NFTs, Frauds, and Algorithmic Stablecoins (Feat. Mark Cuban) – Crypto Critics' Corner
Cas Piancey narrates his trip to Hong Kong to try to find the physical offices of Bitfinex and Tether.
Resources from this episode:
Subscribe to get each episode delivered to your inbox:
We also have a Discord Server you can join here.
00:00:05:02 - 00:00:25:23 Cas Piancey Welcome back, everyone. I am Cas Piancey, and I'm not joined as usual by my partner in crime, Bennet Tomlin because today we're trying something a little different. An episode where I read an old article just trying it out. Maybe we'll do it more in the future. Tell me what you think. In September of 2018 and my third trip to China. 00:00:25:28 - 00:00:46:27 Cas Piancey This time for a very particular reason. B one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, is moving massive amounts of Bitcoin volume, along with hundreds of altcoins too. But how do they keep the lights on and the servers running? The two companies, Bitfinex and its sister company Tether, operate under the same parent company, iFinex. 00:00:47:23 - 00:00:59:00 Cas Piancey I depart a glorious sunny Los Angeles fall to arrive in a damp, sweltering thunderstorm late in Hong Kong to find iFinex or any physical remnant of this company dominating the crypto landscape. 00:01:06:24 - 00:01:50:14 Cas Piancey Hong Kong is as exciting and steampunk as it gets. There's Ferraris, Lambos, and Teslas on every street corner while vendors sell their goods and cheap diners offer duck or dumplings. It's Beverly Hills meets Skid Row with all the neon and LCD screens of Vegas Kowloon, where we're staying in a cramped apartment with minimal amenities, is the supreme essence of everything I imagined Hong Kong to be before arriving the poorest people living in the toughest of conditions, mixing with the high finance pros from England, the U.S., China in Hong Kong proper with three known addresses in hand. 00:01:50:14 - 00:02:23:24 Cas Piancey We take the Metro or the Hong Kong subway to central and walk to the Bank of America Tower. Somehow we stroll right past the guards by the elevators and right up to the 13th floor. It isn't what I expect There's no open businesses on either side of the large hallway, and the offices of iFinex are shuttered. A large piece of plywood being used as a door behind the inch thick painted door issues, things you can hear, drills and saws, people shouting We're standing here former before next headquarters. 00:02:23:27 - 00:02:47:20 Cas Piancey And I guess it's just a construction site now. When we get back to the first floor, we recheck all the signage and office listings to see if iFinex is anywhere to be seen. It isn't. So we move on to a nearby address listed for a bit for next in the easy commercial building When we step into the lobby, we're greeted with a cold, air conditioned breeze and no guard in sight. 00:02:48:11 - 00:03:08:18 Cas Piancey We check a board with names and entities, but it's all in Chinese and we can't make heads or tails of it. Eventually, looking at the registered office address, we determined Bitfinex Technology Services LTD should be on the 19th floor. Suite number two The only thought I'd had until we entered the elevator was that there'd be no one at these addresses. 00:03:09:08 - 00:03:31:04 Cas Piancey Griffin asks me, What questions do you have Questions? Yeah. Like, what's the plan once we get in there? I don't know. I finally say, Griffin laughs. You haven't thought of any questions. It's a stunning and sad revelation. Better think fast, Griff says. 00:03:35:05 - 00:04:01:07 Cas Piancey J & C HK Business Limited is printed on the opaque window framed within the door. Hi, is this BitFinex? What? Is this BitFinex? No, she says. Oh. Have you heard of Bitfinex? Do you know Bitfinex Technology Services Ltd? Yes. Yes, she says. We do little bit for next paperwork sometime. Do they ever come in? 00:04:01:13 - 00:04:35:16 Cas Piancey Do they bring in the paperwork? She shakes her head. No. Only paperwork. We think the ladies for their time and take off J & C HK Business Ltd., it turns out, is not BitFinex Our next stop is Tether, which supposedly rests on the eighth floor in a glassy blue, postmodern 1980 chic behemoth of a building sitting right next to the harbor. 00:04:36:01 - 00:05:03:08 Cas Piancey Getting in proves to be a little more difficult We have to explain ourselves to a guard. We say we're looking for tether, give a precise floor and office address, and he smiles and waves us through the same nervous energy as before, fills me but even more. This building is beautiful and classy compared to the last. If iFinex and Tether, do have offices in Hong Kong in this building, it might be proof that there's legitimate cash in their reserves. 00:05:03:29 - 00:05:26:02 Cas Piancey What if they're willing to sit down for a talk? What if they have billions of dollars What if I see Jean Ludovidicus Van der Velde? What if they follow us after we leave? The fears and questions are extinguished. We push a buzzer and stand idly with our GoPros for a minute. This office values security. A Chinese woman again in her forties. 00:05:26:05 - 00:05:48:02 Cas Piancey Again surprised to see two Westerners opens the door enough to speak with us. We're looking for Tether. This is the listed address. Is this tether? She shakes her head no. No. I see. And do you work with Heather, or are they a client? With every question, she seems more suspicious now. She says, I've never heard of tether. Sorry. 00:05:48:09 - 00:05:49:00 Cas Piancey Have a nice day. 00:06:04:01 - 00:06:33:17 Cas Piancey Griffin. I sit in a coffee shop in the lobby of the Not Tether HQ. I am defeated. How's your coffee? Griff, asks. Fine. It isn't very good. Neither is the brownie. I'm eating the tail end of Typhoon Mangcu is whipping Hong Kong and it starts pouring. I'm not sure what to make of this or what to do with the knowledge that there is no iFinex, BitFinex, or Tether. 00:06:34:00 - 00:06:57:09 Cas Piancey At least in a physical sense. To many, these details come across as banal or trivial but that continues to be my motivation for asking for answers from BitFinex This group of companies has over 10 billion in assets as of writing this piece Yet no one can provide a location where you can find executives or even a receptionist. There's no one to answer. 00:06:57:10 - 00:07:32:00 Cas Piancey If the money were to go missing. There's nowhere to go. Voice a complaint. And there's no one and nothing to hold responsible. But most disconcerting of all is that the cryptocurrency community, the community that prides itself on advocating for trustlessness and verification of facts refuses at every turn to demand that same level of transparency from a company that's repeatedly promised it and lied again. 00:07:32:00 - 00:07:52:02 Cas Piancey Everyone, that was just a test. If you didn't like it, let me know. Reach out on Twitter and or our discord And tell me if you did enjoy it, let me know. Or if you have any critiques that you think would be good for making content like this. In the future. I just want to give you guys something a little bit different. 00:07:52:03 - 00:08:01:26 Cas Piancey Offer something a little bit different than our normal stuff. Maybe something we could do on a more regular basis. If you enjoyed it, let me know if you hated it. Let me know. Again, thank you for listening.