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JPEX Scandal Sparks Creation of Hong Kong Police Crypto Crimes Group

Trent Alan
Last updated: | 3 min read
Image of a cracked Bitcoin, and Hong Kong flag, symbolizing crypto crackdown after JPEX scandal
The SFC and Hong Kong Police collaborate to monitor and combat illicit activities in crypto exchanges following the JPEX incident. 
Image by Alexey Novikov on Adobe Stock

On October 4, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Police, announced the formation of a special group to monitor and investigate crimes related to crypto exchanges. 

The initiative was prompted by the ongoing controversies surrounding the JPEX exchange, a leading Hong Kong crypto entity based in Dubai.

Cracking Down on Crypto Exchange Malpractices

The alliance between the SFC and the Hong Kong Police Force began to take shape after their meeting on September 28. The primary objective of the newly established group is to monitor unlawful activities associated with virtual assets trading platforms (VATPs) within the Hong Kong territory.

One of the major catalysts for the initiative was the ongoing scrutiny of the JPEX exchange. Accusations arose that JPEX was advertising its services without securing the necessary license from the SFC. This oversight, combined with other illicit activities, allegedly resulted in the loss of approximately $166 million, impacting over 2,086 investors. Consequently, this incident has been labeled as the biggest fraud case in Hong Kong’s history.

In response to these allegations, Hong Kong authorities took decisive action. After thorough investigations, the Police detained 18 individuals believed to be linked with the JPEX incident. This situation underscored the pressing need for enhanced crypto regulation and oversight in Hong Kong. 

In a subsequent move, JPEX suspended its crypto asset operations in Hong Kong on September 18. The exchange cited biased actions from relevant authorities and adverse media reports as reasons, claiming these factors led its liquidity partners to lock its funds.

A Renewed Focus on Crypto Regulation in Hong Kong

Angelina Kwan, a former SFC official, has previously highlighted the potential for Hong Kong to implement stricter regulations on the virtual assets market. 

With the formation of this new group, there is now a dedicated team to monitor VATP illegalities. The team will actively report suspicious activities and will also evaluate potential risks and threats posed by questionable exchanges, while also actively participating in related investigations.

This dedicated group brings together officials from various departments within the Hong Kong Police, including the commercial, cybersecurity, and financial intelligence and investigation units. Representatives from the SFC’s enforcement division will also be part of this collaborative effort.

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Christopher Wilson, the SFC’s enforcement director, emphasized the commission’s dedication to tackling problematic VATPs and ensuring investor protection. 

On a similar note, Ms. Eve Chung Wing-man, the HKPF’s assistance commissioner, expressed that the joint group would actively exchange intelligence and address concerns related to VATPs, ensuring the safety and security of both investors and the broader Hong Kong public.

SFC’s Advisory to Investors

In a recent release, the SFC has made public a list of licenses, encompassing unlicensed and suspect VATPs, as well as those on the verge of shutting down. This list also features VATPs currently awaiting SFC approval. 

The SFC advised investors that the entities listed under VATP applicants are yet to receive licenses. These platforms might need to align more closely with the SFC’s stipulations. 

The commission also cautioned investors about the inherent risks of trading digital currencies on platforms that are not regulated, emphasizing that unforeseen platform closures, system collapses, or cyberattacks could result in substantial financial losses.

The rapid evolution of the cryptocurrency market, coupled with its global impact, necessitates robust regulatory frameworks that adapt to its unique challenges. While the JPEX incident in Hong Kong is a reminder of potential pitfalls, it also presents an opportunity for regulatory bodies to refine their strategies.

Proactive measures like the formation of specialized groups can play an important role in shaping a safer and more transparent financial future.