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Bithumb Exec Suspected of Taking Bribe in Exchange for Token Listing

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
A cellphone displays the app of the South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb on its screen, with the exchange’s logo visible in the background.
Source: Timon/Adobe

An official from the South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb is under investigation on suspicion of taking bribes in exchange for facilitating a coin listing.

Per Chosun Ilbo, the allegations surround an individual surnamed Lee (first name undisclosed for legal reasons). Lee was described as “an employee of Bithumb Holdings,” the “Bithumb parent company.”

The identity of the coin in question was also withheld. In South Korea and other areas, lesser-known altcoins tend to spike in value when they are listed on major exchanges. 

Some suspect that “engineer” listings can be used as a price manipulation tool for small-cap coins.

The investigation is being carried out by the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office’s Financial Investigation Division. 

Officers “searched the offices” of Bithumb Holdings and Lee’s home – and confiscated a number of items and documents.

A Bithumb spokesperson declined to comment on the matter to Chosun but confirmed that an “investigation by the prosecution” was underway.

A graph showing trading volumes on the Bithumb crypto exchange over the past seven days.
Trading volumes on the Bithumb crypto exchange over the past seven days. (Source: CoinGecko)

More South Korean Crypto Exchange Officials Accepted Cash for Coin Listings?

The allegations come as a second major blow to the South Korean crypto exchange industry in the space of as many months. 

In February, a former Coinone official surnamed Jeon was placed under investigation, also by the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office.

Prosecutors believe Jeon may have “received hundreds of thousands” of USD in “return for listing several coins” on the Coinone platform.

Coinone told the same media outlet that it would not discuss matters pertaining to a former employee.

But an unnamed domestic crypto industry insider told the same media outlet:

“Rumors that exchanges receive money to list coins have been around for a long time.”

But legal experts stated that courts do not currently have the power to hand out heavy punishments in such cases. They called for legislative reform.

Other insiders claimed that exchanges had been allowed to wield too much power – by determining which coins they list by themselves. 

One lawyer stated that in the case of securities trading, domestic providers are obliged to gain approval from regulatory bodies – while no such body intervenes in the case of crypto exchanges.

In response to the Terra ecosystem crash last year, the nation’s biggest exchanges co-formed DEXA, a self-regulating body that deals with urgent delisting-related decisions.

Bithumb was also raided in January this year as part of a separate price manipulation probe.