特别报道——前内部人士称,加密货币巨头币安将客户资金和公司收入混为一谈


5 月 23 日(路透社)——三位知情人士告诉路透社,全球最大的加密货币交易所 Binance 在 2020 年和 2021 年将客户资金与公司收入混合在一起,这违反了要求客户资金分开存放的美国金融规则。


其中一位消息人士是一位直接了解币安集团财务状况的人士,他表示,这笔金额高达数十亿美元,而且几乎每天都在该交易所在美国银行 Silvergate 银行持有的账户中发生混合交易。路透社无法独立核实这些数字或频率。但新闻机构审查了一份银行记录,该记录显示,2021 年 2 月 10 日,币安将一个公司账户中的 2000 万美元与一个接收客户资金的账户中的 1500 万美元混合在一起。


三位前美国监管机构表示,路透社描述的 Binance 资金流动表明缺乏内部控制以确保客户资金可清楚识别并与公司收入分开。他们说,这些资金的混合通过掩盖他们的下落使客户资产面临风险。美国证券交易委员会互联网执法办公室前负责人约翰·里德·斯塔克 (John Reed Stark) 表示,Binance 客户不应该“需要法务会计师才能找到他们的钱在哪里”。


路透社没有发现币安客户资金丢失或被盗的证据。


SEC 主席 Gary Gensler 曾表示,许多向美国客户提供证券的加密货币交易所不遵守要求注册经纪自营商通过将客户资金与公司资产分开来保护客户资金的法律。“他们的商业模式往往建立在吸收客户资金并将其混合的基础上,”他在 5 月份的一次活动中说。美国证券交易委员会今年对一系列加密公司发起了打击行动,但并未针对币安采取任何直接执法行动。


美国商品期货交易委员会在 3 月份针对该交易所的投诉中称,尽管 Binance 公开声称限制美国人的访问,但从 2019 年到今年,Binance 仍允许美国客户在其平台上进行交易。币安在博客中回应说它屏蔽了美国用户。


在给路透社的一份声明中,币安否认混合了客户存款和公司资金。“这些账户不用于接受用户存款;发言人 Brad Jaffe 说,它们被用来促进用户购买“加密货币”。“任何时候都没有混合,因为这些都是 100% 的公司资金。” 他说,当用户向该账户汇款时,他们并不是在存入资金,而是在购买交易所定制的与美元挂钩的加密代币 BUSD。Jaffe 说,这个过程“与从亚马逊购买产品完全一样”。


这位前美国监管机构告诉路透社,币安的解释被该交易所之前向客户表示转账是存款的说法推翻了。从 2020 年底到 2021 年全年,币安的网站告诉客户,他们的美元转账是“存款”,将以 BUSD 的形式“记入”他们的交易账户。客户被告知他们可以将存款作为美元“提取”。前监管机构表示,这些陈述产生了客户资金将以与传统现金存款相同的方式受到保护的预期。


“这些陈述必须始终非常清楚,”前 SEC 官员斯塔克说。


路透社询问币安是否曾告诉用户,它认为他们的美元存款构成“购买”。Binance 没有提供任何证据,并表示“’存款’一词是一个沟通术语,并不表示资金的技术处理。”


客户和公司资金的混合可能是金融公司客户遭受重大损失的先兆。去年 12 月,SEC 和 CFTC 指控倒闭的 FTX 加密货币交易所的创始人 Sam Bankman-Fried 多年来在其交易公司中混合客户资金,并将这些资金用于风险资本投资、政治捐款和房地产购买。Bankman-Fried 对欺诈指控表示不认罪,并表示他没有故意混合任何资金。

币安的银行家

Bank and company records for 2019-2021, seen by Reuters, and interviews with former insiders show that Binance used Silvergate Bank, the U.S. lender that collapsed in March, as the lynchpin of its financial operations. Silvergate, which is in the process of winding down operations, did not comment for this article.


Company revenues entered the Silvergate account of the exchange’s Cayman Islands holding firm, Binance Holdings, according to the sources and bank records. Customer dollars flowed into the Silvergate account of a firm in the Seychelles called Key Vision Development that was controlled by Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao.


One of the sources and a fourth person with direct knowledge of this account said Binance told Silvergate the Key Vision account’s purpose was to receive dollar deposits from non-U.S. customers. Jaffe, the Binance spokesperson, said this was inaccurate, without providing further details.


According to the sources and the February 2021 bank record seen by Reuters, Binance mixed customer money and company revenues in a third Silvergate account, belonging to a Zhao-controlled Cayman firm. Binance converted money from this third account into the dollar-linked token BUSD, according to the person with knowledge of Binance’s group finances and company messages. Blockchain records show Binance bought at least $18 billion of BUSD between January 2020 and December 2021.


The former regulators told Reuters that moving money between accounts and into crypto could have enabled Binance to shield funds from tax authorities in countries where it operates. The person with group-level knowledge of Binance said there was also another motivation: Zhao distrusted banks, once telling an interviewer of his concern that they could freeze his company’s accounts. So Binance turned cash into crypto, commingling customer funds and revenues in the process.


The new insights into Binance’s financial operations come as the company is facing civil charges from the CFTC of willful evasion of U.S. commodities laws by “intentionally structuring entities and transactions” to avoid U.S. regulations. The CFTC also alleged, without elaborating, that some of Binance’s corporate entities, including the Cayman holding firm, “have commingled funds.” Zhao called the charges “disappointing” and an “incomplete recitation of facts.” Binance is also under investigation by the Justice Department for suspected money laundering and sanctions violations, according to people familiar with the probe.


The CFTC declined to comment for this article, citing pending litigation, as did the SEC. The DOJ had no comment.


Binance has grown into a juggernaut in recent years, accounting for as much as 70% of world trading in cryptocurrencies. The company initially did business solely in crypto, enabling it to avoid the global banking system. But as Binance attracted more customers and hired more employees, its need for conventional bank accounts grew – to deposit the dollars it received from clients, to pay wages and other expenses, and to finance investments.


Silvergate, which specialised in serving the crypto industry, made this possible – until early March of this year, when the bank announced its closure after customers pulled deposits amid a wave of turmoil. The same month, New York’s chief financial regulator took over another crypto-friendly bank, Signature Bank, where Binance was also a client.


随着美国对加密行业的打击步伐加快,尚不清楚哪家银行将成为 Binance 业务的下一个关键。赵在推特上表示,他正在寻找新的银行合作伙伴。“当一扇门关闭时,其他门就会打开,”他在 3 月 27 日写道。路透社无法确定现在谁是币安的首席银行家。

错综复杂的网络

2017 年 7 月在上海推出交易所五个月后,赵告诉亚洲新闻媒体 Tech,Binance 没有银行合作伙伴,因为客户只将资金存入加密货币。“你处理法定货币的次数越多,(当局)就越能控制你,”赵说,他指的是传统货币。前雇员说,他使用个人信用卡来结算公司账单。


But the situation changed in 2018 when Binance sought to launch several local exchanges where customers could buy crypto with traditional currencies. Zhao dispatched his deputies to find banks and payment firms willing to accept Binance as a client. Chief among these deputies was Guangying Chen, the head of Binance’s back office. Chinese-born Chen was one of the few employees Zhao trusted with Binance’s finances, former executives said. Chen did not respond to questions about her role.


Binance had limited success obtaining bank accounts for its small local units, however. Most major banks turned the exchange down due to compliance concerns over crypto companies’ source of funds, according to company messages and former executives.


Then Silvergate came to the rescue. In recent years, the small San Diego-based bank had shifted its focus from local real-estate lending to servicing crypto companies. It quickly became a leading provider of banking services to the crypto sector.


By 2019, Binance had opened a Silvergate account for its Cayman-based holding company, Binance Holdings Limited, to receive revenues earned by the exchange. The account was handled by Chen and a finance executive who reported to her, Susan Li, company records show. Li didn’t comment for this article.


Binance then opened two further Silvergate accounts: for Seychelles firm Key Vision Development and Cayman Islands-based Merit Peak, both incorporated on Jan. 15, 2019 and controlled by Zhao, according to filings and bank records. Binance’s online platform began instructing customers to “deposit” their dollars into the Key Vision account. After users transferred funds to Key Vision, they received an email from Binance telling them they had “successfully deposited” their dollars, according to screenshots posted online by traders. Users could also “withdraw” their deposits via Binance’s platform, which said it would wire the dollars to their bank accounts.


Binance Holdings, Key Vision and Merit Peak formed the core of the global crypto exchange’s financial network. But inside Binance, few employees had full visibility over their roles. Access to information about the Binance group’s overall finances and its bank accounts was tightly managed by Chen, a half-dozen former executives said. Chen’s team also had access to a Silvergate account belonging to Binance’s purportedly independent U.S. partner, Binance.US, which Zhao in fact controls, as Reuters has previously reported. Binance.US told Reuters that only Binance.US executives have access to its bank accounts.


Binance’s then-chief compliance officer, Samuel Lim, was concerned by the exchange’s dependence on Silvergate due to requirements that U.S. banks closely monitor clients’ transactions, company messages show. Lim told executives in a 2020 message seen by Reuters that “the long term fix is to reduce reliance on US bank.” The CFTC complaint in March charged Lim with aiding and abetting Binance in violating U.S. laws “through intentional conduct that undermined Binance’s compliance program.” Lim has not publicly responded to the charge and did not comment for this article.


The person with direct knowledge of Binance’s group finances said Zhao shared Lim’s distrust of banks and instructed the finance team to keep dollar balances in the Silvergate accounts as low as possible. Dollars in the Binance Holdings account and Key Vision customer funds account that were surplus to immediate business needs were transferred to the Merit Peak account, where they were commingled, the source said. Money from the Merit Peak account was then used to purchase Binance’s BUSD token, according to the source and company messages. BUSD and other “stablecoins” are backed by dollars and designed to hold a steady value.


Reuters couldn’t determine the value of BUSD tokens purchased in this way. But blockchain data show that between January 2020 and December 2021, BUSD’s issuer, New York-based Paxos Trust, transferred at least $18 billion of BUSD to Binance. Binance received the BUSD in at least two wallets that it has previously identified as its own, without saying whether they contain company or customer funds. A Paxos spokesperson said that between late 2019 and early 2023 Binance sent Paxos dollars in return for BUSD “for it and its customers.”


The money flow between Binance and Paxos also could be reversed, according to the person with group-level knowledge and company messages. When Key Vision needed dollars to meet customer withdrawals, for instance, Binance would redeem BUSD at Paxos, which in return would send dollars to Merit Peak’s Silvergate account. Merit Peak would then distribute the dollars to other accounts as needed.


The value of BUSD tokens in circulation peaked at over $23 billion last November, with Binance-controlled crypto wallets holding as much as 90% of the total, according to crypto data firm Nansen. But in February, New York regulators ordered Paxos to stop issuing BUSD, citing Paxos’ failures in risk assessments and due diligence checks.


The Paxos spokesperson said the company “voluntarily announced its intention to end its relationship with Binance and has been successfully winding down all business relationships with Binance since.”


Since Paxos stopped issuing BUSD, Binance has reduced its holdings of the coin to around $3 billion, according to Nansen. Reuters could not determine why Binance reduced these holdings or how it converted them.


Money from other sources also entered Merit Peak’s account, including hundreds of millions of dollars from a Binance.US account, Reuters has previously reported. Bank records show the Binance.US account was operated by Chen. Binance.US told Reuters Merit Peak “was withdrawing funds from its own account.” It didn’t respond to follow up questions.


据两位知情人士透露,Silvergate 告知币安,它将在 2021 年年中关闭 Key Vision 的账户。其中一位知情人士说,Silvergate 做出该决定的依据是 Key Vision 进行了对托管银行账户不当的交易,但未详细说明。那年 6 月,Binance 向用户发送电子邮件,告诉他们通过 Silvergate 进行的“美元存款”将“停止”。根据用户交易的来源和截图,币安随后开始使用 Signature Bank 的 Key Vision 账户接收客户资金。Signature Bank 未对本文发表评论。


Binance 发言人 Jaffe 表示,有关 Key Vision 账户的报道不准确,但没有提供更多细节。

波罗的海基地

Binance’s financial network also required a reliable euro bank account, former executives said. The exchange found a solution in Lithuania which provided a European Union base and a straightforward registration process. In May 2020, Binance set up the Lithuanian company, initially called Binance UAB, with Zhao as its sole shareholder and Chen as a board member. Binance later unveiled the firm, renamed as Bifinity, as its “official fiat-to-crypto payments provider.” Zhao installed Helen Hai, Binance’s China-born head of fiat operations, as president. Hai didn’t comment for this article.


In 2021, Bifinity had revenue of 680 million euros, according to its financial report, and paid over 420 million euros to a single unnamed related party. The person with direct knowledge of Binance’s group finances identified the unnamed party as Binance Holdings. Bifinity did not respond to questions from Reuters.


One consequence of Binance’s financial manoeuvring, four former Binance executives said, was to protect the exchange’s profits from tax authorities. Binance has never disclosed where its Binance.com trading platform is based nor what corporate taxes it pays and where.


To assess how much tax Binance pays, Reuters reviewed the exchange’s public filings since 2018 in countries where it has said it has significant operations. In France and Dubai, where Binance established hubs last year, local units have not detailed tax payments. France’s finance ministry declined to comment and Dubai didn’t comment. In Malta, where Binance said it was based for several years, its main local unit reported losses each year, so it paid no tax. Maltese authorities didn’t comment. The only significant tax payments Reuters found were in Lithuania, where in 2022 Bifinity paid 42.5 million euros, data from Lithuania’s tax authority show.


With the growth in Bifinity’s business came a higher profile. In July 2021, Lithuania’s central bank said it had warned Binance not to provide unlicensed investment services. Six months later the exchange appointed Saulius Galatiltis, who previously ran the central bank’s investment management department, as chief executive of Bifinity.


When Lithuania’s parliament debated a new bill to toughen rules for the country’s crypto companies last year, Galatiltis urged a parliamentary committee to avoid stricter legislation. He emphasised Bifinity’s tax payments, which last year made it one of Lithuania’s largest corporate taxpayers. “This business is global, in many countries all over the world,” Galatiltis told the committee, discussing Bifinity. “I think a business which acts globally and pays tax locally must be attractive to any country,” he said. Galatiltis didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.


议会最终投票通过了一套经过淡化的规则。立陶宛财政部告诉路透社,Bifinity 与其他机构和市场参与者一起参与了对该法律草案“提供意见和建议”的正式程序。“我们从不根据任何单一实体做出监管政策决定。”


仅适用于手机适用于平板电脑纵向向上适用于平板电脑风景适用适用于桌面适用适用于宽桌面适用

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/crypto-binance-money-idUSL8N37K1XB

Rating: 0
xc false
Slider: 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *