Binance’s inability to hang onto payment processing partners and senior executives shows no sign of abating, while its bespoke blockchain is gaining a reputation for hosting malware.
Late last week, the Binance cryptocurrency exchange proudly announced that it was “expand[ing] freedom of money for European users,” which is a grandiose way of saying they finally found somebody new to handle EUR fiat deposits and withdrawals. That step was necessary due to Paysafe Payment Solutions—Binance’s former EUR partner—having halted Binance-based EUR transactions last month.
While Binance trumpeted having “signed agreements with a number of new regulated and authorized fiat partners,” it failed to identify these partners by name. Efforts by numerous users to query Binance via social media regarding the identities of these new partners have so far been met by crickets.
Binance’s habitual unwillingness to comply with financial regulations is having a notable impact on its ability to hold on to fiat payment partners on multiple continents. Recent headlines regarding the exchange’s flouting of economic sanctions against Russia, its role in facilitating terrorist funding, plus rumors of pending criminal charges in multiple jurisdictions, mean traditional finance types can’t put enough distance between themselves and Binance founder Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao.
Just one day after this EUR announcement, Binance warned users that it was halting its Visa-branded Binance Debit Card services in the European Economic Area as of December 20. In July, Visa (NASDAQ: V) announced it was calling time on its Binance-branded debit cards, with Mastercard (NASDAQ: MA) quickly following suit. This brought a halt to relationships that started in 2019, back when Binance’s disdain for the law wasn’t as obvious as it is today. Notably, neither card giant imposed similar penalties on ‘crypto’ firms not named Binance.
In emails to customers, Binance explained the shutdown was because “the Binance Visa Debit Card program, issued by UAB’ Finansinès paslaugos [Financial services],, Contis,’ part of the [Germany-based] Solaris Group, is closing in two months’ time.” The Contis entity is a Lithuania-based electronic money institution that was fined €180,000 ($191,126) in April by the Bank of Lithuania for violating capital requirements and improperly stored customer funds.
Specifically, Contis “kept not only clients’ but also partners’ funds in the same account” and “for some time, the institution did not regulate the process of protecting clients’ funds at all, and the internal documents prepared later in this area had fundamental shortcomings.” Contis also “submitted reports related to this area to the Bank of Lithuania late, and provided incorrect information in them.”
It’s unclear whether Contis voluntarily chose to end its Visa card program or whether Visa pulled the plug based on Contis’s own shortcomings and/or its ties to Binance. This summer, Binance shut down its Binance Connect service for unspecified “strategic reasons,” although others reported that it was due to its provider shuttering its card payments service.
Binance Connect was a rebranded version of Bifinity, which was itself a rebranded version of the Lithuania-based Binance UAB, which Binance incorporated in 2020 as its primary fiat-to-crypto on-ramp. The following year, the Bank of Lithuania issued a public warning that Binance UAB was offering unlicensed investment services, including futures, options, contracts for difference (CFD), and crypto-assets linked to securities.
Bifinity was later outed by Binance insiders as having handled nearly $7 billion in transactions on behalf of Binance while sending $6.3 billion to the CZ-controlled market-maker Merit Peak. Bifinity appeared to escape further scrutiny by the Bank of Lithuania by paying around $44 million in local taxes in 2022, making Bifinity the country’s second-largest corporate tax contributor.
In a 2022 interview with Bifinity’s then-CEO Saulius Galatiltis, he hyped the company’s tax contributions as all the more impressive given that “Bifinity employs a little less than 20 people.” Galatiltis explained that such a small outfit could handle such hefty volumes because “we outsource a lot of services.” In other words, it’s yet another hollow compliance fig leaf for Binance.
More recently, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sounded the alarm over Ceffu, the crypto custodial firm formerly known as Binance Custody. The SEC noted its concerns in a filing related to its civil suit against Binance, claiming that the U.S.-licensed Binance.US exchange was using Ceffu in violation of the SEC’s demand that no non-U.S. Binance entities or individuals have access to U.S. customer assets.
Binance: the Amityville Horror house telling you to GET OUT
The above discussion of Bifinity is related to last week’s news that its aforementioned CEO, Galatiltis, had resigned effective immediately. Galatiltis, a former Bank of Lithuania director, had been Bifinity’s CEO since January 2022. No reason was given for the abrupt departure, but a Bifinity spokesperson thanked Galatiltis for his “strong contributions” and wished him well in his future endeavors.
Given that Galatiltis’s departure was revealed the same day that Binance announced its new EUR fiat partners, one can be forgiven for thinking the two events aren’t entirely unrelated. Was Binance’s latest fiat workaround too dodgy for Galatiltis? Has Binance become so unwelcome with traditional banks that it’s been reduced to miscoding transactions, much like U.S.-facing online poker sites did in the 2000s?
Then again, Galatiltis is just the latest in a flurry of Binance executive departures, none of whom appear interested in being on the payroll when the criminal charges drop. The Galatiltis news came just one day after we learned that the executive director of Binance France, Stéphanie Cabossioras, was also triggering her ejector seat for unclear reasons.
Binance France president David Prinçay tweeted the obligatory ‘gosh it’s been swell and good luck with everything’ public praise of Cabossioras but otherwise offered no explanation for her departure. Cabossioras, who lasted 19 months at Binance France, previously served in a legal capacity at France’s financial watchdog Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), so perhaps she understood the regulatory blowback that is almost certainly in the pipeline.
Binance France has been touted as the bedrock of Binance’s plans to serve the entire European Union once the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation takes effect in June 2024. MiCA will allow digital asset exchanges to serve customers across the EU so long as they hold a license in a single EU jurisdiction and meet certain other requirements (like not breaking the law).
This masterplan was complicated this summer by the news that the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office had raided Binance’s local office as part of an “aggravated money laundering” probe. So, as with Galatiltis, the timing of Cabossioras’s departure leaves plenty of room for speculation.
And with the number of senior execs to have fled the Binance coop this year—many after relatively brief tenures—now reaching double-digits, you have to wonder what being elevated to the C-suite allows people to discover that they wished they didn’t know, such as what they might have to repeat to a prosecutor on the witness stand.
As luck would have it, Monday saw Disruption Banking revisit its 2021 exposé of Binance’s futile attempt a few years ago to run its compliance theater game on U.K. regulators. That debacle showed Binance willing to hire a journalist for their £160,000 ($169,890)/year’ senior regulatory advisor’ position, despite his having submitted a fake resume that showed no compliance experience whatsoever.
A very stable genius plan
Sticking with Binance France for a moment, its legal director, Marina Pathuisot, was quoted last month saying Binance would be forced to delist all stablecoins in Europe as of June 30, 2024. This was due to the EU having yet to indicate which (if any) stablecoins it intends to allow under the MiCA rules. Pathuisot claimed this “could have a significant impact on the market in Europe compared to the rest of the world.”
But CZ almost immediately undercut this view, tweeting that Pathuisot’s words were the result of “a question taken out of context.” CZ added that “we have a couple of partners launching EUR and other stable coins [sic], in fully compliant manners of course.”
Leaving aside CZ’s eye-rolling compliance claims, his discussion of new EUR stablecoins could be enough to give any Binance senior executive pause, given the launch in July of FDUSD, a sketchy new U.S.-dollar stablecoin, that CZ immediately granted zero-fee trading status on his exchange. This was a perk previously enjoyed only by the likes of USDT (Tether) and BUSD, before CZ had a falling out with the former and a regulatory harpoon took down the latter.
FDUSD’s market cap currently stands around $481 million, up from just $10m in July. On Monday, FDUSD’s 24-hour trading volume hit a new high of $3.25 billion, meaning every single FDUSD is changing hands over six times daily. All but a fraction of these trades occur on Binance and all but $440 million or so is matched with the BTC token. So if you’re wondering why BTC’s fiat price has been on a tear over the past week, thank your friendly neighborhood wash trader.
Update this scam to view content
We close with the Binance Smart Chain (BSC), the in-house blockchain that has proven popular with hackers, rug-pullers, and other scams. Not content with those laurels, BSC has now staked out a reputation as the new home for hosting malware that can’t be removed by law enforcement agencies.
In a report issued last week, KrebsOnSecurity said blockchain technology is putting a fresh twist on an old scam: hacked WordPress sites that inform visitors they need to update their browsers to access content. Those foolish enough to click the ‘update’ button provided by the site find their devices flooded with malware, and the criminal hijinks begin in earnest.
This month, Tel Aviv-based Guardio announced that a version of this scam (known as ClearFake) was now storing its malicious files as smart contracts on BSC. Scammers previously stored malware on services such as Cloudflare, but authorities can demand that these services expunge malware files. It’s another thing issuing a takedown request/order to Binance, which doesn’t acknowledge any jurisdiction or authority as having the power to tell it what to do.
A Binance spokesperson told KrebsOnSecurity that it’s aware of the problem and has developed a model “to proactively identify and mitigate potential threats before they can cause harm.” But as we’ve seen with Binance’s history of ignoring known terrorists transacting on its platform, Binance only acts proactively after someone else points out the problem. Even then, it’s not a guarantee that they’ll do anything more than issue a ‘we got this, move along’ PR statement.
Besides, the guy Binance put in charge of leading this threat-mitigation program probably quit the next day.
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