JAN 2, 2024
Chinese authorities provide insight into conviction of RenrenBit founder
China has provided insights into the conviction of Zhao Dong, the influential crypto over-the-counter (OTC) trader and widely known founder of the RenrenBit crypto trading desk.
The ‘OTC King’
Last Wednesday, China’s Supreme Procuratorate disclosed that Zhao, known as the “OTC King,” was handed down a substantial prison sentence for engaging in illegal foreign exchange and crypto business operations. The case is emblematic of China’s persistent efforts to clamp down on cryptocurrency trading, even when conducted through less transparent channels like OTC desks, private chat groups and stablecoins.
In their comprehensive disclosure, the Chinese authorities outlined the meticulous investigation that led to Zhao Dong’s conviction. The focus was on tracing fund movements across Chinese bank accounts, overseas cash pools and the circulation of Tether and Bitcoin. Investigators honed in on accounts associated with Zhao Dong and the chat groups used for trading activities. Their arsenal included detailed bank records, WeChat conversations, testimonies from Zhao’s OTC agents and other documentary evidence.
The report highlighted that all defendants, including Zhao Dong, confessed to the process of collecting dirhams in cash in Dubai, paying RMB to the other party’s designated account, buying Tether with dirhams, and allowing the domestic gang to illegally sell it back for RMB.
Seven year sentence
In one of the alleged schemes, Zhao Dong purportedly orchestrated crypto-fiat trades between Dubai-based entities holding cash piles in United Arab Emirates (UAE) dirhams and Chinese contacts within the country. With numerous related recipients confirming that the funds Zhao received were payments from foreigners, the prosecution’s case was made so much stronger.
Zhao unsuccessfully argued during three public court hearings that his actions constituted digital currency transactions and not a breach of foreign exchange laws. The prosecution countered with evidence from the group’s chat records, emphasizing the nature of foreign exchange in their dealings. The court ultimately rendered a verdict, sentencing Zhao Dong to seven years in prison and imposing a 2.3 million Chinese yuan ($325,000) fine.
This conviction serves as a stark reminder of the stringent regulatory stance that China has adopted towards cryptocurrency trading. Zhao Dong was considered one of China’s most influential OTC crypto traders. He was a Bitfinex shareholder and founder of the D Fund venture capital fund. He established RenrenBit in August 2018, incorporating the company in Singapore.
The influential crypto trader is also believed to have been involved in assisting stablecoin-issuer Tether to launch its Tether Yuan product. However, once the authorities moved against him, RenrenBit was taken offline while Tether scrapped its pursuit of Tether Yuan. Despite his influence, Zhao has ultimately become a symbol of the government’s commitment to curbing such crypto trading activities within mainland China.
The outcome underscores the severity of China’s regulatory crackdown on cryptocurrency trading and sends a strong message to other players in the crypto space within the country.