Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao has denied that Binance had acquired Indian crypto exchange WazirX. The denial comes after Indian authorities had taken action against the exchange as part of an AML probe.
Indian crypto exchange WazirX has been raided by the country’s Enforcement Directorate (ED), with authorities freezing about $8.1 million in funds as part of an AML investigation. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, meanwhile, has emphasized that Binance does not own any equity in WazirX’s parent company Zanmai Labs.
Zhao posted a tweet thread saying that it had never completed the transaction to acquire WazirX. He was referring to a blog post in Nov. 2019 that said that Binance had “acquired” WazirX.
The CEO said that Binance only provides wallet services for WazirX as a tech solution and a few other technical matters. He stated that WazirX alone was responsible for all other aspects of the exchange, including user registration, KYC, trading, and initiating withdrawals. Zhao ended the tweet thread by saying,
“Recent allegations about the operation of WazirX and how the platform is managed by Zanmai Labs are of deep concern to Binance. Binance collaborates with law enforcement agencies all around the world. We would be happy to work with ED in any way possible.”
However, the controversy has not ended with Zhao’s statements. WazirX founder Nischal Shetty posted his views a few hours after Zhao’s, saying bluntly that “WazirX was acquired by Binance.” He pointed to the Terms of Service of the exchange, and also said that “Binance owns the WazirX domain name,” “has root access of AWS servers,” “has all the crypto assets,” and “all the crypto profits.”
The primary issue that authorities have is that the exchange may have facilitated money laundering. It is one of India’s most popular crypto exchanges, and it’s unsurprising that India’s authorities are reviewing it. Officials in the country have been clamping down on what they consider could be wrongful activity in recent months.
The ED is conducting the investigation into non-banking financial companies and their fintech partners for “predatory lending practices in violation of the RBI guidelines and by using tele-callers who misuse personal data and use abusive language to extort high interest rates from the loan takers.”
This could be the start of a new crackdown in India. The government permits cryptocurrencies to exist, but taxes the asset class at a high rate and does not recognize it as a form of money. As such, some are worried that it will lead to a migration of talent outside the country.