BitMEX Dismisses Guilty Plea for Money-Laundering Violations as ‘Old News’

After the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced that cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX pled guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) between 2015 and 2020, the company said it will seek expedited sentencing—arguing that it should not face any further fines than those already imposed in a prior case.

“The BSA charge is old news,” BitMEX said in a prepared statement. “This is the same charge brought in 2020 against our founders relating to BitMEX’s operations up to September 2020. BitMEX has long since fully remediated its operations, and there is nothing new in this charge.”

BitMEX founders Arthur Hayes and Benjamin Delo pled guilty in February 2022 to similar charges, and agreed to separately pay a $10 million criminal fine. The company said those penalties should be sufficient.

“No further fine should be imposed, given the substantial amounts already paid by our founders under the BSA charges brought against them, and under our no admission/no denial settlements with the CFTC and FinCEN in 2021,” BitMEX said.

The Justice Department announcement said BitMEX engaged in “willful evasion” of U.S. anti-money laundering laws, knowingly serving American customers but requiring only an email address to create an account.

“BitMEX policies nominally in place to prevent such trading were toothless or easily overridden to serve BitMEX bottom line goal of obtaining revenue through the U.S. market without regard to U.S. criminal laws,” the department said.

The agency said BitMEX was aware of its obligations to implement Know Your Customer (KYC) measures to prevent money laundering, but “chose to flaunt those requirements.”

“As a result, BitMEX opened itself up as a vehicle for large-scale money laundering and sanctions evasion schemes, posing a serious threat to the integrity of the financial system,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in the statement.

He noted that the case against the company was built on findings from the prior investigation, as the lack of anti-money laundering programs were “admitted in federal court in 2022” by the company's founders.

For its part, BitMEX said its anti-money laundering controls are now “best in class” and independently audited.

“BitMEX’s compliance standards and activities have changed immeasurably since the period subject to the BSA charge,” the company wrote. “Needless to say, this charge has no impact on our business operations.”

The Justice Department said BitMEX faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine. It is unclear how the business entity would serve a prison sentence if one is handed down by the court.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Decrypt.

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