Two former employees at Coinone, one of South Korea’s top five cryptocurrency exchanges, were sentenced Tuesday for accepting bribes in exchange for listing certain cryptocurrencies on the platform for over two years from 2020, local news agency Newsis reported.  

Note: It is common practice in South Korea for authorities to release only the surname of defendants due to privacy regulations.

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Fast facts

  • The first defendant, Jeon, 41, the former head of crypto listing at Coinone, was given four years in prison and ordered to pay back 1.93 billion Korean won (US$1.43 million) in unlawfully earned profits, according to Newsis. Jeon was arrested on March 22, 2023 for charges of bribery and breach of trust.
  • The second defendant, Kim, 31, who worked alongside Jeon, was sentenced to 42 months in prison, with a penalty of 883 million won (US$654,000) for the same charges. 
  • Two brokers Koh and Hwang, who were accused of facilitating the listing bribes, received 18 months and 30 months in prison, respectively. 
  • Seoul Southern District Court judge Kim Jung-gi said in his ruling that the crime was “a collusion between multiple conspirators including crypto exchange listing staff, brokers, token issuers, and market making companies to share profits from issuing new coins and manipulating market prices,” according to Newsis.
  • Prosecutors previously alleged that some of the tokens at issue were affiliated with companies that were hired to manipulate crypto prices. Those local cryptocurrencies are reported to include Pica Coin and Puriever.
  • “Some exchanges do practice transparency in listing tokens, but many exchange employees have engaged in such behavior as common practice,” said Seoul-based information security and financial crime expert Hwang Suk-jin in a previous interview with Forkast.
  • The Bank of Korea valued the nation’s cryptocurrency market at 19 trillion won (US$14.1 billion) as of the end of last year, making it one of the largest cryptocurrency markets in the world.
  • Coinone did not immediately respond to Forkast’s email request for further comments on the sentencing sent Wednesday afternoon in Asia.

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