Crypto Crime Cartel: How Roger Ver-led BCH tried to corrupt Bitcoin

We have been relentlessly covering the Crypto Crime Cartel that is polluting the digital asset ecosystem and preventing it from realizing its potential as a technology that will transform society for the better. These are companies, together with the employees propping them, who are enabling, facilitating, tacitly supporting or in many cases being directly complicit in market manipulation, theft, fraud, and much worse.

We’ve seen law enforcement directly pursue employees who enable their companies to commit these crimes. Many have already been indicted and sued. There are many more for whom the chickens have yet to come home to roost.

While this Crypto Crime Cartel is far-reaching, the BCH network is becoming a regular feature in the emerging criminal scandals. Perhaps more than the other criminals we have been reporting on, the BCH cartel, led by Roger Ver, has driven a relentless effort to corrupt Bitcoin and pass off their own bastardized imitations as the real implementation of the Bitcoin whitepaper.

But the world being built by BCH could not be further from that envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto and the huge numbers of good-faith digital asset market participants who want to see a Bitcoin that is scalable, useable and most importantly, that falls within the boundaries of the law and does not give cover to drug dealers and paedophiles.

This particular corner of the crypto crime cartel has many enablers. This means that not only is there a slate of figureheads on the chopping block for the next round of arrests and lawsuits, but a whole network of employees that are—unwittingly or not—facilitating the criminal enterprises of their bosses and clients. The U.S. RICO Act allows law enforcement to prosecute all members of a criminal enterprise, and though the Act was originally designed to go after Mafia-styled organisations, there’s no reason that the Act cannot apply to any kind of criminal enterprise. Crucially, there is an argument to be made that anyone using digital asset networks as a means of enabling or facilitating certain kinds of crimes—money laundering, wire fraud, and so on—is engaging in a criminal enterprise under the RICO Act and can be imprisoned for up to 20 years for each charge.

Thankfully, this means that law enforcement can now pursue those responsible and who are operating under the mistaken assumption that they are outside the reach of the law.

BCH versus the law

In the first article in our Crypto Crime Cartel series, we invited everyone to pay attention to which people and companies are attacking Dr. Craig Wright and Bitcoin SV, and notice a near-perfect overlap between a list of those people and a list of the actors within the digital asset ecosystem that are aiding and abetting criminals looking to use blockchain technology as a means of committing and concealing crime. There is no more direct or outspoken opponent to Dr. Craig Wright and Bitcoin SV than BCH Cartel and the people surrounding it, and few with more to lose once the true Bitcoin is understood and regulated by lawmakers around the world. 

In 2018, BCH was forced to split as two camps emerged within the BCH community: one was led by Roger Ver and others, who were insistent that BCH should inherit BTC’s failures in living up to the Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper, and those led by Dr. Wright, who was for continuing down the original vision set out in the whitepaper which was to be preserved. Any deviation from that vision was not Bitcoin, and shouldn’t be able to pass itself off as such. BCH is an airdropped new token from a protocol the Ver-Bitmain-ABC cartel made up that just stole the BCH trading symbol due to hash manipulation and corrupt exchange complicity.

Since the November 2018 hash war, Bitcoin SV has focused on restoring the original vision for the Bitcoin protocol as set out in the whitepaper; BCH protocol developers have been focused on how to carve out an anonymous space for criminal activity and untraceable transactions. The extent to which BCH deviates from the original vision is usually the extent to which BCH is a haven for criminals. The two could not be more diametrically opposed: BCH is not able to allow Bitcoin SV to exist, because Bitcoin SV stands for everything BCH seeks to dismantle.

Depressingly, the likes of Ver and others in this cartel have made some headway in their quest to supress Bitcoin, thanks to the cryptocurrency exchanges that exist within their sphere of influence.

It started with Ver-funded Binance in April 2019, who announced via blog that they were delisting BSV. Other than a vague reference to factors that are taken into account when delisting currencies generally, there was no explanation. There certainly wasn’t any justification for blacklisting one of the largest digital assets by market capitalization, while continuing to list a revolving door of new coins that are inevitably gone within months.

Shortly after, the Kraken exchange (also funded by Ver) posted a very balanced poll to its Twitter, asking users whether BSV should be delisted, with a light nudge to its users in having the top option simply be ‘Yes, it’s toxic’. Kraken followed through shortly afterwards.

BCH’s top target for law enforcement

The ideological divide between Bitcoin SV and BCH can be seen in the protocol underpinning BCH, but it can also be seen by looking at those at the top of BCH. These are people who have either done time already, are currently under investigation or are about to be. These people, and the organizations they run, are actively working against Bitcoin by desperately holding onto the idea that blockchain technology and Bitcoin can be used to facilitate and conceal crime.

Roger Ver: crime is a feature not a bug

Roger Ver is a well-known figure within the digital asset world, having rubbed shoulders with many of its more infamous characters. While Ver likes to portray himself as an impartial Bitcoin evangelist, the reality is that he is the money man behind many industry giants and an open enabler of deploying blockchain technology to help criminals obscure the most heinous crimes. Anyone standing in opposition to that goal will find themselves in the crosshairs of Ver’s network soon enough.

Ver’s bent toward criminality predates his involvement in Bitcoin by some years. He was jailed for 10 months in 2002 after pleading guilty to selling explosives online, so there’s no need to speculate where Ver’s intentions for Bitcoin lie. Even if there was, Ver is open about the topic. As recently as July, when Ver joined Unbounded Capital for a podcast on liberty, he expressed the opinion that compliance is just a matter of ‘all these regulations are just strangers threatening peaceful people with guns—and that’s not okay’ and that the best way to hide illegal transactions is to mix them with legitimate ones.

Again, no need to speculate on the purpose of Ver’s early investment in a number of exchanges, some of which are already being investigated for market manipulation and money laundering. Ver was a founding investor in Binance, who you may remember has been exposed as the single biggest recipient of illegal BTC in 2019 and are now likely next in line after BitMEX to draw the attention of law enforcement.

He was also apparently on-hand to do damage control after the Mt Gox disaster at the company’s offices in Tokyo, according to this first-hand account from Kraken founder Jesse Powell. Just what went on at Mt Gox is still unclear, which is shocking considering the scale of customer losses and the apparently credible notion that Mt Gox was stealing and misappropriating customer funds for years before the ‘hack’. Even short of outright theft, the widespread market manipulation taking place on Mt Gox before its closure is well-researched.

Here he is counselling convicted paedophile Russ Medlin about the BitClub Ponzi scheme:

Earlier this year, five BitClub employees, including CEO Russ Medlin, were arrested for their parts in the scheme, which was used to defraud $722 million from investors, according to the indictments. Rumours have persisted about BitClub’s role in the November 2018 Hash War against Bitcoin SV, and Ver was clearly invested in BitClub around that time, having apparently been forced at one point to delete a tweet indicating that BitClub was the Ponzi scheme it eventually turned out to be.

YouTube video

And this is why it matters that someone like Roger Ver feels comfortable coordinating a massive attack on Dr. Wright, Bitcoin SV and the pro-regulation message they represent. It’s no coincidence that the people and companies within Ver’s sphere of influence are being rounded up by regulators and law enforcement agencies, and are in many cases the same organizations colluding to delist Bitcoin SV shortly after the November 2018 split. The alleged money laundering and market manipulation taking place on platforms like BitMEX and Binance is a feature, not a bug, of Ver, BCH and the other Bitcoin imitators that are liable to appear from time to time. For Ver et al, the trick lies in convincing the world that Bitcoin was intended as a shelter for criminals, and the more a digital asset fits that description, the closer it is to the ‘true’ Bitcoin.

Put another way, the more likely a protocol is to allow Roger Ver to sell explosives over the internet without detection, the more likely Roger Ver is to support it.

That he would offer this model under the guise of Bitcoin is as nonsensical as it is audacious: Ver runs which passes itself off as a place to buy Bitcoin, but is in reality designed to funnel people who don’t know better into purchasing BCH.

Jihan Wu: Criminal enabler

Jihan Wu is the founder of Bitmain, a bitcoin mining company based in Beijing. Under Wu, Bitmain has been a political entity in the digital asset world, publicly backing the ABC protocol developers in the BCH hash war and reportedly activating up to 150,000 new mining rigs to support that effort. As the operator of mining pools that have been reported to account for half of all Bitcoin mining and the one-time owner of at least 5% of all BCH in circulation, Bitmain’s influence is real and far from impartial.

Wu has already been sued for his role in the BCH cartel, along with Bitmain itself and Roger Ver, for an alleged ‘scheme by a tight knot network of individuals and organisations to manipulate the cryptocurrency market for Bitcoin Cash’.  It concerns the period in time where BCH and Bitcoin SV were splitting their protocol implementations, where the lawsuit says Ver, Wu and others in the BCH community (including Amaury Séchet) conspired to unfairly redirect hashing power to force the network to implement ABC rather than Bitcoin SV.

As promised, where there is a conspiracy to defraud the digital asset community, attacks on Bitcoin SV are never far behind. Wu, too, has denigrated Dr. Wright, and unsurprisingly his attacks reached a fever pitch when BCH ABC camp was splitting away to copy Bitcoin. At this time, Wu’s attacks on Wright ranged from the predictable (Wu defaming Wright in the same way that got Ver sued) to the insane (Wu once said that he believed Wright to be a double agent working for Blockstream).

BCH lead devs – Peter Rizun and Amaury Séchet

Amaury Séchet and Peter Rizun are key developers in the BCH community. Séchet is the lead developer for the Bitcoin ABC client, while Rizun is the chief scientist for Bitcoin Unlimited. Séchet was one of those sued alongside Ver and Wu in the Bitmain litigation.

Ignoring everything else, it is worth making the point once more that law enforcement will pursue members of criminal enterprises no matter the role or level of seniority within that enterprise—and remember, under RICO, law enforcement may view the entirety of a network—like BCH—and the enterprise being pursued. In that respect, Rizun and Séchet are every bit at risk as Ver and Wu.

Séchet has been a key driver of misinformation in BCH’s post-split attacks on BSV and Dr Wright. He’s a great example of how this strategy has been coordinated from the BCH community in an effort to pass itself off as the ‘real’ Bitcoin over Bitcoin SV—not long after the November 2018 hash war, Séchet published a tweet claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto. There wasn’t much else to the claim, but the message was clear in that it was designed to undermine the efforts of Bitcoin SV to implement Bitcoin as it was originally designed.

Private litigation still an option

It is a great thing that law enforcement is cracking down on these closely connected conspiracies between the criminals of the digital asset world. Before now, private litigation was the best hope toward stemming the flow of disinformation and anti-Bitcoin propaganda. Dr. Wright has been trying to haul the likes of Ver before the Court for months now, looking for any kind of redress toward the damage caused by the lies being spread about him and Bitcoin SV.

After Ver fled a defamation suit in the United Kingdom, Ver was granted citizenship in Antigua under the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program, qualifying for which requires a minimum investment of US$100,000. According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office in Antigua, Ver has already transferred ‘millions’ of dollars to a local bank.

A brand new defamation suit, filed by Wright in Antigua, was waiting for him.

Just why Ver moved to Antigua can only be guessed at. Given the amenability of the country toward foreign investment and a desire to build world-class digital asset infrastructure, this small Caribbean democracy might be considered vulnerable to ideological manipulation of the sort being targeted against BSV. Antigua has already shown which side it’s on by passing a comprehensive digital asset regime, demonstrating a commitment to a transparent and well-regulated digital economy—in line with the original conception of Bitcoin.

Whatever Ver’s motivations for establishing himself in Antigua, he has (probably inadvertently) now offered himself up to Wright and the lawsuit he escaped in the UK. Wright now has another venue in which to pursue a remedy for the denigrations made against him, and both Wright and Ver are undeniably tied to Antigua. The lawsuit filed in the UK hit a wall because the Court declined to find jurisdiction—the path to which will be easier now that both are citizens of Antigua. Presuming that is the case, we will finally see exactly how far Wright will go in arguing for damages. Might Wright try to connect the online attacks to the delistings? What other opportunities might BSV have missed out on by Ver’s command?

But again, it must be reiterated: the defamation question is a distraction. Whether Ver succumbs to this latest action is of less consequence than the broader battle to keep Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin intact. While Wright is likely to use the lawsuit to connect Ver’s slander to the delisting attacks against BSV and the damage he has suffered as a result, there are almost certainly more legal moves to come from Wright, who is posturing to assert his rights to the entirety of the Bitcoin network, including all branches and imitations that are based on it.

Time is running out for BCH

The attacks coming from the BCH cartel are the final desperation moves of a criminal enterprise trying to hold on to any illusions of legitimacy still open to it. The technical case for the true Bitcoin is inescapable: put simply, it scales, and does so in a way that embraces regulation. Both of these factors are critical for enterprise uptake. Enterprises do not care about personalities fighting for headlines on Twitter and Reddit to try and legitimize themselves.

As Bitcoin SV continues to demonstrate its commitment to Bitcoin’s widespread adoption, its technical feats will speak for themselves.

Meanwhile, the Crypto Crime Cartel will continue to work within the ever-shrinking space where they feel themselves out of the law’s reach. As members of the cartel are brought before the courts, facing penalties of increasing severity, the fruitless disinformation campaign against Dr. Wright and Bitcoin SV will be seen for what it is: a shameful attempt to draw attention away from their own crimes and cheap imitation coins. Further, they have exposed themselves for what they are: grifters looking to dupe unsuspecting investors into buying ‘Bitcoin’ at best, or more likely, engaging in a pattern of criminal behaviour which is enabling drug traffickers, money launderers and child pornographers to conduct their business anonymously.

Learn more about the stream of groups that have turned the industry into a minefield for both naïve and experienced players in the market in CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series.

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