Founders of BitMEX crypto exchange take guilty plea, pay $10M fine for failing to implement an anti-money laundering program

Arther Hayes and Benjamin Delo, the founders of the BitMEX cryptocurrency exchange, pled guilty to violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, which they violated by ignoring requirements to implement any anti-money laundering (AML) programs, including programs that would verify customer identities (KYC). They also separately agreed to pay a $10 million fine, which represents the monetary gain from their crime. "BitMEX was in effect a money laundering platform", said the U.S. Department of Justice statement, which also described how the platform was reportedly used to launder funds from a hack of another exchange, and how the executives both had direct knowledge that some of their customers were from countries under OFAC sanctions.

In March, the third co-founder, Sam Reed, also pled guilty and agreed to pay a $10 million fine. In August, top BitMex employee Gregory Dwyer entered a guilty plea and agreed to pay a $150,000 fine.

BitMEX had attempted to evade sanctions by claiming they didn't serve customers in the United States, though in reality they served thousands of U.S. customers and marketed in the U.S. At one point, when an early investor inquired as to why an investment in the company hadn't triggered a report to regulatory authorities, Delo responded with a meme of a man smiling, superimposed with the text "Incorporated in Seychelles, come at me bro". Hayes and Delo face a maximum sentence of five years in prison as a result of this plea. The exchange had in August paid $100 million to settle a separate lawsuit from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in an agreement which had also required them to implement proper blocks to prevent U.S. customers from using the service.