Business 8 June 2018

Gerald Fenech

Margin trading lands South Korea’s Coinone in hot water

Authorities in South Korea are reportedly preparing to charge cryptocurrency exchange Coinone over its margin trading services, which investigators said is used by the platform to provide illegal gambling services.

South Korea’s CyberCrime Investigation Police have long been looking into the allegations against Coinone over the margin trading issue. The exchange is the third largest one in the country with a volume of around $34 million at time of writing, placing it behind UpBit and Bithumb.

Police are recommending that the prosecutor’s office charge three of the exchange’s executives, including CEO Chae Myung-hoon, along with 20 of Coinone’s high-volume users who reportedly handled over KRW3 billion (US$2.8 million) in margin trades. Chae will be charged with providing illegal gambling services whilst the users will be charged with illegal gambling.

In a statement, the South Korean Cybercrime Unit said: “The police concluded that the ‘margin trading’ service of the virtual currency exchange is gambling. The case was the first investigation related to the operation of a virtual currency exchange and it took considerable time to review the law,”

Coinone and its executives have been accused of providing gambling services in cryptocurrencies through a margin trading program, which began in November 2016 and went on until December 2017. According to media reports, the exchange allowed its members to trade up to four times the amount of the deposit (or margin) and to pay commission in exchange for the transactions—very similar to an online casino.

The investigation found that around 19,000 Coinone users aged between 20 and 50 had been using the exchange’s margin trading service before it was shut down. Coinone denied the charges. In an interview with Yonhap, a firm’s staffer said the product had been reviewed by lawyers prior to its launch, and it was found to be within the law since the site didn’t receive a proportional cut of the customers’ margin trades.

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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