• Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

Binance CEO Clears the Air on Involvement With Frozen Exchange WazirX

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) has provided clarifying details on its relationship with WazirX – the crypto exchange whose assets were recently frozen by Indian regulators. 

While Binance was indeed partnered with the firm, CZ said it held no equity in WazirX’s operator Zanmai Labs. 

What’s the Deal Between Binance and WazirX?

In a Twitter thread from the CEO on Friday, CZ acknowledged one of Binance’s blog posts from 2019 stating that the exchange had “acquired” WazirX. However, he claimed that the transaction was “never completed.”

“Binance has never – at any point – owned any shares of Zanmai Labs, the entity operating WazirX,” he re-asserted.

He added that Binance “only” offers a wallet service to WazirX, and an off-chain transaction solution to help users save money on network fees. Responsibility for all other areas of the exchange – including withdrawals, transactions, and KYC – was attributed to the company itself.

On the other hand, Nischal Shetty – the founder of WazirX – said the story was more complicated than that in a pair of follow-up tweets. He claimed that WazirX was acquired by Binance, and is still owned by the world-leading exchange today. “Binance operates crypto to crypto pairs [and] processes crypto withdrawals” he added.

He also said that Binance owns WazirX’s domain name, has root access to its AWS servers, and holds all of WazirX’s crypto assets and profits. “Don’t confuse Zanmai and WazirX,” he continued.

WazirX’s Trouble With the Law

In a press release from India’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday, the agency revealed that it had raided properties connected to Zanmai Labs director Sameer Mhatre. It also froze WazirX’s bank balances worth $8.1 million. 

The ED claimed to be investigating several fintech companies for money laundering and predatory lending practices. Apparently Wazir X “actively assisted around 16 accused fintech companies in laundering the proceeds of crime using the crypto route.”

By the agency’s account, Zanmai Labs is indeed the owner of WazirX. However, it has created a web of agreements with multiple other companies, including Binance, in order to obscure that fact.

While at times it has claimed that WazirX handles all transactions conducted at the exchange, it has suggested that Binance is responsible for crypto to crypto transfers at others. 

“They are giving contradictory & ambiguous answers to evade oversight by Indian regulatory agencies,” claimed the ED.