Binance says does not hold stake in WazirX

Binance does not own any stake in Indian cryptocurrency exchange WazirX, the global crypto platform’s founder told ET on Friday.

This follows a money laundering investigation against Zanmai Labs – WazirX’s parent entity – by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED).

“Binance does not own any shares in Zanmai Labs, the entity operating WazirX and established by the original founders,” founder and chief executive Changpeng Zhao told ET in response to queries about the ED probe.

Binance is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world by volume.

“On November 21, 2019, Binance published a
blog post that it had “acquired” WazirX. This transaction was never completed. Binance has never – at any point – owned any shares of Zanmai Labs, the entity operating WazirX,” Zhao added.

Recent allegations about WazirX’s operations and how the platform was being managed by Zanmai Labs were of “deep concern” to Binance, he added.

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Nischal Shetty, founder and chief executive of WazirX, told ET that Binance had indeed acquired the crypto exchange two years ago.

“Zanmai Labs is a separate entity that has a licence from WazirX (owned by Binance) to operate INR/ Crypto pair on WazirX. Crypto-to-crypto transactions and withdrawals are being operated under Binance through their ownership of WazirX,” Shetty said.

He added that WazirX “is still owned by Binance.”

Zhao said Binance only provided wallet services for WazirX as “a technical solution”.

“There is also integration using off-chain transactions to save on network fees. WazirX is responsible and manages all other aspects of the WazirX exchange, including user sign-up, KYC (Know Your Customer) and trading,” he said.

The global crypto exchange collaborates with law enforcement agencies around the world, he said.

“We would be happy to work with ED in any way possible should they reach out to us,” Zhao added.

ED said on Friday that it had recently conducted searches on one of the directors of Zanmai Labs and had issued an order to
freeze its bank balance of Rs 64.67 crore.

According to the agency, WazirX had ‘actively’ helped around 16 fintech companies – which are under investigation on charges of money laundering – to divert their alleged proceeds of crime using the cryptocurrency route.

ED has also accused the exchange of having a complicated ownership structure.

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