Business 10 August 2018

Ed Drake

Court orders Chinese trader to return crypto obtained by accident

A court in Beijing has ruled in favour of a cryptocurrency exchange in an action over a payment received in error, despite the payment violating the Chinese central bank’s ban on cryptocurrency transactions.

The judgement, released Thursday, upheld a prior decision of a district court earlier this year in respect of Li Jianfeng, a BTC trader who profited from BTC coins sent to him in error. According to the judgement, Li Jianfeng must now repay the exchange, even though the transaction fell afoul of the notably restrictive local laws around crypto transactions.

The situation arose as a result of bugs in the system at Chinese exchange Coinnice, which issued the tokens in error back in March 2017.

Per the documents submitted to the court, Li liquidated his position to the value of $6,100 before declining a request from Coinnice to return the funds once the error had been uncovered. This resulted in a lawsuit against Li, brought by Coinnice in a Beijing District Court.

Coinnice put forward the argument that Li had no right to the assets sent in error, and that he should be compelled to return them to the exchange. Having demonstrated the funds were sent to an address linked to Li, a user of their platform, the court ruled in the crypto exchange’s favour, citing the terms and conditions of the user agreement Li signed up to when joining the platform.

Li appealed the decision, on the grounds that Coinnice was operating in contravention of local cryptocurrency laws, as a crypto exchange based in China. While the ban, instigated by the People’s Bank of China, wasn’t in force at the time of the transaction, he argued that the demand for repayment to an essentially unlawful business was unsound.

In the latest ruling, the court dismissed this argument, upholding the position in China’s civil code which specifies that any individual making a profit without lawful grounds must return any assets unlawfully in their possession.

“In this case, whether or not Coinnice’s establishment as a bitcoin trading platform has violated relevant rules, does not have any impact on Li’s liability to return the profits he received with no legal basis. As such, the court denies his appeal and the decision is final,” according to the ruling.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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