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Changpeng Zhao: tech chief in the eye of the cryptocurrency storm

26 Jun 2022 By theguardian

Changpeng Zhao: tech chief in the eye of the cryptocurrency storm

Changpeng Zhao does not like ambiguous words. Which is just as well: the crypto industry, in which he is a leading figure, is in turmoil and crying out for clarity.

Binance was forced to suspend its bitcoin business on 13 June for a few hours. On the same day, a major crypto lender, Celsius, also paused withdrawals. Then a big crypto hedge fund admitted it was in trouble. Finally, last Saturday, in a symbolic moment, bitcoin fell below $20,000. The cornerstone of crypto has lost more than half its value this year, leaving both professional and amateur investors nursing steep losses.

It was there that he was drawn into a conversation about bitcoin during a poker game in 2013. Binance was founded four years later.

Binance makes money by connecting buyers with sellers, for a fee. It provides an exchange for a range of currencies, from bitcoin to dogecoin and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The company also offers to store those assets in a crypto wallet, and there is a range of financial products, including derivatives. It has 120 million customers globally and processes $1tn worth of trades a month, with Italy and France among the countries it is allowed to operate in, although customers can access it through the unregulated, offshore binance.com platform.

Some of the other questions over Binance are more serious. Reuters published a report in June that alleged it had served as a conduit for the laundering of at least $2.35bn in illicit funds from hacks, investment frauds and illegal drug sales.

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