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SEC Seeks Assistance from South Korea in Terraform Labs Investigation

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is ramping up its investigation into Terraform Labs and its co-founder, Do Kwon. In a recent development, the SEC has been granted a motion to seek assistance from South Korea to question Daniel Shin, co-founder of Terraform Labs. The move comes as the SEC builds its case against the firm and Kwon.

On August 16, District Judge Jed Rakoff granted the SEC’s July 10 motion asking for permission to question Shin and request documents from the Seoul-based payments provider Chai Corporation, which Shin founded—in its July filing, the SEC stated its intention to contest Shin about Kwon’s role at Chai, how Chai used the Terra blockchain, and Chai’s disclosures about its relationship with Terraform Labs. Additionally, the SEC seeks to understand why Chai and Terraform Labs separated. Chai was founded by Shin and Kwon in mid-2019 and shared offices and staff with Terraform until the two firms split in 2020.

Terraform Labs and Kwon did not oppose the SEC’s motion and included their questions and document requests. They have previously denied the SEC’s allegations. The SEC sued Terraform and Kwon in February, alleging that its now-collapsed cryptocurrencies TerraClassicUSD (USTC) and Terra Luna Classic (LUNC) — formerly Terra (LUNA) and TerraUSD (UST) — were fraudulent. The SEC they also accused Kwon and Terraform of falsely claiming that Chai used the Terra blockchain to process and settle transactions. According to the SEC, Terraform and Kwon faked transactions of its Korean won pegged stablecoin TerraKRW (KRT) to give the impression that Chai was using the blockchain.

Terra’s interconnected crypto ecosystem collapsed in May 2022, wiping out around $40 billion in value and affecting the broader crypto market. In April, South Korean prosecutors charged Shin with multiple fraud allegations, accusing him of hiding the risks of investing in Terraform’s cryptocurrencies.

Kwon is currently in Montenegro, serving a four-month sentence for attempting to leave the country with a fake Costa Rican passport. Alongside the SEC’s lawsuit, Kwon also faces criminal charges in both the U.S. and South Korea, with both countries requesting his extradition.

The ongoing investigation highlights the scrutiny faced by cryptocurrency firms as regulators around the world tighten their oversight of the industry. As the Terraform Labs case continues, it serves as a reminder of the potential risks and legal challenges associated with the fast-growing crypto sector.

 

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