Researchers have revealed what they allege is a history of Tether’s numerous ties to various types of criminal activity. And while it must be stressed that, to date, no US law enforcement agency has charged Tether or any of its current executives with any crime, investigators claim that these ties have existed since the company’s inception.
Among the firm’s links to potentially shady — albeit not always strictly illegal — activity are repeated promises to have its reserves professionally audited (it never has), the company sending 36.6 billion USDT to Alameda Research (its founder is currently in jail), and Bitfinex founder Raphael Nicolle’s defense of Trendon Shavers’ Ponzi scheme.
Links to more serious criminal activity include Tether co-founder Brock Pierce living with Marc Collins-Rector in Spain in a house that also contained significant amounts of child pornography. Pierce denied all knowledge of these crimes but Collins-Rector pleaded guilty to transporting five minors across state lines for sex.
In addition, Bloomberg journalist Zeke Faux and other researchers allege that numerous Tether executives are linked to organized crime.
Giancarlo Devasini worked with alleged tax dodger
Chief financial officer Giancarlo Devasini reportedly operated Perpetual Action Group and transacted with Gennaro ‘Reno’ Platone. Perpetual Action Group (Asia) was a Tether shareholder.
A court convicted Platone of ‘missing trader fraud’ in Germany and Spain and he also has connections to organized crime. Platone was implicated in a value-added tax (VAT) fraud scheme that involved underground companies dealing in electronics without paying any of Europe’s version of the sales tax. His operation was reportedly worth $500 million per year.
The VAT fraud scheme was so notoriously complex that unraveling it came to be known as ‘Operation Medina.’ Operation Medina ended with at least 40 convictions and 55 files of documents. Italy, the UK, and the Netherlands have also investigated Platone’s financial dealings.
Devasini naturally denied any involvement in the VAT fraud. Tether referred to it as merely another business failing to pay its taxes and said Devasini had done no more than buy computer chips from it.
Devasini was allegedly the liquidator for Perpetual Action Group, an anonymous company that went into early dissolution in October 2009. Tether initially said Devasini sold his stake in Perpetual Action Group in 2008, yet backtracked slightly by acknowledging his role as liquidator. Anyway, Tether further proclaimed that that was a minor business matter from ten years ago.
Devasini also knows Daniele Sestagalli and Paolo Barrai, notably through the TerraBitcoin Club where he was a speaker, who have connections to Oliver Camponovo through Ibex Capital SA and Cryptolab AG, respectively. Camponovo was convicted of laundering money for a large organized crime ring called ‘Ndrangheta through Dubai and the Bahamas.
Prior to working at Bitfinex and Tether, in 1996, law enforcement caught Devasini selling fake Microsoft software.
Read more: Astroturfing and fake support for Tether and Bitfinex
Tether COO’s links to alleged thief
Tether’s chief operating officer Claudia Lagorio knows Enrico Danieletto through Fincluster LTD. Danieletto worked with Rodolfo Fracassi to establish Bitfinex in the Isle of Man. Danieletto later described his role as merely a temporary consulting position.
He also founded DD Capital Management with Alberto Micalizzi. In January 2019, a court convicted Micalizzi of charges related to an $800 million fraud scheme and connections to organized crime. The charges involved theft from Italian and international banks.
Danieletto similarly faced charges for allegedly using a company called Pairstech to help Giovanni Belluzzi steal €7 million from Mirandola’s Savings Bank Foundation.
Danieletto interestingly held a stake in Aleph Finance Group PLC. On April 3, 2023, he sold some 5.2 million shares to UCapital LTD for approximately $2.90 per share. This made UCapital a major shareholder in Aleph Finance Group.
Tether CEO was also linked to VAT fraud firm
Tether CEO Jan Ludovicus van der Velde has connections to Huashun Electronics, which China added to its Seriously Illegal and Dishonest Companies list. China also banned van der Velde from starting a business in the country.
Van der Velde was also the CEO of Perpetual Action Group Asia from 2006 to 2012. As previously mentioned, that company was implicated in a VAT fraud scheme. Van der Velde disclaims any involvement in VAT fraud.
Read more: Tether timeline: The complete history of crypto’s most stubborn stablecoin
Paolo Ardoino just three steps from Gaddafi’s inner circle
Tether’s most visible executive and its de facto media spokesperson, chief technology officer Paolo Ardoino, has connections to multiple people through Fincluster LTD, including Daneletto and Massimilian Todaro.
Todaro in turn is linked to David Serra, who has been accused of accepting money from organized crime rings. He is also associated with Walter Carusso, Malcolm and Andrew Flinn, and Steven Turnbull, who have been accused of laundering money for the inner circle of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Silvano di Stefano’s Cum-Ex connections
Edmond Capital is a spinoff of Duet Asset Management, which was implicated in a notorious Cum-Ex fraud along with several other large financial institutions. Cantarini also worked at Tiber Capital with Massimo Bosicchio, who was accused of stealing €500 million and died under mysterious circumstances. Bosicchio’s wife mentioned that people kept showing up at his house, possibly leading to her feeling threatened enough to file for divorce shortly before his death.
Cantarini also has a seat on the Board of Directors for Raffaele Mincione’s Athena Capital Fund. Law enforcement personnel raided Mincione’s apartment during an investigation into his alleged ties to the Vatican’s then-Secretariat of State, who was being investigated for mismanagement of Vatican funds.
Interestingly, Mincione also filed a lawsuit against the Vatican as part of a dispute involving the purchase of luxury flats in London.
Bitfinex shareholder and Tether partner imprisoned for money laundering
Zhao Dong, the founder of over-the-counter (OTC) trading desk Renrenbit, was sentenced in China on charges broadly equivalent to money laundering, related to attempts to clean funds from illegitimate gambling operations, including Everyday Up and Tian Tian. Dong was one of 12 individuals charged as part of this money laundering syndicate.
Read more: Scoop: Tether’s political ties with new banking partner Britannia
RenRenBit was a Tether client. Dong had previously disclosed that he was a shareholder in Bitfinex, Tether’s sister firm. Dong was Tether’s partner for its stablecoin backed by Chinese yuan. Dong was also in communication with Devasini, at one point passing along a message from Devasini to his followers, where Devasini said, “I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the Chinese community that supported us in this battle and understood what the situation is. Unus sed leo! China is an army of lions.”
So, is Tether linked to organized crime?
Despite their many connections to criminals throughout history, Tether executives naturally deny and have never been officially implicated in any organized crime activity. They point out that these connections don’t involve Tether Ltd or USDT but, instead, relate to non-Tether related dealings of individuals.
It’s possible that Tether either got unlucky in its choices of business partners or didn’t care about their possible connections to mafia-style crime rings like ‘Ndrangheta.
Investigations into any connection between Tether executives and organized crimes often hit dead ends, as Bloomberg journalist Zeke Faux learned when he tried to track down details on Platone’s VAT fraud scheme and Devasini’s possible involvement. Faux has released details of his Tether investigations, as well as other crypto scams, in his new book Number Go Up, published Tuesday.
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