Financial authorities in South Korea intend to initiate stringent eligibility reviews for major shareholders of cryptocurrency exchanges, mirroring the standards upheld within the banking sector, local media reported on Sept. 22.
The move comes amid increasing legal turmoil involving shareholders of prominent domestic exchanges such as Bithumb and Upbit.
The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the Financial Services Commission has assembled a task force to reform coin exchange reporting requirements. This revised mandate will be integrated into the coin exchange renewal reporting items for implementation in Oct. 2024. It will serve as a cornerstone for future operations of existing exchanges in the country.
According to the Enforcement Decree of the Specific Financial Information Act, all virtual asset business operators, including exchanges, must file a renewal report every three years post initial report acceptance. This process will recommence in Oct. 2024, beginning with Upbit, which finalized the inaugural report acceptance in Oct. 2021.
The task force will primarily concentrate on scrutinizing major shareholder eligibility, a procedural safeguard allowing the government to periodically assess whether the majority shareholder retains the qualifications requisite to operate a financial enterprise.
The initiative by FIU aims to curb illicit activities by major shareholders who wield significant influence over the coin exchange businesses and to mitigate user damage.
Previously, major shareholders operated in a regulatory grey area, with current legislation under the Special Financial Services Act mandating only exchange representatives and registered executives to report and undergo review when declaring a virtual asset business.
Lawmakers want heightened scrutiny.
According to media reports, the involvement of major shareholders of domestic exchanges in fraudulent and market-manipulative activities has spurred the examination of major shareholders.
The two most prominent cases involve major Bithumb shareholder Jong-hyun Kang, who is embroiled in a primary criminal trial for alleged fraudulent trading, and Dunamu Chairman Song Chi-hyung, the predominant shareholder of Upbit, who is currently facing a Supreme Court trial for purported market manipulation.
Representative Yoon Chang-hyeon of the People Power Party has proposed a legislative amendment to the Special Financial Services Act, advocating for incorporating a review system for major shareholders of virtual asset business operators.
The amendment dictates that virtual asset business operators, including coin exchanges, must report information pertinent to major shareholders, enabling the FIU to examine the company’s primary shareholders’ economic and financial crime history.