Welcome to Around the Blockchain, Huobi Learn’s daily rundown of the crypto markets.
The Russian Federation’s energy chief Pavel Zavalny has said BTC could be accepted as payment for its largest export, oil and gas, from “friendly countries” like China and Turkey. At a press conference yesterday, he said these countries could start paying for energy in RUB (rubles), RMB (yuan), TRY (lira) or even BTC, instead of the international standard, the USD. He added that he had been discussing changes to preferred payment currencies for oil and gas with Chinese and Turkish representatives, saying that “if there are Bitcoins, we will trade Bitcoins”. He further said “unfriendly countries” could pay in RUB or gold, though he did not clarify if Russia could change the terms of its existing contracts with countries that pay in EUR or USD.
South Korean crypto exchanges have reached the government-mandated deadline to comply with the Travel Rule, a set of guidelines from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) intended to help authorities track the movement of virtual assets between virtual asset service providers (VASPs). From today, South Korean exchanges will flag crypto transfers worth over $821 and restrict them to user-verified wallets and select exchanges that have adopted their anti-money laundering (AML) system. Some industry players, like VC Hashed CEO Simon Kim, think these measures will likely confuse and frustrate domestic traders, and be seen as “clearly over-regulation” by the local crypto community.
US government prosecutors have charged Andre Llacuna and Ethan Nguyen with fraud and money laundering over a crypto ‘rug pull’ scheme. The two men allegedly earned about $1.1 million through the sale of NFTs under a project called Frosties, after which they shut it down and transferred its funds to separate crypto wallets, leaving Frosties owners without their promised rewards. Nguyen also reportedly told Garry, the moderator of the Frosties community Discord server, that he “never intended to keep the project going” and that he’d sent Garry some ETH “for your troubles”, before advising him to delete his Discord account. Investigators tracked Llacuna and Nguyen down after matching their Discord account data with corresponding Coinbase accounts, which were connected to a Citibank credit card and government ID.
Russian law enforcement agencies are targeting the organizers of a the Yusra Global project, a large crypto Ponzi scheme that has reportedly defrauded victims of around 1 billion rubles (over $10 million). The fraudulent entity promised victims annual profits of up to 500% on their digital asset investments and paid out dividends using funds invested by new participants, then distributed the rest of the money amongst themselves. It also has offices not just in Russia but also in Kazakhstan and Turkey. The authorities had initially detained four Russian citizens believed to be the masterminds in Jan, placing them under arrest for 2 months. Now, they may face up to 10 years in prison and be subject to hefty fines.
The Manhattan district attorney has charged former party organizer Thomas Spieker with laundering $2.7 million in BTC and cash to help multiple clients hide money they had allegedly earned from illegal activities. According to the DA, Spieker converted over $2.3 million into BTC and separately, over $380,000 worth of BTC into USD between Jan 2018 and Aug 2021. These activities were carried out through a “rotating set of accomplices” who had opened bank and crypto exchange accounts to facilitate the laundering of “criminal proceeds”. Spieker, who faces multiple counts of money laundering and unlicensed money transmission, has pleaded not guilty in the New York State Supreme Court.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has expressed concern over the direction of BTC and other cryptocurrencies, specifically the NFT market. Referring to the NFT boom that has “turbo-charged” the price of ETH and driven up the prices of rival tokens like BNB, ADA and SOL, Buterin warned that there was “a lot of dystopian potential” in crypto. He pinpointed the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection — whose NFTs are now trading for a minimum of approximately $300,000 — saying, “You have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of gambling.”
Show me the money
According to data from Huobi Global, BTC rose slightly last night while ETH saw a more rapid increase, with daily charts for both showing signs of an upward trend. In terms of contracts, Huobi Futures data show stable open interest (OI) in both BTC and ETH futures, with slightly decreased volume amid a relatively inactive contract market.