Crypto Regulation Tightens in China with RenrenBit Founder’s Sentencing

ByGavin Cole

Dec 28, 2023

China’s Supreme Procuratorate has sentenced Zhao Dong, the founder of RenrenBit and a minor shareholder in Bitfinex, to a seven-year prison term. Zhao faced charges related to conducting illegal business operations and engaging in unauthorized foreign exchange trading.

Intensified Action Against Crypto OTC Markets

Zhao Dong, a notable figure in the OTC crypto market and a minor stakeholder in Bitfinex, has encountered legal repercussions as part of China’s escalating efforts to curb illegal cryptocurrency operations. 

His business endeavors in the cryptocurrency sphere have hit a roadblock following actions by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, focusing on crimes related to foreign exchange.

Zhao’s conviction is a critical element of a larger enforcement campaign by the Chinese authorities, showcasing their resolve in a series of eight significant cases. This campaign reflects the government’s dedication to rooting out illegal financial activities, especially those extending beyond national borders.

These cases encompass a spectrum of illegal activities, from deceptive foreign exchange dealings to elaborate financial schemes, highlighting the government’s rigorous approach against financial misconduct. 

In their pursuit of justice, Chinese officials have conducted thorough investigations, tracing complex financial networks and focusing primarily on accounts linked to these illicit activities.

The case against Zhao Dong was meticulously constructed, relying on substantial evidence including bank records, communication logs, confessions, and witness statements, demonstrating the government’s methodical approach in tackling financial crimes within the crypto space.

China Initiates Crackdown on Sophisticated Financial Crimes

China’s recent crackdown on foreign exchange crimes is shedding light on the evolving and complex methods used by criminals in this space. Perpetrators are increasingly adopting intricate techniques, such as “counter-attacking” models.

These involve the independent movement of domestic and foreign funds in a manner designed to evade the watchful eyes of regulatory authorities.

A key challenge for law enforcement agencies arises from the use of virtual currencies and social media platforms in conducting these illegal financial activities. These modern tools provide criminals with new avenues to carry out their operations, making detection and regulation more challenging.

In response to these emerging trends, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, in collaboration with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, is reaffirming its commitment to uphold financial security.

Their joint efforts are directed towards creating a stringent enforcement environment that actively discourages and combats illegal cross-border financial activities. This proactive stance is part of a broader strategy to maintain the robustness and integrity of China’s financial system in the face of these new-age financial threats.

Uncovering Illicit Banking Operations Using Crypto in China

On December 24, there was a buzz on Chinese social media about the discovery of an illegal banking operation leveraging cryptocurrency to circumvent foreign exchange regulations. Xu Xiao, a representative from the Qingdao branch of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, shed light on the situation.

He explained that these underground banks were engaging in the purchase of virtual currencies, which were subsequently sold on international trading platforms. This process enabled them to illegally convert yuan into foreign currencies.

During their thorough investigation into these activities, authorities managed to confiscate digital currencies worth approximately $28,000, equivalent to 200,000 Chinese yuan. The seized assets included popular cryptocurrencies like Tether and Litecoin (LTC), among others. 

This elaborate scheme involved transferring funds totaling over $2.2 billion (or 15.8 billion Chinese yuan), which were distributed across more than a thousand bank accounts in 17 distinct regions.

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