Asia Express  – Cointelegraph Magazine


Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments.

Huawei moves to trademark its NFTs

According to a Jan. 28 report by Sina News, Chinese telecom giant Huawei has recently filed for eight trademarks related to its Huawei “YunYunBao” nonfungible tokens (NFT) series. The trademarks include digital collectibles in the scientific instruments, furniture, education, jewelry, advertising and telecom sectors. Last April, Huawei unveiled its YunYunBao NFTs, featuring characters inspired by its namesake cloud service. Huawei NFTs are minted on its proprietary Huawei Petal Chain, which the telecom giant says has over 1,000 nodes and can handle over 50,000 transactions per second. 

A Huawei cloud NFT. Source: Huawei

Toyota sponsors blockchain hackathon

In a Feb. 1 Medium post, Sota Watanabe, the founder of Japanese blockchain Astar Network, announced that Astar had received a sponsorship from Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota for its latest Web3 hackathon. Astar is currently a parachain built on the Polkadot blockchain. 

According to Watanabe, over $100,000 in prizes will be distributed to projects that develop “intra-company DAO [Decentralized Autonomous Organization] support tools for this hackathon which Toyota employees may actually use in the future.” The hackathon will run from Feb. 14 to March 25.

The Toyota hackathon prize structure. Source: Hakuhodo

“Needless to say, Toyota is the largest company in Japan and one of the world’s leading international companies,” Watanabe wrote. “We are very excited to be hosting the Web3 Hackathon on Astar with Toyota. During the event, we aim to develop the first PoC DAO tool for Toyota’s employees. If a good tool is produced, Toyota employees will interact daily with products on Astar Network.”

North Korea devastates crypto

On Feb. 2, blockchain forensic analytics firm Chainalysis revealed that North Korean hackers stole an estimated $1.65 billion out of the $3.8 billion funds siphoned from decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols in 2022. For context, North Korean-related entities only stole $299.5 million in 2020 and $428.8 million in 2021. The firm also warned that despite the United States Treasury Department imposing sanctions on cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash on Aug. 8, North Korean hackers have increasingly turned to other digital asset mixers, such as Sinbad, to launder stolen funds. Chainalysis said:

“North Korea-linked hackers tend to send much of what they steal to other DeFi protocols, not because these protocols are effective for money laundering — they’re actually quite bad for money laundering given their increased transparency compared to centralized services — but rather because DeFi hacks often result in cybercriminals acquiring large quantities of illiquid tokens that aren’t listed at centralized exchanges. The hackers therefore must turn to other DeFi protocols, usually DEXes, to swap for more liquid assets.”

On Jan. 29, decentralized finance analyst Zachxbt claimed he had traced another 17,278 Ether (ETH) — worth around $27.18 million — laundered by North Korean hackers in the aftermath of the $100 million Harmony Bridge hack last June. According to Zachxbt, the funds were then moved to 14 wallet addresses spread across four exchanges. On Jan. 24, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that North Korea’s Lazarus Group was the mastermind behind the attack. 

North Korean hacking activities have seen a sharp rise as part of the country’s desperate push to “earn” foreign currency reserves amid sanctions. Source: Chainalysis

No Binance metaverse for now 

In an ask-me-anything session on Jan. 14, Changpeng Zhao, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, said that the firm “is more open to just investing in other virtual reality or metaverse games,” as the firm is not a game-builder and doesn’t have a game building team. 

“Nobody really knows what metaverse means. Everybody has a different concept of it,” the crypto executive said, according to a transcript published on Jan. 27.

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Instead, Zhao says that Binance will focus its “next big product” on releasing multiple proofs-of-reserves and proofs-of-solvencies to increase its transparency. The exchange has set a goal of 1 billion users passing Know Your Customer verification for the new year. 

Huobi denies data sharing allegations 

Digital asset entrepreneur Justin Sun has responded to allegations that his exchange Huobi provided client information to Chinese tax authorities. The TRON founder tweeted that Huobi “doesn’t share any client information to tax authorities unless it follows international judicial assistance procedure.”

Previously, Sun praised the introduction of a new 20% Chinese cryptocurrency income tax as “a clear indication that the Chinese government views cryptocurrencies as a legitimate form of wealth and wants to ensure its proper taxation.” 

Although based in the Seychelles, Huobi has a sizable number of staff working in mainland China, who reportedly revolted against the firm’s stringent new labor policies early this month. 

Huobi founder’s new ventures

After selling his entire stake in Huobi to Sun’s About Capital last October, Chinese businessman Lin Li has dedicated his time to managing Hong Kong blockchain investment holdings firm New Huo Technology. On Jan. 30, New Huo launched a staking technical support service, dubbed “Sinohope Staking,” that will first serve the Cosmos community before expanding into Ethereum, EOS and ChainLink. 

According to developers, Sinohope Staking will provide “multi-node deployment, real-time monitoring of node operation process, 7*24h online support, 3-layer wallet structure and multiple signature technologies” for users interested in staking their assets on public blockchains. New Huo says it will help clients set up their stake nodes and monitor their operations “without handling or holding any clients’ assets,” and claims clients will retain “100%” of their staked cryptocurrencies during the process. 

Bitzlato allegedly defiant despite sanctions

The co-founder of Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato says the platform will reopen after being shut down by United States authorities last month.

In a Jan. 31 YouTube interview, Russian national Anton Shurenko said that the exchange would open later at an unspecified time and claimed up to 50% of funds held in seized hot wallets would be available for withdrawal at that time. In addition, the supposed founder claimed he had no idea why his company was singled out. 

On Jan. 18, Bitzlato was shut down after an investigation by law enforcement officials, including the U.S. Department of Justice, revealed that the exchange imposed lax Know Your Customer rules and allegedly laundered over $700 million worth of illicit funds via crypto-fiat transactions. Shurenko’s fellow co-founder, Anatoly Legkodymov, was arrested in Miami around the same day. After revelations that Binance was one of the top counterparties to Bitzlato, the exchange froze a number of accounts related to the entity.  

According to recent reports, Spanish police have detained three executives from the firm, namely the CEO, a sales executive and the marketing director.

Despite its notoriety, many users in the crypto community say they’ve never heard of Bitzlato before the incident. Source: Twitter

Zhiyuan Sun

Zhiyuan sun is a journalist at Cointelegraph focusing on technology-related news. He has several years of experience writing for major financial media outlets such as The Motley Fool, Nasdaq.com and Seeking Alpha.



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