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article imageOp-Ed: Many questions arising about cryptocoin tether and Bitfinex

By Ken Hanly     Jan 19, 2018 in Technology
Hong Kong - Suspicions about the relationship of the exchange Bitfinex and the cryptocoin tether continue to increase as Tether Holdings issues more and more tethers.
As tethers are pegged to the US dollar they were spared the recent cryptocoin downturn
As a recent DIgital Journal article explains, as the tether(USDT) is pegged to the US dollar and also said to be backed by holdings of one US dollar for each tether its price was only minimally effected by the cryptocoin meltdown. Indeed many probably traded for tethers to use as a stable store of value equal to the US dollar and the price of tether increased slightly.
Hundred of millions of new tethers are being issued
There are growing suspicions that tether is not backed by one US dollar for each tether. These suspicions are increasing as the number of tethers in circulation has vastly increased with no new audits published.
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According @TetherPrinter a Twitter account tracking the issuance of tether, $400 million US dollars worth of tethers has been issued in just the last four days.
The Paradise papers leaked to the public in 2017, have shown that Tether and Bitfinex are essentially sister companies with overlapping ownership.
Unlike some cryptocoins that have just so many coins already issued or those such as bitcoin that must be mined, tethers are simply issued by Tether Holdings just as a central bank would do. However, the tethers are not backed by a government and laws that make it legal tender. However, it is claimed that each tether is backed by a US dollar.
The problem is that there is no proof of this as there has been no published audit, just a memo for internal use. The last audit of tether was in March 2017. This showed a discrepancy of nearly a million dollars between Tether's US dollar holdings and the amount of tethers (USDT) in circulation.
A recent tweet by a critic of Tether Bitnexed says: "Two billion Tethers, an increase of 1 Billion or so since December. Zero audits.Imagine how bad crypto-crash would have been without them doubling their counterfeiting." Many critics think that the market is being manipulated, as every time a large number of tethers are issued money pours into bitcoin pumping up its price.
Tether Holdings is incorporated in British VIrgin Islands, Tether in Hong Kong
As Bloomberg reports Tether Holdings is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands(BVI). BVI is well known as a tax haven and for favorable tax laws.
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If you check Tether's website you will see it is incorporated in Hong Kong. Bitfinex is owned by Ifinex both of which are also in Hong Kong. The website domain for Tether is .to which is owned by Tonga!
Although Tether is in Hong Kong, the legal basis for the user contract with Tether is based upon law in the British Virgin Islands: Governing Law: These Terms of Service shall be governed by and construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the British Virgin Islands, and shall be interpreted in all respects as a British Virgin Islands contract. Any claim or action arising from or related to these Terms of Service shall be governed by and construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the British Virgin Islands. For the avoidance of doubt, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, this provision expressly applies to any tort claim against Tether.
Tether's Taiwanese banks and Wells Fargo have severed relations with the firm
In April last year Bitfinex announced that it could no longer let users withdraw their funds in US dollars as Wells Fargo cut off its wire transfers. Bitfinex and Tether both sued Wells Fargo but dropped the suit a few days after. Many users bought bitcoins on Bitfinex in order to move them to other exchanges where they could turn them into dollars. As a result, the price of bitcoins on Bitfinex were about one hundred dollars higher than on other exchanges.
Shortly after, the Taiwanese banks Bitfinex dealt with also cut off any wire transfers. Since then Bitfinex has moved between a series of banks in different countries but has not disclosed to its customers where their money is now deposited.
In spite of all this, so far Kraken, a prominent exchange, has a pairing of USDT with US dollars so that tethers (USDT) can be converted to dollars there, but you must pay a premium.
The situation looks ominous. Should both Bitfinex and Tether fail there could be a humongous drop in the price of cryptocurrencies although a somewhat similar situation happened when the huge Japanese bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox failed in 2014. Bitcoin and other cryptocoins ultimately recovered.
The prominent cryptocoin lending platform Bitconnect has closed down. As discussed on the appended video, it was a very shady operation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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