Singapore suspends crypto exchanges over controversy with K-pop group BTS

Singapore’s financial regulator has suspended a prominent digital currency exchange in connection with a crypto retirement scheme that claims to be affiliated with South Korea’s biggest boy band BTS. .

Singapore’s move to suspend the local activities of Bitget, the shirt sponsor of Italian team Juventus, comes as the city-state is looking to establish itself as a global crypto hub.

In October, Bitget was threatened with legal action by BTS’ agency Hybe for advertising the Army Coin digital currency, named after the BTS group’s passionate followers ARMY. The owner and creator of this coin is unknown.

This platform advertised Army Coin as a way to provide lifetime financial support to BTS members “so they don’t have to worry about surviving but instead let them do what they want to do”. Hybe said the coin has no connection to BTS.

The episode demonstrates the challenges faced by regulators trying to keep the crypto industry in check as digital currencies become more widely accepted by retail investors.

Last week Spain’s Market Regulatory Authority criticized football player Andrés Iniesta on a social media post promoting Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

A post promoting Bitget's Army Coin

A post promoting Bitget’s Army Coin

Singapore, a financial hub and free trade hub, has more open to technology compared to regional rivals including Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Popular crypto companies Binance, Ripple, and Coinbase have applied for licenses and been granted waivers by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to serve both retail and institutional clients.

Bitget was also exempted but this was removed in July, according to a person familiar with the matter. Both Bitget and MAS declined to provide details on the reasons for removing Bitget’s immunity.

However, Bitget’s services remained available in Singapore until the end of November when it was advertising Army Coin and its website continued to claim that it had been approved by the MAS.

The company has since removed the MAS logo from its website after being contacted by the Financial Times and blocked Singaporean users from accessing its app and website. Bitget still claims to have licenses in the US, Canada, and Australia.

Bitget did not respond to questions from the FT as to why its services are still available to Singaporeans even with the exemption.

Meanwhile, Army Coin has also been listed on CoinTiger, another crypto exchange with ties to Singapore. CoinTiger’s announcement said the coin “exists for the benefit of BTS” and will “really support them financially.”

Hybe released a statement in October saying the coin had “no connection” with BTS and warning that they would also “take legal action” but declined to comment on the Army Coin creator. .

The coin is still available for users to buy and sell in other jurisdictions on Bitget, including in South Korea, although trading is extremely volatile.

An analysis by the FT showed that the coin fluctuated up to 78 times its value in a single day, rallying back to between $1,000 and $78,000 within minutes.

Varun Mittal, author of Singapore: Fintech Country.

“If someone wants to spend money on these exchanges, then the regulators won’t be able to stop them,” Mittal said.

Cryptocurrency companies have ramped up their advertising efforts to capitalize on growing investor interest. Singapore-based crypto platform paid over $700 million in November for naming rights for the Staples . Center, a stadium in Los Angeles.

Bitget announced its sponsorship deal with Juventus in September. The exchange’s name and logo appear on the team’s black and white shirts as the club’s first “sleeve sponsor”. .

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