Bitfinex, the fifth-largest cryptocurrency exchange by 24-hour trading volume, is looking to hoist itself out of Hong Kong and settle in Switzerland, as first reported by Handelszeitung. As confirmed by sources close to Bitfinex, the exchange is already in talks with Swiss authorities.
Jean-Louis van der Velde, CEO at Bitfinex, told Handelszeitung, “We are looking for a new home for Bitfinex and the parent company iFinex, where we want to merge the operations previously spread over several locations.”
Van der Velde said that Bitfinex, now based in Hong Kong, was also considering London as a potential new location, but for now, Switzerland remains its first choice.
If iFinex pulls off the move successfully, it will form a new AG (or Aktiengesellschaft, which is German for “public company”) to replace the former iFinex in the British Virgin Islands. The company’s core businesses would be based in Switzerland, and van der Velde and other managers would likely relocate there as well.
In addition, iFinex is also the parent company of Tether, a subsidiary that produces tether (USDT), a token pegged to the U.S. dollar. USTD trades on several exchanges, including Bitfinex, but since no third-party audit has ever taken place, questions linger as to whether the $2.3 billion in USDT so far issued by Tether are backed by actual dollars.
Adding to the opaqueness of Bitfinex’s business dealings, since April 2017, Bitfinex and Tether have been cut off from banks in the U.S. and Taiwan and have been left to move among a series of banks in other countries, without informing their customers.
Van der Velde hints that a move to Switzerland would bring a renewed transparency to the business. “We want to be the most transparent of all exchanges and meet the requirements of the Swiss regulator,” he said, adding that Bitfinex is currently in talks with Swiss banks.
Switzerland has emerged as the home of several initial coin offerings (ICOs), where the town of Zug has unofficially become “Crypto Valley.” The move could be a win-win for both Bitfinex and Switzerland. Bitfinex could help Switzerland attract more blockchain technology business, while the support of Swiss banks could shine some light on Tether.
Bitfinex is not the only exchange that is looking to exit Hong Kong. Last week, Hong Kong–based Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, announced it was looking to relocate to Malta, after running up against regulatory hurdles in Asia.