests her team, she brings it to the DAO and everyone votes on whether to back it or not. The DAO is a very interesting angle for allowing people to be part of something bigger, rather than just putting money into it.

Final boss: Making a living in a poor country with P2E

Yield and Ola Guild Games: These are DAOs. Yield Guild Games (YGG) was founded by Gabby Dizon and Beryl Li in 2018 to involve Filipino players in gaming and cryptocurrency. The players can supplement their incomes with P2E winnings. OlaGG is a subDAO, which expands the successful concept geographically to the Hispanic market: Spain, Latin America outside Brazil and Hispanics in the United States.

The idea of Ola Guild Games is to create social and financial inclusion for the Hispanic Community through gaming. Its main platform is Axie Infinity, but there are options to engage with other P2E game systems as well. The concept took off in the Philippines during the pandemic, with users supplementing their tightened budgets or even multiples of the average wage with P2E gaming.

It seems like a good fit as one-third of Hispanic speakers income is $1.90 per day, which the United Nations defines as extreme poverty. Nearly half have no access to banking or financial products. However, more than 58% of the population in Latin America play mobile games, which equates to a user base of over 273 million people.

So, the idea of Ola is how can we engage with people, teach them, educate them on these new tools for Web3 to really create that financial inclusion. It might be through games, and that will be play-to-earn. 

The Guild is also creating educational programs learn-to-earn where users receive payment for educational achievements with the intention of having an employment structure, for example, in games development, to move on to when trained.

Conventional western aid purveyors will probably have heart attacks when they find developing countries blockchain-gaming their way up the development ladder, instead of subsisting on aid packages with strings attached.

While it does have a huge and clearly defined audience, the project is still in its early stages.

Co-founding Ola and working with my team in Latin America represents my desire to give back and provide opportunities in a market that does not have access to the same resources as we have here in the U.S., she says. I want to provide all that education Im seeing here on Web3, structuring DAOs, and help them adopt those technologies and bring it to life. Its not just a nice to have, its a must-have for Latin America.

By sharing my experiences and knowledge of Web3 and decentralized organizations, I hope to bring positive change to my home country [Argentina].

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

The ‘soft shell taco method’ of becoming a hot new NFT artist — Terrell Jones, NFT Creator 

NFT artist Terrell Jones developed a unique method to attract attention that took him from stacking boxes for FedEx to his own Sotheby’s auction.

Artist: Terrell Jones, Michigan
Date minted first NFT: March 28, 2021
Which blockchains? Ethereum, Tezos

Influenced by classic gangster films, Terrell Jones has a distinctive style that captures imagination and nostalgia. He is about to auction a second piece at Sothebys and has a patented soft-shell taco method to garner the attention of notable collectors. 

Who is he?

From childhood aspirations of being a cartoonist to now being one of the hottest new NFT artists capturing the attention of elite collectors and Sothebys, Terrell Jones is well into his launch trajectory.

Born in Ann Arbour, Michigan, Jones has a visually distinct style. But it is his ability to tell stories through his art such as the collections Evil in Color and Good and Evil that sets him apart. Just in the last two months, Jones has had some of his highest-ever sales, and there is growing interest in his work.

A big thing for me has always been to try to connect my stories and images with a deeper part of everyone. With the way things are moving now and with so many artists, people are probably seeing more art within a day than you probably would have seen within a year. Its been a big shift, Jones says. 

Because we can see so much art, I wanted to have my stuff stick to people in a deeper sense. I want them to remember. 

In a similar vein to Grant Yun (featured last week in NFT Creator), Jones is a big fan of drawing on evocative memories and a sense of longing for the past.

Im definitely trying to connect the viewers and collectors of my art with nostalgia. A lot of the music I listen to is for nostalgic reasons. A lot of the movies and shows I watch are for nostalgic reasons. I lead with nostalgia in a sense with my work, stated Jones. 

Especially with the Evil and Color series, a lot of it does come from old gangster films or old crime films. Theyve been super influential for me and I was very much into them. Im talking about The Sopranos, Goodfellas, Scarface and all those types of classics. 

Despite all of the recent interest, Jones remains firmly grounded. 

I can remember times where people didnt care about what I was doing or what I was minting. Recent times have been a huge contrast to that, and its a big change. Im grateful for it. 

The Getaway
The Getaway, by Terrell Jones, 2022. The Getaway title is a play on the word getaway meaning a vacation but also meaning an escape. Depending on the viewers perspective, the Devilles can be on a Miami vacation or on the run because of their villainous deeds. Source: OpenSea


Jones singles out American visual artist George Condo as his No. 1 influence. 

Im a fan of a lot of artists, but George Condo is my favorite for sure. A lot of my early work was pretty much Condo-like copies. 

I also have to give shoutouts to Edward Hopper (American realist painter and printmaker), Hiroshi Guy (Americano pop style painter), David Hockney (English painter, printmaker and photographer), Phil Hale (American figurative painter), Yue Minjun (Chinese contemporary artist). 

Youve also got Takashi Murakami and Mpcoz who are doing amazing things in NFTs.

Personal style

Jones style is simplistic yet fascinating. It takes you to places in your mind and draws out memories you may not have thought of for years or even decades. 

Gamble With Your Life
Gamble With Your Life, by Terrell Jones. Source: SuperRare

I describe my style as a kind of a blend of pop art from around the 80s. I was definitely inspired by that a lot. Pop-Precisionism is how I like to speak about it its a sub-genre in a sense.

Im working to capture that feeling of nostalgia and that feeling of imagination, like when kids think anything is possible. I want to attempt to reignite that spark in us as adults now. 

In true Jones style, the devil is very much in the details with a number of his creations. 

I come from a religious background where angels and devils are a thing. Its interesting because I think they exist but for me they dont look or act necessarily anything like we think of them. For example, angels are like angelic figures with wings; theyre perfect, and theyre glowing. And with the devils, they are these red figures with the horns and all that stuff. I dont feel like either of those necessarily look like that if they do exist, says Jones. 

His Joy and Wonder series led to a collaboration with notable NFT project Aku Akutars, founded by former Major League Baseball player Micah Johnson. 

The Akutars collaboration with Micah was great. Before I was connected with Micah, I had lots of people telling me that my space boy character reminded them of the Akutar character. It was an easy yes for me when Micah reached out. I had already been thinking of different concepts and pieces. Really fun to be a part of.

Space Boy
Space Boy: The Voyage, by Terrell Jones. Source: SuperRare

Notable sales

NFT artists to watch out for?

Bringing a massive smile to his face, Jones informs us of three artists we should all be looking into. 

Kodak LDN Animator from Nigeria

Hes a Nigerian artist Ive been aware of for a long time. I think I might have been the first person to buy a piece from him. Hes a super talented animator, and I would love to work with him at some point, Jones says.

I really believe hes one of the greatest animators Ive seen. His work is not like anything else Ive seen whether in the NFT space or out.

Niah Artist from Australia

Theres certain artists where I just cant nail how they created a piece of art, and Niah is one of those. Shes one of those artists where Ill zoom in on her pieces and wonder how she got certain parts so clear even though its so intricate. Niah is just super talented.

Rozwell Creator

I described him as our Steve Jobs. Hes insane. The project that hes about to come out with I believe is going to change a lot of stuff for the NFT space. I think that it will definitely start like a whole new meta. People should definitely keep an eye out for that.


With inspiration recently coming from classic crime and gangster films, Jones creativity is often sparked by watching classic films, and he uses the tool Procreate to help bring his creativity alive. 

When Im watching those movies, Ill start to think of ideas and put them into my notes. Other times, Ill be doing the most random things, and Ill just have an idea pop to mind. From there, Ill start to sketch it out. Ive always said, If I have a good sketch, then I can probably finish a piece in a day or two, Jones shares. 

Following the sketch and if Im happy with it Ill start to block out the colors, and from there, I work in a way where I work on individual characters or crucial aspects of a piece like a car separately. I try to work on separate files and eventually combine all the files. Part of that process is due to file size and layer constraints with Procreate, but overall, I think it makes my art cleaner. 

Soft-shell taco method: Attracting collectors

VincentVanDough was the notable NFT collector whose interest helped Jones rise up the ranks. He credits what he called his soft-shell taco method of subtly getting his art in front of the right people, in contrast to the hard-shell taco method of spamming links to everyone and hassling collectors via DMs.

[Its] more on trying to find ways to put your art in front of peoples eyes in a way that isnt forcing it on them. Youre kind of making them run into your art by accident on purpose, says Jones. 

I kind of soft-shell-tacod Vince at a certain point, and he was made aware of me. He dug into my art a bit more and ended up matching my all-time high sale at the time by purchasing my Birthday Boy piece in late 2021. 

Since then, Vince has helped me go on runs with some of his SuperRare purchases. Were super friendly and talk a lot. Even though hes a busy person, hell often have different advice for me or hell see different things and offer perspective. Im definitely grateful for him. 

The Dead of Night
The Dead of Night, by Terrell Jones. Source: OpenSea


Lynkfire: https://lynkfire.com/terrelldom 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/terrelldom

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

D&D nukes NFT ban, ‘Kill-to-Earn’ zombie shooter, Illuvium: Zero hot take — Web3 Gamer

Is play-to-earn really dead or will the dead rise again? Teen makes $1.6M playing Yuga Labs’ NFT game, and first impressions of Illuvium: Zero.

In this inaugural edition of Cointelegraphs monthly Web3 gaming column, we highlight some of the top stories and events in the blockchain gaming space over the past few weeks, as well as upcoming releases.

Fortnite player sells Dookey Dash prize

It has been a little over a month since NFT behemoth Yuga Labs, the company behind Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and other top NFT collections, rolled out the skill-based game and NFT mint, Dookey Dash. 

Sent on a quest by a dog called Gary, players have to navigate through the sewers, dodging obstacles and collecting power-ups in pursuit of a golden key.

For three weeks, holders of Sewer Pass NFTs competed for the top spot on the leaderboard and different prizes. Though BAYC and sister collection Mutant Ape Yacht Club holders could claim a free pass, buying one wasnt cheap. The floor price currently stands at 2.4 Ether (ETH) ($3,888)

Thats a lot to play Temple Run in a toilet.

Yuga Labs reported the game was played more than 7.5 million times, equivalent to 80 years of game time and an average of about 28 hours per pass. Over 9,000 pass holders used $APE to purchase boosts, about one-third of active players. That said, it is not clear how many individual people played the game. Only 51% of the Sewer Passes have unique owners, meaning a whole lot of people are hoarding multiple passes. 

A bonus round of the game, Dookey Dash: Toad Mode, closed its leaderboard on March 1. 

The top prize, The Key, went to Kyle Jackson, better known as Mongraal on Twitch and YouTube. The 18-year-old professional Fortnite player, no doubt treasuring the very important loot he had just acquired, promptly listed The Key for sale on OpenSea.

Though he wanted 2,222 ETH ($3.6 million) for it, he ultimately sold it this week for 1,000 ETH ($1.6 million) to American scrap metal CEO Adam Weitsman.

According to Spencer Tucker, Yuga Labs new chief gamer officer, the game is just the beginning of how the company is thinking of connecting the dots between NFTs, gaming and community engagement. 

We want these things to be fun and weird, while also continuing to push the boundaries of what people perceive of the NFT industry, he said.

More than a jpeg, its all about utility, innovation, creating interactive experiences and hopefully onboarding new players to the web3 space. 

Dookey Dash
Dookey Dash gameplay. Source: Yuga Labs

Dungeons & Dragons reverses NFT ban

Wizards of the Coast, the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), was forced to walk back proposed changes to its Open Game License (OGL) in January. For more than two decades, its OGL has allowed people to make D&D derivative projects, like graphic novels and plays.

Among the now-dropped changes was a ban on NFTs and other blockchain integrations. Ironic, considering Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro, which itself debuted a Power Rangers NFT collection on the Wax blockchain last year.

The company also sought to introduce royalties payable by content creators of a certain size and new powers for Wizards to terminate the license of projects.

The drama impacted U.S. company Gripnr, which is building a D&D game with NFT integrations called The Glimmering. Its CEO and co-founder, Brent McCrossen, said he was  thrilled that the updates had been reversed and that the published rules and lore of D&D had been moved to a Creative Commons license, making it freely available for use in perpetuity.  

We were not going to simply pack up our belongings and head home, he said.

NFTs and other potential emerging technologies are not a valid reason for revoking the OGL. We will object in a similar manner to any potential future attempts to restrict blockchain use; it is fundamental to GRIPNRs core business, he added.

While the Wizards of the Coasts ban hasnt ultimately panned out, it follows similar moves to ban NFT mods from Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto servers. 

Yet whereas Grand Theft Auto makers Rockstar Games sent out cease and desist letters to builders shortly after the ban was announced, Mojang Studios which is owned by Microsoft doesnt seem to be enforcing it, as NFT games still exist on Minecraft servers.

Cover art from the D&D Players Handbook. Source: Wizards of the Coast

Square Enix to Launch NFT-based game Symbiogenesis

Elsewhere on the dark and violent crossroads between traditional and Web3 gaming, Square Enix has released more details about its upcoming NFT game. Symbiogenesis was first announced in November as an Ethereum-based game. Its since switched to Polygon and plans to launch in Spring this year. 

Among traditional game makers, Square Enix has been one of the most bullish on Web3. Its president, Yosuke Matsuda, doubled down on that position in his New Years letter in January where he predicted the growth of a more mature blockchain gaming market over the coming year.

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When worlds collide: Joining Web3 and crypto from Web2

The game will be set on a fantasy floating continent and players will have to unlock storylines through NFTs, which can be bought, traded or earned through completing missions. 

Other AAA gaming studios in East Asia are also getting involved in Web3 projects. But while theyve generally been more willing to experiment than their U.S. counterparts, there are still some holdouts. 

The rumor in Kyoto is that the powers that be at Nintendo HQ arent keen on NFTs, despite some vague public statements of interest so dont expect Pokemon NFTs any time soon.

And even the crypto-curious firms remain cautious. Nobody is risking their most valuable IP just yet, preferring to test out the response with lesser-known titles.

Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy XVI, one of Square Enixs flagship titles, is set to come out later this year. Source: Square Enix

Wagyu Games rolls out kill-to-earn zombie shooter

One of the most highly anticipated Web3 games of the past few months, Wagyu Games rolled out its first-person shooter zombie game, Undead Blocks, at the end of February.

With all the hallmarks of a classic zombie shooter including a multiplayer mode Undead Blocks claimed around 2,500 active daily players during its beta. 

But the full launch now includes kill-to-earn features for NFT holders. Players can earn in-game token ZBUX for slaying the living dead, which can be traded or used to buy NFT weapons and upgrade. The game also has a second token, UNDEAD, for governance that can be staked for rewards.

The company has been hyping up the rewards for players at a time when other games are becoming more cautious in their approach to rewards and tokenomics. There are plenty of contenders out there vying to become the project that proves theres a sustainable way to share rewards with players, but nobodys done it yet.
Play-to-earn has also fallen out of favor as a driver of growth. A Blockchain Games Alliance survey in 2021 found 67.9% of gaming professionals predicted play-to-earn would be a significant growth driver. A similar survey in January saw that number drop to just 22.5%.

Undead Blocks
Undead Blocks gameplay. Source: Twitter/Immutable

Hot take Illuvium: Zero

In January, Illuvium rolled out the private alpha for Illuvium: Zero, a building sim based around collecting and processing natural resources on Illuvium land NFTs. The Aussie companys third game followed quickly on the heels of the December private beta release of Overworld.

Think SimCity BuildIt but more purple. 

Reviewing an alpha is arguably a grossly unfair thing to do. Alpha versions of games are still in their early days. Theyre supposed to have glitches and lack full gameplay. The fact that its almost as good as BuildIt (not to be confused with non-mobile versions of SimCity) says far more about BuildIt than it does about Illuvium.

Read More: Better than Axie Infinity: Kieran Warwicks 2032 plan for Illuvium

But it follows similar principles. Theres a select set of buildings you can add to your land, some of which require unlocking by building other buildings. You can then use these buildings to extract resources and store them. Im curious to see what these resources will ultimately be used for. 

Despite numbers being capped at 6,500 players, Illuvium says that the game has been the most popular of the three it has released, potentially due to its availability on mobile devices and the use of NFTs that players have already invested in.

Regarding future versions of Illuvium, the team has several plans to enhance graphics and gameplay, said co-founder Kieran Warwick.

Illuvium: Zero
Illuvium: Zero gameplay. Source: Illuvium

Whats coming up

Gods Unchained mobile version Gods Unchained announced plans for a mobile version in February. Its currently rolling out the pre-alpha to active community members and requesting feedback. The test period will end on March 22.

Chain Monsters Looking a little bit Pokmon-esque, the early access version of Chain Monsters will hit the Epic Games Store on March 6. Also available on iOS and Android, players can explore the open world of Ancora, catching and battling monsters.

Illuvium: Beyond Illuviums fourth game will be a card-collecting game where players earn points based on how their cards are customized and by completing milestones within their collections. 

Otherside Second Trip Yuga Labs will launch a Second Trip to the Otherside at some point in late March, featuring updates to avatars and other new features. It will be followed by a second experience, Legends of the Mara, which will be a stand-alone 2D experience powered by Apecoin.

Got tips, questions or comments? Please direct all vitriol, abuse and declarations of love to me on Twitter @quinnishvili. 

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

Hong Kong crypto frenzy, DeFi token surges 550%, NBA China NFTs — Asia Express

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments. Hong Kong moves bullish On Feb. 20, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong launched a consultation on its proposed regulatory requirements for digital asset trading platforms. The SFC requires the licensing of all cryptocurrency exchanges operating in Hong […]

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

Hong Kong moves bullish

On Feb. 20, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong launched a consultation on its proposed regulatory requirements for digital asset trading platforms.
The SFC requires the licensing of all cryptocurrency exchanges operating in Hong Kong, or soliciting services from Hong Kong investors, by June 2023.

In addition, the SFC said it will seek feedback on whether licensed platform operators should be allowed to provide services to retail investors and what measures should be implemented to ensure suitability and token inclusion when establishing business relationships with customers.

Currently, retail trading of cryptocurrencies is banned in Hong Kong. The announcement that the special administrative region of China was dipping its toes back into crypto immediately set off bullish reactions from everyday users and executives alike. Brian Armstrong, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase,wrote:

“America risks losing its status as a financial hub long term, with no clear regs on crypto, and a hostile environment from regulators. Congress should act soon to pass clear legislation. Crypto is open to everyone in the world and others are leading. The EU, the UK, and now HK.”

To be fair, he wrote that in response to a tweet suggesting retail trading would be allowed from June 1, which is not the case, but the sentiment remains. At the same time, Cameron Winklevoss, co-founder of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, said in a tweet:

“My working thesis atm is that the next bull run is going to start in the East. It will be a humbling reminder that crypto is a global asset class and that the West, really the US, always only ever had two options: embrace it or be left behind. It can’t be stopped. That we know.”

Shortly afterward, cryptocurrency exchanges Gate.io and Huobi Global stated that they would apply for crypto exchange licenses in Hong Kong. Both exchanges said they will comply with the relevant regulations in order to be able to offer services to Hong Kong clients. Crypto users and stakeholders alike have until Mar. 31 to partake in the SFC consultation.

FTX Japan customers withdraw $49M

On Feb. 21, FTX Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of troubled cryptocurrency exchange FTX, resumed withdrawals for its customers after assets were frozen for approximately three months as part of international bankruptcy proceedings.

Customers’ funds, which were managed separately in compliance with Japanese laws and regulations, were revealed as being worth JPY 5.6 billion ($41.58 million) in digital currencies and JPY 1 billion ($7.43 million) in fiat currencies as of Feb. 20.

The company also reported its own net assets to be around JPY 10 billion ($74.3 million) in Sept. 2022, which increased to JPY 17.8 billion ($132.2 million) in the last update dated Nov. 21, 2022.

Since reopening withdrawals, over JPY 6.6 billion ($49 million) in crypto and fiat has left the exchange. To withdraw, users were required to verify their account balance and transfer their assets to Liquid Japan, another cryptocurrency exchange previously acquired by FTX.

As tabulated by FTX Japan, 3,453 individuals, and 94 corporate accounts were eligible to withdraw their balances. There were 1,947 fiat withdrawals and 5,697 total crypto withdrawals. A total of 7,026 accounts were transferred from FTX Japan to Liquid Japan. They were the lucky ones as due to bankruptcy proceedings, the vast majority of FTX customers, including users of FTX US, are still unable to withdraw their assets.

The withdrawal process varies in complexity based on customers' circumstances.
The withdrawal process varies in complexity based on customers’ circumstances. (Liquid Japan)

NBA China wants to mint more NFTs

On Feb. 21, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Chinese subsidiary announced a partnership with Alibaba-owned Ant Financial. Among many items, the two entities will carry out comprehensive cooperation regarding NBA video content, program broadcasting, joint membership, and the creation of a mini-series.

In addition, both NBA China and Ant Financial wish to further pursue the joint development of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and to launch “multi-media NFT drops to fans.” Since last year, NBA China has minted a series of Chinese New Year basketball-themed NFTs using the latter’s Ant Chain.

A Mengniu Dairy and NBA China NFT (Sohu)

Tencent Cloud’s great leap forward to Web 3

According to a Feb. 22 announcement, Tencent Cloud, the cloud business brand of Chinese internet giant Tencent, announced that it will support the development of the Web 3.0 ecosystem and provide technical support to developers to promote its digitalization.

Firstly, Tencent Cloud unveiled a new product, dubbed “Metaverse-in-a-Box,” that the internet giant says will act as a one-stop solution that integrates infrastructure, products, software development kits, and low-code solutions to be used primarily in games and media entertainment.

Tencent Cloud VP Poshu Yeung made the announcement in Singapore.
Tencent Cloud VP Poshu Yeung during the announcement in Singapore. (Tencent)

In addition, the firm signed a memorandum of cooperation with Ankr, Avalanche, Scroll and Sui to further those goals. For Ankr, this means the joint deployment of a series of blockchain API services for remote procedure call nodes on Tencent Cloud. As for Avalanche, it will join forces with Tencent Cloud to provide developers with efficient and fast node settings. Finally, Tencent Cloud will assist developers with building practical projects on Scroll and create cloud game development tools with Sui. Tommy Li, vice president of Tencent Cloud said:

“Tencent Cloud Metaverse-in-a-Box meets the needs of customers and developers for different scenarios, helping them obtain better real-time interactive experience, larger-scale communication and more secure access services, and quickly build online and video virtualized and virtualized metaverse scene applications.”

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DeFi token rises 550% after Huawei shill 

In a 30 second video posted by Chinese telecom conglomerate Huawei on Feb. 21, the firm showcased DeFi protocol Defactor by its co-founder Alejandro Gutierrez. During the video, Gutierrez said the project is about creating a bridge between traditional finance with DeFi, exploring the tokenization of real-world assets, and building partnerships with start-ups and large corporations like.

In the eyes of crypto investors the statements Gutierrez made were anything but ordinary. Immediately after the video was published, Defactor (FACTR) tokens recordeda gain of over 550% in less than three days to trade a $0.14 apiece at the time of publication. Defactor is currently part of Huawei International Scale-Up Program in Ireland.

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

China’s 180M digital yuan airdrop, Devastation in Turkey, Laos’ CBDC: Asia Express

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments. China airdrops 180 million digital yuan to celebrate Lunar New Year  According to state-owned media Global Times, Chinese cities airdropped a total of 180 million digital yuan (e-CNY) worth $26.6 million to boost consumption during the Lunar New Year celebrations between […]

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

China airdrops 180 million digital yuan to celebrate Lunar New Year 

According to state-owned media Global Times, Chinese cities airdropped a total of 180 million digital yuan (e-CNY) worth $26.6 million to boost consumption during the Lunar New Year celebrations between Jan. 22 and Feb. 5. Nearly 200 digital yuan activities were launched during the festival, and commercial institutions also participated in these promotions, covering various sectors such as mobile communications, supermarkets, transportation and tourism.

Data from Meituan, a popular Chinese food delivery platform, showed that its 20 million digital yuan vouchers given out in partnership with the city of Hangzhou government were claimed in less than 10 seconds. China has prioritized the development of its central bank digital currency (CBDC) as part of its digital economy transformation, with numerous local party officials receiving key performance indicator targets regarding their efforts to promote the currency.

Chinas state-owned television also hosted a metaverse event for its Lunar New Year program this year. Source: FuXi. 

Asia-Pacific crypto exchanges donate to Turkey

In an act of international solidarity, cryptocurrency exchanges operating from several countries in the Asia-Pacific region were quick to react to a series of devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6, with death tolls exceeding 12,000 at the time of publication. Singaporean exchange OKX said it would donate 1 million lira to the relief effort, while Binance stated it would airdrop $100 in BNB to Turkish users with addresses listed in the affected region. Cryptocurrency exchange MEXC Global also announced it would donate 1 million lira to help with earthquake relief. Meanwhile, Justin Sun, an adviser at crypto exchange Huobi Global, pledged 2 million lira for relief efforts. Donations are currently not available to Syrian residents due to sanctions. 

While the [proof of address] method has its limitations and inaccuracies, it is the best method we have available for us to locate potentially impacted users. We estimate the total donations will be around $5 million USD (or 94,000,000 TRY), Binance stated.

Laos made-in-Japan CBDC 

On Feb. 7, the Bank of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (PDR) and Japanese fintech company Soramitsu joined forces to launch a proof-of-concept for a CBDC in the country. The project, dubbed DLak (Digital Lao Kip), follows a feasibility study of a blockchain-based payment infrastructure in Lao PDR, which took one year to complete and was initiated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. 

The proof-of-concept will first be issued to a commercial bank, sent to individuals for payments at stores and collected by the Bank of the Lao PDR from the commercial bank. 

According to the Lao central bank, the objectives of the study are financial inclusion, cross-border remittances and the advancement of payment systems. 

Soramitsu has been selected by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the Japanese government to conduct feasibility studies on CBDC in several countries, including Lao PDR, Fiji, Vietnam and the Philippines. The company has developed a digital currency for the National Bank of Cambodia and is actively involved in proof-of-concept tests for major Japanese enterprises and open-source projects.

The DLak proof-of-concept inauguration event. Source: Soramitsu

Binance halts dollar deposits and withdrawals

Binance has announced it will temporarily suspend all U.S. dollar bank transfers starting Feb. 8 for its non-U.S. international customers. The firm says that only around 0.01% of its monthly active users utilize the transfer option, but acknowledges it still represents a bad user experience.” 

According to Binance, the suspension will only affect U.S. dollar bank transfers for users outside of the Binance.US exchange and will not impact other methods of buying and selling cryptocurrencies. Although the firm did not state a particular reason, Cointelegraph reported on Jan. 22 that Binances SWIFT banking partner, Signature Bank, banned USD SWIFT transfers below $100,000 to limit exposure to the crypto sector. The exchange is reportedly looking for a new banking partner and will have an announcement for affected users in the next couple weeks.

Damus censored in China 

On Feb. 2, just one day after the launch of the decentralized social network Damus, developers claimed that their app was removed from Chinese app stores because it includes content that is illegal in China. A message to developers read:

According to the CAC, your app violates the Provisions on the Security Assessment of Internet-based Information Services with Attribute of Public Opinions or Capable of Social Mobilization. If you need additional information regarding this removal or the laws and requirements in China, we encourage you to reach out directly to the Cyberspace Administration of China.

Previously, Damus reached the top 10 in terms of free social media apps on the App Store in the U.S.

The social network, which operates on the decentralized network Nostr, emphasizes user control and privacy, with no centralized servers. Although banned in China, the app is still available anywhere else in the world. On Feb. 7, developers teased a new feature that will allow users to earn satoshis, the smallest denomination of Bitcoin (BTC), based on their post engagement.

Huobi lists FTX debtors coin

On Feb. 5, Huobi announced the exclusive listing of FUD (FTX Users Debt) token issued by DebtDAO. FUD is a Tron-based bond token issued on behalf of creditors of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX with an initial issuance and liquidity of 20 million FUD with a fair-price range of 0 to 5 Tether (USDT). As a contract with DebtDAO, FUD holders are entitled to secondary offerings and airdrops after FTX restores its database or confirms the actual debt of the creditor.

After the airdrop, DebtDAO says it will conduct a 1:1 debt buyback for FUD holders. However, after a wild price surge to $113, Huobi stated the very next day that it would burn 18 million FUD tokens to maintain parity. Justin Sun, an adviser at Huobi, claimed that early users received 10x return after the burn event. 

Binance returns to South Korea with acquisition

On Feb. 3, Bloomberg reported that Binance acquired a majority stake in the South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Gopax. While terms of the deal werent disclosed, users reported a 14.91 million Binance USD (BUSD) withdrawal from Binances $1 billion Industry Recovery Initiative around the same time of the announcement.

Binance previously exited the South Korean market in 2021, citing low usage and volume, but claims it is returning to the market to help customers of the ailing Gopax exchange. In November, Gopax halted withdrawals and interest payments for its decentralized finance yield product GoFi after its broker, Genesis Global, suspended withdrawals due to unprecedented market conditions. As part of the acquisition terms, Gopax CEO Lee Jun-haeng reportedly resigned and sold his entire 41.22% stake in the exchange. 

Gopax CEO Lee Jun-haeng. Source: Daum

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

Huawei NFTs, Toyota’s hackathon, North Korea vs. Blockchain: Asia Express 

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments. Huawei moves to trademark its NFTs According to a Jan. 28 report by Sina News, Chinese telecom giant Huawei has recently filed for eight trademarks related to its Huawei “YunYunBao” nonfungible tokens (NFT) series. The trademarks include digital collectibles in the […]

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

Huawei moves to trademark its NFTs

According to a Jan. 28 report by Sina News, Chinese telecom giant Huawei has recently filed for eight trademarks related to its Huawei “YunYunBao” nonfungible tokens (NFT) series. The trademarks include digital collectibles in the scientific instruments, furniture, education, jewelry, advertising and telecom sectors. Last April, Huawei unveiled its YunYunBao NFTs, featuring characters inspired by its namesake cloud service. Huawei NFTs are minted on its proprietary Huawei Petal Chain, which the telecom giant says has over 1,000 nodes and can handle over 50,000 transactions per second. 

A Huawei cloud NFT. Source: Huawei

Toyota sponsors blockchain hackathon

In a Feb. 1 Medium post, Sota Watanabe, the founder of Japanese blockchain Astar Network, announced that Astar had received a sponsorship from Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota for its latest Web3 hackathon. Astar is currently a parachain built on the Polkadot blockchain. 

According to Watanabe, over $100,000 in prizes will be distributed to projects that develop “intra-company DAO [Decentralized Autonomous Organization] support tools for this hackathon which Toyota employees may actually use in the future.” The hackathon will run from Feb. 14 to March 25.

The Toyota hackathon prize structure. Source: Hakuhodo

“Needless to say, Toyota is the largest company in Japan and one of the world’s leading international companies, Watanabe wrote. We are very excited to be hosting the Web3 Hackathon on Astar with Toyota. During the event, we aim to develop the first PoC DAO tool for Toyota’s employees. If a good tool is produced, Toyota employees will interact daily with products on Astar Network.”

North Korea devastates crypto

On Feb. 2, blockchain forensic analytics firm Chainalysis revealed that North Korean hackers stole an estimated $1.65 billion out of the $3.8 billion funds siphoned from decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols in 2022. For context, North Korean-related entities only stole $299.5 million in 2020 and $428.8 million in 2021. The firm also warned that despite the United States Treasury Department imposing sanctions on cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash on Aug. 8, North Korean hackers have increasingly turned to other digital asset mixers, such as Sinbad, to launder stolen funds. Chainalysis said:

North Korea-linked hackers tend to send much of what they steal to other DeFi protocols, not because these protocols are effective for money laundering they’re actually quite bad for money laundering given their increased transparency compared to centralized services but rather because DeFi hacks often result in cybercriminals acquiring large quantities of illiquid tokens that aren’t listed at centralized exchanges. The hackers therefore must turn to other DeFi protocols, usually DEXes, to swap for more liquid assets.”

On Jan. 29, decentralized finance analyst Zachxbt claimed he had traced another 17,278 Ether (ETH) worth around $27.18 million  laundered by North Korean hackers in the aftermath of the $100 million Harmony Bridge hack last June. According to Zachxbt, the funds were then moved to 14 wallet addresses spread across four exchanges. On Jan. 24, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that North Korea’s Lazarus Group was the mastermind behind the attack. 

North Korean hacking activities have seen a sharp rise as part of the countrys desperate push to earn foreign currency reserves amid sanctions. Source: Chainalysis

No Binance metaverse for now 

In an ask-me-anything session on Jan. 14, Changpeng Zhao, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, said that the firm “is more open to just investing in other virtual reality or metaverse games,” as the firm is not a game-builder and doesnt have a game building team. 

“Nobody really knows what metaverse means. Everybody has a different concept of it,” the crypto executive said, according to a transcript published on Jan. 27.

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Instead, Zhao says that Binance will focus its “next big product” on releasing multiple proofs-of-reserves and proofs-of-solvencies to increase its transparency. The exchange has set a goal of 1 billion users passing Know Your Customer verification for the new year. 

Huobi denies data sharing allegations 

Digital asset entrepreneur Justin Sun has responded to allegations that his exchange Huobi provided client information to Chinese tax authorities. The TRON founder tweeted that Huobi “doesn’t share any client information to tax authorities unless it follows international judicial assistance procedure.”

Previously, Sun praised the introduction of a new 20% Chinese cryptocurrency income tax as “a clear indication that the Chinese government views cryptocurrencies as a legitimate form of wealth and wants to ensure its proper taxation.” 

Although based in the Seychelles, Huobi has a sizable number of staff working in mainland China, who reportedly revolted against the firm’s stringent new labor policies early this month. 

Huobi founder’s new ventures

After selling his entire stake in Huobi to Suns About Capital last October, Chinese businessman Lin Li has dedicated his time to managing Hong Kong blockchain investment holdings firm New Huo Technology. On Jan. 30, New Huo launched a staking technical support service, dubbed “Sinohope Staking,” that will first serve the Cosmos community before expanding into Ethereum, EOS and ChainLink. 

According to developers, Sinohope Staking will provide “multi-node deployment, real-time monitoring of node operation process, 7*24h online support, 3-layer wallet structure and multiple signature technologies” for users interested in staking their assets on public blockchains. New Huo says it will help clients set up their stake nodes and monitor their operations “without handling or holding any clients’ assets,” and claims clients will retain “100%” of their staked cryptocurrencies during the process. 

Bitzlato allegedly defiant despite sanctions

The co-founder of Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato says the platform will reopen after being shut down by United States authorities last month.

In a Jan. 31 YouTube interview, Russian national Anton Shurenko said that the exchange would open later at an unspecified time and claimed up to 50% of funds held in seized hot wallets would be available for withdrawal at that time. In addition, the supposed founder claimed he had no idea why his company was singled out. 

On Jan. 18, Bitzlato was shut down after an investigation by law enforcement officials, including the U.S. Department of Justice, revealed that the exchange imposed lax Know Your Customer rules and allegedly laundered over $700 million worth of illicit funds via crypto-fiat transactions. Shurenko’s fellow co-founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, was arrested in Miami around the same day. After revelations that Binance was one of the top counterparties to Bitzlato, the exchange froze a number of accounts related to the entity.  

According to recent reports, Spanish police have detained three executives from the firm, namely the CEO, a sales executive and the marketing director.

Despite its notoriety, many users in the crypto community say they’ve never heard of Bitzlato before the incident. Source: Twitter

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

Bithumb in turmoil, Binance’s 47K law requests, Axie players down 85%: Asia Express

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments. Bithumb in turmoil  On Jan. 25, Yonhap Infomax reported that South Korean authorities had requested an arrest warrant for Kang Jong-Hyun, chairman and owner of cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb, over embezzlement allegations. That same day, the Financial Investigation Second Division of the […]

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

Bithumb in turmoil 

On Jan. 25, Yonhap Infomax reported that South Korean authorities had requested an arrest warrant for Kang Jong-Hyun, chairman and owner of cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb, over embezzlement allegations. That same day, the Financial Investigation Second Division of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors Office accused Jong-Hyun and two Bithumb executives of embezzlement, conducting fraudulent transactions and breach of trust. 

A leaked photo of Bithumb chairman Kang Jong-Hyun. Source: Korea Post English
A leaked photo of Bithumb chairman Kang Jong-Hyun. Source: Korea Post English

Authorities said that Kang played a key role in manipulating the stock prices of Bithumb affiliates Inbiogen and Bucket Studio through the issuance of convertible bonds.

Bithumb is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea. Its previous chairman, Lee Jung-Hoon, was found not guilty last month of a $70 million fraud charge related to his activities at Bithumb. Park Mo, Bithumbs former largest shareholder, died on Dec. 30 while under investigation for allegedly embezzling funds from Bithumb and related companies. The firm is also currently probed by the National Tax Service over tax compliance incidents. 

Binances 2022 annual report

In its annual report released on Jan. 19, cryptocurrency exchange Binance revealed that the firm received more than 47,000 law enforcement inquiries throughout the year. The exchange said such requests were processed at a record time and that it was the first among blockchain firms to join the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, a nonprofit cybercrime fighting unit based in Pittsburg. 

In response to the inquiries, Binance said it increased the headcount of its security team by more than 500% and hosted 70 law enforcement workshops around the globe in 2022 to help fight blockchain-related financial crime.

In the event of security incidents, Binance also stated it would tap into funds from its $1 billion SAFU (Secure Asset Fund for Users) user insurance program to compensate for losses. The exchange also tightened requirements such as NFT listings. Starting Feb. 2, Binance will delist all NFTs listed before Oct. 2 that had an average daily trading volume of less than $1,000 between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31.

In January 2022, we announced that SAFU was worth
$1B. Due to market conditions in 2022, that value
dropped to $735m. As of November 2022, we topped the
SAFU balance back to $1B. We made a promise to our
users, along with the larger crypto ecosystem, that SAFU
would always maintain a sizable level.

The exchange received 14 licenses and regulatory registrations in 2022. Other highlights include its $1 billion pledge for an industry recovery fund amid FTXs collapse and investing $500 million into Web3 and blockchain firms through Binance Labs. Although it does not have a fixed corporate office, the exchanges governing jurisdiction is the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center for legal disputes. Its servers are also reportedly located in Japan. 

Jurisdictions where Binance received regulatory clearance in 2022. Source: Binance.
Jurisdictions where Binance received regulatory clearance in 2022. Source: Binance

Axie Infinitys declining numbers 

The latest data from the website Active Player reveals that the number of players of the popular monster battle P2E game Axie Infinity, developed by Vietnamese gaming studio Sky Mavis, fell to 432,001 in the past month. This represents the lowest level seen since November and means the game has lost approximately 85% of its player base over the past year. 

Axie Infinity's popularity has dwindled in recent months. Source: ActivePlayer.io
Axie Infinity’s popularity has dwindled in recent months. Source: Active Player

Initially a groundbreaking GameFi success, Axie Infinity has fallen on hard times as the crypto winter took a toll on its play-to-earn dynamic, which was exacerbated by the infamous Sky Mavis Ronin bridge hack last March. New features, such as the much-anticipated Land Gameplay release on Dec. 28, did not appear to reverse the declining trend. At the time of publication, about $3.85 million worth of Axie NFTs changed hands in the past 30 days, compared with $639.5 million in November 2021. 

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City of Busans crypto exchange

As first reported by local news outlet News 1 Korea, the city of Busan is working to establish a decentralized digital assets exchange scheduled for operations this year. According to municipal officials, the exchange will include buying and selling of tokenized intellectual property rights for films and games, as well as trade in gold, precious metals, agricultural and livestock products, ships and real estate. The Busan Digital Asset Exchange Establishment Promotion Committee plans to coordinate with domestic financial companies and conduct system tests in the near future. 

Bybits Genesis exposure 

In a Jan. 20 Twitter thread posted by Ben Zhou, CEO of Singaporean cryptocurrency exchange ByBit, the blockchain executive clarified the exchange positions after questions arose regarding an alleged $151 million exposure to bankrupt crypto lender Genesis Global. As told by Zhou, the exposure amount is limited to Mirana, the investment arm of ByBit, and that $120 million of collateralized positions out of the $151 million exposure amount had already liquidated.

Zhou claims that Mirana only manages some ByBit company assets and that clients funds are separated. In addition, Zhou said that ByBit Earn products dont use Mirana. Genesis Global froze withdrawals last November, citing unprecedented market conditions, and filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 20, reportedly owing $3.5 billion to over 50 creditors. 

Bitzlatos trail of dirty money

According to a Reuters report on Jan. 24, cryptocurrency exchange Binance allegedly helped move $346 million in Bitcoin for now-defunct Hong Kong cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato. Binance was also reportedly one of the largest counterparties to the exchange. On Jan. 23, Europol stated that $19.5 million were seized in enforcement actions against Bitzlato.

Last week, the United States Department of Justice announced a major international cryptocurrency enforcement action against Bitzlato for the latters alleged role in laundering $700 million in funds tied to dark web marketplace Hydra and Russian illicit finance. Its founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, a Russian national and resident of China, was arrested in Miami on Jan. 18 on charges of operating an unlicensed money transmitter. The exchange has since been shut down. 

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney

Samsung’s Bitcoin ETF, $700M bust, Coinbase exits Japan: Asia Express

Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industrys most important developments.

Samsungs new Bitcoin ETF

On Jan. 13, Samsung Asset Management, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the namesake South Korean conglomerate, successfully listed the Samsung Bitcoin Futures Active ETF on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. According to local news outlet Edaily, the ETF debuted under the ticker 3135:HK and seeks to replicate the performance of spot Bitcoin by investing in Bitcoin futures listed on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

The ETF will also simplify the procedures for investors seeking exposure to regulated Bitcoin products in the Asia-Pacific time zone. Park Seong-jin, head of Samsung Asset Managements Hong Kong office, commented: 

Hong Kong is the only market in Asia where Bitcoin futures ETFs are listed and traded in the institutional market. It will be a new option for investors who are interested in Bitcoin as a competitive product that reflects their experience in risk management and risk management.

North Korean hackers launder 41K ETH

As revealed by blockchain sleuth ZachXBT on Jan. 16, hackers linked to the North Korea-backed Lazarus Group moved close to 41,000 Ether ($63.5 million) from the Harmony bridge hack to Railgun, a platform that uses zero-knowledge technology to obfuscate blockchain transactions.

Funds were allegedly deposited to three different cryptocurrency exchanges after leaving Railgun. The same day, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said the exchange, along with Huobi Global, had frozen a portion of the stolen funds and recovered 124 Bitcoin ($2.59 million).

Nomad Bridge TVL before and after the exploit.
Nomad Bridge TVL before and after the exploit. Source: DefiLlama

Last June, the Nomad cross-chain bridge was drained of over $100 million after suspected North Korean hackers targeted the login credentials of Nomad employees in the Asia-Pacific region. After gaining control of the protocol, the hackers deployed automated laundering programs that moved the stolen assets late at night.

Lazarus Group has been linked to a series of high-profile decentralized finance incidents last year, including the $600 million Axie Infinity Ronin hack, as the sanctions-ridden country turned to hacking and ransomware to make up for its shortfall of foreign currency reserves. 

Bitzlato busted for laundering $700M+

According to a Jan. 18 statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Hong Kong cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato was shut down by U.S. and E.U. authorities over allegations that since May 2018 the exchange has processed $700 million in funds linked to illicit activities, including millions in ransomware proceeds. Prosecutors alleged that illicit funds made up a significant part of its trading volume, with Bitzlato only processing around $4.58 billion worth of cryptocurrency transactions since its inception. 

Bitzlato website taken down after authorities' raid.
Bitzlatos website has been taken down following enforcement action. Source: Bitzlato

Anatoly Legkodymov, a Russian national and majority shareholder of Bitzlato, was arrested in Miami on Jan. 17 on charges of conducting an unlicensed money-transmitting business. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted. 

Legkodymov was allegedly an OG in the early Bitcoin community. Source: Telegram.
Legkodymov was apparently an OG in the early Bitcoin community. Source: Telegram

Legkodymov, who lives in Shenzhen, China, allegedly implemented minimal Know Your Customer requirements on Bitzlato users, specifying that neither selfies nor passports [are] required, and allowing users to signup using information belonging to straw man registrants. Authorities said that Bitzlato became a safe haven for illicit transactions and served as the largest counterparty to dark web marketplace Hydra Market. 

Hydra Market users exchanged more than $700 million in cryptocurrency with Bitzlato, either directly or through intermediaries, until Hydra Market was shuttered by U.S. and German law enforcement in April 2022. Bitzlato also received more than $15 million in ransomware proceeds.

Coinbase leaves Japan

In a Jan. 18 statement, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase said it would cease operations in Japan, citing difficult marketing conditions. According to the exchange, users Japanese yen and crypto assets were segregated, and all customers will have until Feb. 16 to withdraw their crypto holdings. Alternatively, users can also liquidate their digital assets and withdraw yen to their fiat bank. 

Any remaining crypto holdings held on Coinbase on or after Feb. 17 will be converted to JPY. In the month following Feb. 17, Coinbase will send any remaining JPY to a Guaranty Account at the Legal Affairs Bureau in accordance with legal requirements. If customers do not take any action before Feb. 16, they will have to coordinate with the Legal Affairs Bureau to retrieve their JPY balance.

Coinbase first began its expansion into the Japanese market in 2018. Another crypto exchange, Kraken, ceased operations in Japan on Dec. 28, citing weak market conditions. Earlier this month, Coinbase said it would lay off another 20% of its staff amid the ongoing crypto winter. 

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Hodlnauts angry creditors

On Jan. 13, Bloomberg reported that creditors of Singapore cryptocurrency borrowing and lending platform Hodlnaut refused a corporate restructuring plan and opted for the liquidation of remaining assets. Last August, Hodlnaut suspended all withdrawal, deposit and token swap services. The firm is currently facing a police probe after allegedly misrepresenting its exposure to the Terra USD stablecoin (USTC) and losing investors $190 million in the subsequent Terra ecosystem collapse. 

Japan clarifies NFT tax rules

As first reported by local news outlet Coin Post, Japans National Tax Agency released a document on Jan. 13 summarizing the general tax treatment of nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, in the country. Specifically, NFTs are taxed if an individual creates a digital collectible and sells it to a third party and when individuals resell it to another person.

In both cases, sales represent the transfer of viewing rights related to digital art and are classified as business income during primary sales and transfer income during secondary sales, where capital gains rules apply. Moreover, in the event that NFTs were hacked or stolen, individuals can claim either a miscellaneous loss deduction or can include the lost NFT as part of expenses if it was a business asset. 

30,000 e-CNY airdrop prizes claimed in 15 secs 

According to a Jan. 18 report by local news outlet Hangzhou Wang, the City of Hangzhou, in partnership with Chinese food delivery platforms Meituan Dianping and Eleme, airdropped a series of digital yuan central bank digital currency (e-CNY CBDC) vouchers for residents. Once claimed, users could then cash them in at the namesake platforms to purchase deliverables for the upcoming Chinese New Year on Jan. 22.

The only catch? All of the 30,000 e-CNY vouchers were claimed within 15 seconds of launch. Since late last year, the e-CNY has expanded into utilities such as paying for taxes, and local transportation, as well as being included in The Peoples Bank of Chinas M0 calculations

‘Operation Choke Point 2.0’ may have contributed to SVB collapse: Mulvaney