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Scandal hit crypto mining firm probed by FINMA

FINMA has indicated in the past that it won't stand for any nonsense by rogue crypto outfits. Keystone

The Swiss financial regulator has opened proceedings against the German-Swiss cryptocurrency venture Envion that dissolved into bitter in-fighting and claims of fraud shortly after raising $100 million from an initial coin offering (ICO) crowdfund.

This content was published on July 26, 2018 - 11:34

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) said on Thursday that it had opened an enforcement proceeding against the start-up on suspicion that it has broken banking laws with an “unauthorised acceptance of public funds”.

As reported by in May, a row broke out between the company’s founders and its chief executive with both sides accusing the other of foul play. CEO and former German television news journalist Matthias Woestmann said that millions of extra tokens had been issued without authorisation and sold for illicit profit.

However, he has also been accused of illegally wresting control of the company from the original founders. Complaints were lodged with FINMA and the German authorities, leaving investors unsure of whether they would get their tokens or their money back.

Envion got off the ground in Berlin and in October set up its headquarters in the Swiss town of Baar, in the heart of canton Zug’s Crypto Valley, to take advantage of Switzerland’s favourable regulatory environment. The company proposed making portable environmentally-friendly cryptocurrency mining units.

FINMA has made it clear in the past that it will not tolerate malpractice in the burgeoning ICO and crypto industries. Last year it shut down three companies behind illegal cryptocurrencies and said it was investigating other suspected cases.

In February it issued guidelines to regulate the ICO industry, which demarcated which tokens represented securities.

According to a recent report by PwC, Switzerland attracted $1.46 billion in ICO funds in 2017, a sum that swelled by a further $456 million between January and the end of May this year.

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