Hong Kong authorities are prosecuting a former senior manager at crypto exchange Huobi, accusing him of illicitly making $5 million by secretly trading against the company.
Per a report by The Financial Times on Wednesday, the case revolves around trades allegedly executed in February and March 2020 by Chen Boliang, a former senior manager in Huobi’s institutional clients department.
Chen was arrested in May 2020 and charged with accessing Huobi’s internal systems “with criminal or dishonest intent.”
A civil lawsuit filed by Huobi alleges that Chen set up a retail account in his father’s name, using his authority to approve a $20 million credit line from the trading platform.
The illicit scheme reportedly didn’t stop there as Chen then traded against a corporate account he controlled, making a profit of about $5 million in the form of USDT, the crypto industry’s largest stablecoin.
“Mr Boliang Chen’s employment with Huobi Global was terminated in May 2020. We have no further comments pertaining to the charges against Mr Boliang Chen and believe in the administration of justice by the HK Special Administrative Region,” Huobi Global said in a statement.
The exchange’s former employee, who is currently out on a $25,000 bail, faces a total of six counts of accessing the company’s computer systems and one count related to proceeds of crime.
The case is awaiting a preliminary inquiry before the Hong Kong magistrate next week, which will decide whether there is enough evidence to move the case forward to trial.
Huobi, which was forced out of China amid a crackdown on the crypto industry last year, is currently registered in the Seychelles and operates under the Huobi Global name. With a trading volume of over $1.34 billion in the past 24 hours, it is currently the world’s fourth largest crypto exchange behind Binance, FTX, and Coinbase only.
Insider trading plagues crypto space
This is not the first time that a prominent crypto company’s employees have been accused of illegally using internal systems or insider information to make profit.
Last September, leading NFT marketplace OpenSea ousted Nate Chastain, its former head of product, who was found to have profited from the trade of NFTs based on the company’s confidential business information.
Chastain was subsequently arrested and charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with wire fraud and money laundering.
In another instance earlier this year, digital payments firm Block (formerly Square) accused a former employee of stealing more than 8 million names and account numbers of Cash App Invest customers.