Mar 29, 2023
US, South Korea Seek Extradition of Crypto Fugitive Do Kwon
(Bloomberg) -- A judge will decide whether Do Kwon will be extradited to the US or South Korea, Montenegro’s justice minister said, but the Terraform Labs co-founder may first have to serve time in the Balkan state if he’s convicted of traveling on fake documents.
Kwon is wanted by the US in a case of alleged fraud that wiped out at least $40 billion in market value with the collapse of Terraform’s TerraUSD stablecoin, which shook crypto markets last spring.
“Consideration will be given to the gravity of crimes, the location of committed offenses, the sequence of requests, as well as the citizenship” of the suspects, Montenegrin Justice Minister Marko Kovac said in the capital Podgorica on Wednesday.
Kwon and Terraform’s chief financial officer, Han Chang-joon, were arrested on March 23 in the former Yugoslav republic as they tried to fly to Dubai using falsified travel documents, authorities have said.
Kwon’s lawyer, Vojislav Zecevic, said his client maintains his innocence and denies traveling on forged documents.
If he’s convicted in Montenegro of doing so, “that suits my client perfectly,” Zecevic said by phone, without elaborating.
Billed as an instrument that would maintain a value of $1 per token via a mix of algorithms and trader incentives involving its free-floating partner token Luna, Terra was advertised as a haven of volatility in the broader crypto market.
Both Luna and Terra unraveled last May, rippling across the crypto sector and contributing to the failures of firms like Three Arrows Capital, Voyager Digital, and, most prominently, FTX and its affiliated trading firm, Alameda Research.
The US attorney in Manhattan has indicted Kwon on fraud charges that include deceiving investors about aspects of the Terra blockchain, making false and misleading statements, and engaging in market manipulation to alter the market price of TerraUSD.
If he’s sent to New York, the 31-year-old Kwon will be facing prosecution by the same office overseeing a criminal case against another major figure in the crypto world, FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who was himself extradited from the Bahamas.
South Korean authorities have been searching for Kwon since September, when they issued an arrest warrant on allegations including illegal market activity. Last month, they said they were looking for him in Montenegro’s Balkan neighbor Serbia.
Kwon will remain in quarantine under Montenegrin Covid-19 protocols until April 3 and can visited only by his lawyer or doctor during that period. He and Han are under investigative detention that lasts up to 30 days.
(Updates with comments from Kwon’s lawyer starting in sixth paragraph.)
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