The Korea Herald


Korean 'crypto king' likely to be extradited to US

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Feb. 22, 2024 - 13:33

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Police escort Terraform Labs founder Kwon Do-hyung in Montenegro's capital Podgorica on March 24 last year. (AP-Yonhap) Police escort Terraform Labs founder Kwon Do-hyung in Montenegro's capital Podgorica on March 24 last year. (AP-Yonhap)

A court in Montenegro has ruled for the extradition of cryptocurrency entrepreneur Kwon Do-hyung, widely known as "crypto king" Do Kwon, to the United States, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Despite Kwon's defense advocating for transfer to his home country of South Korea, the Montenegro court has rejected the plea.

Both the US and South Korea have sought his extradition.

Kwon's legal team now has a three-day window to challenge the decision, according to the court on Wednesday. The final decision rests with the appeals court, so the date for Kwon's extradition remains uncertain.

Kwon, a South Korean national and former CEO of Terraform Labs, which orchestrated the collapsed stablecoin TerraUSD in May 2022, faces charges in both countries for causing around $40 billion in crypto market loss, affecting numerous investors globally.

According to industry sources, Kwon's preference for Korean prosecution is due to the variance in potential sentences.

In Korea, economic crimes carry a maximum sentence of 40 years, whereas in the US, where sentences for individual crimes accumulate, Kwon could potentially face a sentence exceeding 100 years.

Currently, Kwon is confronting eight charges related to various forms of fraud, as filed by federal prosecutors in New York.

Kwon's case often draws parallels with FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, indicted in December 2022 on seven charges following FTX's collapse.

Bankman-Fried received a conviction on all counts, with his sentencing scheduled for the coming March. He could face over 110 years in prison, US reports say.

Kwon, a Stanford University-educated entrepreneur, was arrested in March 2023 at the Podgorica airport alongside Han Chang-joon, Terraform Labs' former finance officer, attempting to board a private jet to Dubai using a fake Costa Rican passport.

Han has already been extradited to South Korea and indicted.

In addition to criminal trials in the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil case against Kwon and Terraform Labs for securities fraud related to the TerraUSD and Luna collapse.

The Montenegrin court's decision on Wednesday raises the possibility of Kwon facing the SEC's fraud lawsuit, scheduled for trial on March 25. A loss in this civil trial could subject Kwon to fines.