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Vitalik Buterin Confirms Ethereum’s Merge Could Happen in August

Arguably the most anticipated event in Ethereum’s 7-year-old history could come in the next few months, asserted the project’s co-founder as well as a couple of core ETH developers. This should happen before the “difficulty bomb” slows down the network.

  • Speaking at a panel during the Permissionless conference, ETH core developer Preston Van Loon noted that The Merge could occur sometime in August:

“As far as we know, if everything goes to plan, August – it just makes sense. If we don’t have to move (the difficulty bomb), let’s do it as soon as we can.”

  • The difficulty bomb is an intentional process embedded into Ethereum’s code that will eventually slow down the network. The dev team incorporated it for two main reasons – to encourage developers to push the proof of stake transition and make it harder for miners to remain on the proof of work chain following the event.
  • Although the difficulty bomb has been postponed several times in the past to make sure the network continues to function correctly, the team wants to avoid another delay this time and complete The Merge before the blockchain slows down.
  • Previously, another developer – Tim Beiko – said The Merge will not happen in June as expected, but it will most likely occur a few months later.
  • Further echoing Van Loon’s encouraging words, ETH researcher Justin Drake made a similar prediction, saying he had a “strong desire to make this happen before difficulty bomb in August.”
  • Vitalik Buterin also reiterated this stance during the ETH Shanghai Summit but also gave more room for potential hiccups, saying The Merge could be in September or October.
  • The Ethereum blockchain marked a new milestone on its way to PoS recently as the Ropsten public testnet was announced to complete The Merge in early June.
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Bitcoin Retests $30K as Ripple Spikes 6% Daily (Market Watch)

After a few more days spent underneath the $30,000 line, bitcoin finally jumped above it and even challenged $31,000 earlier. Most altcoins are also slightly in the green today, with XRP standing out as the most impressive gainer from the larger-cap ones.

BTC Touched $30K

The cryptocurrency market has not been in a bullish state for months, but the situation worsened last week when BTC dumped by $15,000 at one point to its lowest position since December 2020 at $25,300.

The asset recovered some ground and briefly exceeded $31,000 days later. This was short-lived, though, as the bears returned to the scene and drove it south once more. Thus, bitcoin spent the majority of the next several days below $30,000, as reported.

It even dipped to $28,500 yesterday, following reports about massive BTC quantities being deposited to exchanges. Nevertheless, the bulls stepped up at this point and reversed bitcoin’s trajectory.

In a matter of hours, the asset spiked beyond $30,000 and neared $31,000. Despite failing there, bitcoin still trades above $30,000, and its market capitalization stands at $575 billion. Moreover, its dominance over the altcoins has increased to roughly 45%.

BTCUSD. Source: TradingView
BTCUSD. Source: TradingView

XRP Leads the Way, ETH Taps $2K

Ethereum also suffered quite badly during the most recent correction and went from $3,000 to $1,700 in days. Similar to BTC, it bounced off at that point and reclaimed $2,000 days later.

However, it fell below that coveted mark on Wednesday and remained there for the most part. Now, though, a 4% daily increase has pushed the second-largest crypto to just above $2,000.

Binance Coin is also north of $300 after a minor daily jump. Similar increases are evident from Cardano, Solana, Polkadot, Dogecoin, Avalanche, Tron, Shiba Inu, and Litecoin.

Ripple has gained the most from the larger-cap alts with a 5.5% increase, which has pushed XRP to above $0.4. ATOM, ICP, UNI, and TFUEL are among the most notable gainers from the lower-cap altcoins.

The crypto market capitalization has neared $1.3 trillion following a $50 billion daily increase.

Cryptocurrency Market Overview. Source: Quantify Crypto
Cryptocurrency Market Overview. Source: Quantify Crypto
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Swiss Asset Manager Vowed to Launch DeFi Services Within 3 Years

Julius Baer Group – the Swiss private bank with over $110 billion in AUM as of 2021 –  revealed that it will offer digital asset services to high-ended clients. A pilot program has been currently installed to test token booking, trading, and compliance. The group will integrate cryptocurrencies into its wealth management services by first offering relevant advice and research to its targeted clients.

Digital Assets as Centric to its Prospective Strategy

In a presentation explaining its future strategy to investors, the bank’s CEO Philipp Rickenbacher compared the current turmoil of the crypto market to the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s. Considering the commercial use of the Internet soon taking off in the wake of the burst, the CEO outlined a similar path ahead of the innovation in cryptocurrency:

“It paved the way for the emergence of a new sector that indeed transformed our lives; I believe digital assets and decentralized finance hold that same potential,”

In the strategy plan focusing on the cycle from 2023 to 2025, Rickenbacher highlighted that the firm will keep a close eye on the rise of digital assets and explore what opportunities the sector could present. As the company aimed to position itself as the intersection of “digital assets and the fiat world,” the CEO confirmed that it would dive into the DeFi space as well:

“Integrating digital assets into its holistic wealth management proposition will position Julius Baer firmly at the interface of digital assets and the fiat world. The Group is well-prepared to successfully navigate both its clients and its business through the disruptions decentralised finance will inevitably pose.”

Rickenbacher expressed a bullish outlook of DeFi, as he stated that the sector could potentially disrupt the “traditional cost-heavy and complex parts of the old banking system.”

SEBA Crypto AG

Back in 2019, Julius Baer already tapped Switzerland-based SEBA Crypto AG to provide its clients with access to services in digital assets. As indicated in the announcement, Baer stated that it believed bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies would become a legitimate asset class for investors’ portfolios.

Through this partnership, Baer noted at the time that it would extend its service range in providing storage, transaction, and investment solutions for digital assets.

Featured Image Courtesy of FT

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a16z Launches a $600 Million Game Fund Backed by Roblox and Blizzard

Renowned VC firm – Andreessen Horowitz (known as “a16z”) – announced launching a $600 million fund, GAMES FUND ON, dedicated to investing in the gaming industry. It has garnered support from industry leaders, including the founders and cofounders of Roblox, Blizzard, Riot Games, Discord, Twitch, and more, for building the next generation of digital games.

a16z’s Game Endeavors

The leading VC firm a16z said the latest move is based on the belief that games are “driving innovation” across the consumer ecosystem and the “pivotal point” of the next century.

Considering that giants like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Minecraft, are generating billions of dollars in revenue each year, a16z believes the Metaverse powered by game infrastructures and technologies can potentially challenge the $300 billion game industry.

The firm’s release has outlined that the fund will go to promising game studios, consumer companies built around player communities, and infrastructure tools and services vital for upcoming games and the Metaverse. In addition, the fund will help its portfolio companies, from building communities to managing virtual economies, IP licensing and building dev teams.

Seeing GAMES FUND ONE as “nearly a decade in the making,” the VC firm recalled its game endeavors began in the 2010s by backing companies like Zynga and Oculus, stating its firm belief in the industry has only been stronger.

“All of this has cemented our belief that games require a specialized focus–not just in dedicated investing capital, but also in operational prowess that’s as unique and forward-thinking as the games industry itself.”

A New Crypto Research Unit Focused on Web3

Last month, the VC firm created a Web3-focused crypto research team, claiming that such applications can “uncover fresh research challenges that are fundamental to how this technological movement will play out.”

The team saw the lab as a research center dedicated to solving problems in the Web3 space and moving to advance the science and technology of the next generation of the Internet.

As reported by CryptoPotato several months ago, a16z, amongst the leading venture capital companies investing in all sorts of crypto and tech-related projects, raised $9 billion to double down on its involvement in the sector.

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Indian Crypto Industry Reps Call for Reduction in Certain Taxation Rules

The call for reducing Tax Deduction at Source (TDS) on crypto transactions is intensifying among the crypto ecosystem players in India. A TDS of 1% on virtual digital assets has been approved by the Union budget 2022-23. Terming this too high as it can drive traders away from the market and hurt volumes, industry representatives are demanding to bring it down in the range of 0.01% to 0.05%. 

Unocoin, CoinDCX CEOs Call for TDS Reduction

Sathvik Vishwanath, co-founder and CEO of one of the oldest Indian crypto exchanges, Unocoin (2013), on Tuesday, said in a tweet, “I am nowadays meeting traders who are leaving India just because they cannot tolerate TDS. Govt is not going to achieve revenue this way. Even for Govt, it should be a volume game.”

Last week, Sumit Gupta, co-founder and CEO of CoinDCX, now the highest valued crypto startup in India, said:

“At the industry, we are engaging with the government and have submitted a presentation on how 30% tax and more than that, 1% TDS is detrimental to the growth of the industry. It will lock up capital for traders and suck liquidity from the market. If liquidity is not there, retail investors will suffer.”

Meanwhile, the government is planning a tougher tax environment for crypto businesses. Last week, media reports suggested that Indian tax authorities are planning to put crypto activities under the highest 28% GST slab, usually reserved for non-essential and luxury activities such as betting, gambling, and horse racing.   

“We will try to make it simple at our end but we still continue to engage and keep the dialogue open with the government asking them to bring down TDS to 0.01 or 0.05 percent. Income Tax of 30 percent is also on the higher side, which we are requesting them to bring down,” Gupta added.

Income Tax, TDS on Crypto Activities

The Budget 2022-23 brought much-needed clarity about taxes on crypto profits and transactions. A 30% capital gains tax is levied on profits made on crypto transactions without the provision to offset losses. The tax rate is the same as applicable to income from speculative transactions such as horse racing. 

It also proposed 1% TDS on payments above Rs 10,000 (Appr. $125) made for the acquisition of virtual digital assets in a financial year. The threshold is raised to Rs 50,000 (Appr. $725) for individuals and families required to get their accounts audited under the I-T Act. The capital gains tax has become effective from April 1, while the TDS will be levied from July 1, 2022.

During the debate on budget proposals in March, some parliamentarians observed that bad crypto regulation will cause an innovation exodus. These remarks turned out to be prophetic as, within the first ten days of the new taxation policy, trading volume at major exchanges dropped significantly.

This, coupled with a denial of instant retail payment services UPI to crypto exchanges by the regulators, added to the turmoil, leading to the closure of trading in INR at Coinbase, WazirX, and CoinSwith Kuber. 

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SEC Chair Predicts Other Cryptocurrencies Will Mimic Terra’s Downfall and Harm Investors

The Chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – Gary Gensler – opined the turbulence in the digital asset market has not ceased with Terra’s fiasco. He predicted that a lot more coins will “fail,” which will harm an additional number of investors.

The Turmoil is Not Over Yet

The cryptocurrency market has significantly declined in the last few weeks. Bitcoin, for one, is down by over 25% in the past 14 days. However, all eyes were on Terra’s native token LUNA, which crashed from nearly $80 to less than a cent in a matter of days. The project’s algorithmic stablecoin UST lost its peg against the US dollar and is currently trading at $0.08, which many believe was the original source of the aforementioned crisis.

According to SEC’s Chair – Gary Gensler – crypto traders should be prepared to see other coins failing to virtually zero. Thus, they could lose their funds, while their confidence in the digital asset industry will be undermined:

“I think a lot of these tokens will fail. I fear that in crypto… there’s going to be a lot of people hurt.”

In addition, Gensler reiterated the SEC’s plans to put crypto platforms under strict monitoring. The agency insists that all trading venues be registered with the financial watchdog. Presumingly, this way, investors will have maximum protection when dealing with cryptocurrencies:

“They should move towards getting registered or, you know, we’re going to be the cop on the beat, and we’re going to bring the enforcement actions.”

Gary_Gensler
Gary Gensler, Source: Bloomberg

SEC Hires More People to Strengthen Its Crypto Unit

Earlier this month, America’s top monetary regulator vowed to almost double the size of its Crypto Asset and Cyber Unit. It will be topped up with 20 experts, and the total number will surge to 50. The additional positions include staff attorneys, fraud analysts, supervisors, and trial counsels.

The main reason for such an expansion is to provide further protection for investors. Gensler commented at the time:

“By nearly doubling the size of this key unit, the SEC will be better equipped to police wrongdoing in the crypto markets while continuing to identify disclosure and controls issues with respect to cybersecurity.”

The agency emphasized that this division has resolved over 80 enforcement cases involving fraudulent cryptocurrency activities up to date. Those scams skimmed more than $2 billion from investors.

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New Milestones for Ethereum as Ropsten Public Testnet Merge Date Revealed

Earlier this week, a pull request was submitted by an Ethereum DevOps engineer for the Ropsten testnet Merge configuration code that can be seen in the GitHub repository. For the uninitiated, the Ropsten testnet was created by Ethereum Foundation nearly five years ago and is considered one of the best replicas for the Ethereum blockchain.

The Merge

The merge, which marks the end of the PoW-style architecture, will essentially combine the two layers in a single PoS-based chain. According to Prysmatic Labs’ Terence Tsao, the genesis for the Ropsten testnet Merge is slated for May 30.

Lead developer Tim Beiko earlier confirmed that the merge on the mainnet is likely to go live a few months after June and not anytime sooner.

But the Ropsten merge will demonstrate the actual merge between Ethereum and the Beacon Chain as the network finally completes its transition. Ethereum core developer Preston Van Loon also acknowledged that this event is a huge testing milestone towards ETH’s mainnet merge that is set to happen later this year.

However, with the merge inching closer, the devs have been deploying tests in new infrastructures to study network mechanics and client readiness.

For instance, the “Shadow fork” went live in April, a mechanism to “stress test our assumptions around syncing and state growth,” as Parithosh Jayanthi, an Ethereum Foundation developer, explained. The test enables developers to find critical vulnerabilities in the code that could be otherwise unnoticed using the devnets.

Ethereum Foundation Ups the Ante

In light of the recent development and the upcoming merge, Ethereum Foundation also announced merging its PoW mainnet and PoS consensus layer bug bounty programs into one. The max reward has also been bumped up to $250,000 for reporting bugs on the Ethereum protocol. Rewards can also be doubled to $500,000 during crucial events.

“As the Execution Layer and Consensus Layer become more and more interconnected, it is increasingly valuable to combine the security efforts of these layers. There are already multiple efforts being organized by client teams and the community to further increase knowledge and expertise across the two layers. Unifying the Bounty Program will further increase visibility and coordination efforts on identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities.”

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Binance Visa Card Guide: Read Before You Order

Spending cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum in shops and restaurants is getting easier by the day. More and more merchants grasp the potential of cryptocurrencies and adopt them in one way or another.

Several cryptocurrency debit cards have recently popped up to help businesses offer digital assets as a payment method. Just like any other conventional ones, cryptocurrency debit cards allow you to conduct day-to-day transactions using BTC, ETH, XRP, and other altcoins.

Binance – the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume – has also joined the fray and has recently launched a new crypto-based Visa debit card. It enables real-time conversion of cryptocurrency to EUR when a user makes a transaction.

Binance has been striving in making cryptocurrency usage as widespread as possible,, and the latest Visa debit card is a testament to that.

What is Binance Visa Card?

Binance Card is essentially a Visa debit card that is linked to your Binance account and allows you to spend crypto anywhere that Visa is accepted. It is a prepaid card just like a regular debit card and has to be pre-loaded with crypto beforehand.

Currently, it is available to Binance users in selected European countries such as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

It can be used at more than 60 million merchants across 200 regions and territories around the world which accept Visa cards.

So far, Binance Card only supports the conversion and spending of the following cryptocurrencies: BNB, BUSD, USDT, BTC, SXP, ETH, EUR, ADA, DOT, LAZIO, PORTO, and SANTOS.

Why (or Why Not) to Order Binance Visa Card?

The Binance Visa Card provides a convenient way to spend your crypto profits.

Pros

  • Low transaction and processing fees
  • You can use your crypto-based Visa card worldwide wherever Visa is accepted.
  • Binance is among the most popular and secure crypto platforms.

Cons

  • Taxation: For each country, you should check and make sure how crypto is taxed (if there is any and how much) because to spend your crypto, you sell it for fiat and then spend the fiat.

Features of the Binance Visa Card

In addition to furthering utility and adoption, Binance Visa Card has introduced a few more features:

  • Binance does not charge any administration nor transaction fees.
  • You don’t need to exchange your crypto asset into fiat for purchasing purposes. Binance converts it exactly when you need to, thereby, the crypto is converting only at the moment needed,, and you can HODL until then.
  • You can get up to 8% cashback depending on your monthly average balance of your Binance Coin (BNB). This cashback is offered in BNB and credited to your Binance account.

Now, let’s have a look at how to apply for a Binance Visa Card.

Binance Card: How to Get One?

Non-Binance Users

Unless you already have an account with Binance, you will have to create one first. Signing up takes a few minutes. Click here to go to the Binance registration form, and follow the sign-up instructions.

Another pre-requisite before ordering the card is that the user account will need to be KYC level 2 verified.

Existing Binance Users

For existing Binance users, here are the necessary steps to receive your brand new card:

Step 1: Apply for the Binance Visa Card by visiting the website.

Step 2: Click “Get Started”

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Step 3: Once you are redirected to the Binance Card’s order page, you can choose how your name appears on the card. Click “Next” after confirming it.

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Step 4: Next up is creating a PIN for your Binance Visa Card. There are two security measures to keep in mind. When creating a PIN, it’s advisable not use four consecutive numbers,, such as – 1234 or 6789. Do not use sequences such as 7777.

Note: if you skip this step, your PIN will be auto-generated. You can later change it using an ATM.

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Step 5: After the PIN generation, you can confirm the delivery address for the card. Binance will automatically prefill the address with the one you registered at the exchange’s website. You should check thoroughly and add any missing information if needed.

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Step 6: Confirm all your details and agree to the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, Cardholder Agreement, and KYC consent.

Step 7: To complete the process, click “Order.”

Depending on the country of residence, it generally takes about 1-3 weeks for the Binance Visa Card to get delivered. But if you wish to start using your Binance Card, you can do it via Google and Samsung Pay.

Activating the Binance Visa Card

After you successfully place your order, your virtual Binance Visa Card will be activated automatically.

To activate your physical card, however, go to the Card Dashboard. Remember – the section in yellow, which says “Activate You Card,” will be grayed out and inaccessible until the status of the card has transitioned from “Pending” to “Shipped.”

Only when the status is marked “Shipped” you can click on the“Activate Your Card” icon. For security measures, it’s better to receive the physical card before activating it.

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Checking your Binance Visa Card Details

You can check your details after you activate the physical Binance Card. The view Details function only supports virtual Binance Cards.

Step 1: On the Binance website, hover over the navigation menu that says “Finance” and click on the “Binance Visa Card” on the dropdown menu.

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Or scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click on “Cards” below the “Products” section.

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Alternatively, you can also log in to your Binance app and select “More.” Below “Finance,” tap the “Card” option.

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Step 3: To view card details, click on “Show Card Details,” then enter your  2-Factor Authentication (2FA) code.

Step 4: To view your PIN number, click on “View PIN” and enter again your 2FA verification code. It is important to note that the number will be displayed for a limited time only.

Furthermore, the PIN number is only applicable while using a physical Binance Visa Card. As for your Virtual Visa Card, no PIN number will be required for payments once it is linked to Google Pay or Samsung Pay.

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Tether Confirms Fully Backed Reserves in Latest Assurance Report

Tether’s USDT stablecoin is beyond fully backed, according to the latest assurance report provided by accounting firm MHA Cayman. The firm found that Tether’s total assets are worth at least $82,424,821,101, while its total liabilities (including issued stablecoins) amount to $82,262,430,079.

The State of Tether’s Reserves

The report’s figures match those in Tether’s unaudited Consolidated Reserves Report (CRR) as of March 31st, 2022. This ensures that Tether’s USDT stablecoin – the largest stablecoin available by market cap – is indeed fully backed.

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies value pegged to traditionally “stable” fiat currencies, such as the US dollar. For a stablecoin to function, it must be redeemable at all times for assets of equivalent worth. Therefore, holders must trust stablecoin issuers like Tether to retain a large and liquid pool of assets for readily compensating its customers.

As announced by Tether on Thursday, the nature of these reserves has changed significantly in the past few months. The company’s commercial paper holdings decreased from $24.2 billion to $20 billion from last quarter, while its US Treasury bills have increased to $39.2 billion.

MHA Cayman clarified that its assessment did not account for Tether’s reserve balance and activity before or after March 31st. It also noted that Tether is currently a defendant in two ongoing legal cases, the outcomes of which are pending.

Fear About Tether’s Holdings

In October 2021, Bloomberg reporter Zeke Faux claimed that a significant portion of Tether’s reserves was held in Chinese commercial paper, which is typically considered unreliable. Tether’s lawyer countered that the vast majority of its holdings had high grades from credit-rating firms. The company later dismissed the same story as “old news with dubious sources.”

Nevertheless, the credibility of Tether’s reserves has been questioned over many years. The company refuses to provide specifics on the counterparties of its commercial paper holdings due to “privacy concerns”.

These concerns have gotten the company into trouble with the public and private sectors alike. In October, Hindenburg Research posted a $1 billion bounty claimable by anyone who could find Tether’s reserves. During the same month, the CFTC forced Tether and Bitfinex to pay a $42.5 million fine for their “omissions of material fact in connection with the U.S. dollar token USDT.”

Tether Thrives, Terra Dies

Despite such fears, USDT has reliably recovered its peg to the dollar following widespread uncertainty that shook the stablecoin market this month. TerraUSD (UST) – the former third largest stablecoin – completely fell off peg and lost faith with investors, due to the exploitation of flaws within its reserve system.

Unlike Tether, UST was an algorithmic stablecoin, programmatically backed through the burning and minting of the LUNA governance token. However, instability and ease of production eventually led the coin to total devaluation, hence destroying UST’s reliability.

Similar to Tether, Terra co-founder Do Kwon likewise faces legal pressure from impacted South Korean investors, and the government.

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South Korea Slams Terra’s Do Kwon With $78M Fine for Tax Evasion: Report

South Korea’s National Tax Service has reportedly ordered Terraform Labs, its co-founder Do Kwon, and other executives to pay a 100 billion won ($78 million) fine for tax evasion penalties.

The Genesis

According to local reports, the tax agency first launched an investigation into Terraform Labs and its subsidiaries in June last year on suspicion of corporate and income tax evasion.

The investigation found that two of the company’s subsidiaries were registered abroad in the Virgin Islands and Singapore. However, while the entities had foreign registration, the place of actual management of the firms was in South Korea.

In the country, corporate tax laws treat foreign-registered companies as domestic entities if the management and operations of firms are conducted in the country. Hence, Terraform Labs’ subsidiaries are required by law to fulfill tax obligations to the Korean government.

In October, the tax authorities ordered Terra’s subsidiary in the Virgin Islands to pay a fine of 44.7 billion won ($34.7 million) in corporate tax and 4.66 billion won ($3.6 million) in income tax.

Korean Tax Agency Suspects Tax Evasion

As per the report, Do Kwon became dissatisfied with the country’s tax rules in December last year. He then tried to liquidate the company’s domestic headquarters and take up residence abroad just before the catastrophic Terra LUNA crash earlier this month.

During the UST drama, Terraform Labs sent LUNA Terra Singapore to the LUNA Foundation Guard (LFG), perhaps in an attempt to reimburse anchor protocol for the losses suffered. However, the tax authorities saw the move as suspicious, causing the agency to believe that the company was trying to evade taxes, the report added.

More Lawsuits Against Do Kwon

The $78 million tax penalty comes less than 24 hours after reports emerged that Korean investors have filed criminal and civil lawsuits against Do Kwon. As reported, UST and LUNA investors also want the court to seize Kwon’s assets.

Meanwhile, another Korean group called “Victims of Luna, UST coins” also plans to file a class action against Terra co-founders Do Kwon and Shin Hyun-Seong for fraud and illegal crowdfunding.