Cryptopia’s Liquidator Claws Back Nearly $5M, But Identifying Crypto Ownership a 'Mammoth Task'

The liquidator for the collapsed New Zealand-based crypto exchange Cryptopia now has NZ$7.2 million on balance for potential user refunds. Finding out who's owed what, though, is proving a tough task.

AccessTimeIconDec 12, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 3:04 a.m. UTC
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The liquidator for the collapsed New Zealand-based crypto exchange Cryptopia has retrieved NZ$7.2 million (US$4.74 million) on balance since the platform was hacked for possibly $16 million in January.

The assigned liquidator, accounting firm Grant Thornton New Zealand, released a report Wednesday detailing the breakdown of the retrieved assets and the challenges it faces in tracking down some of the user funds.

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  • Overall, the firm recovered NZ$10.9 million in new receipts from May to November include NZ$5 million from a third-party trust fund, NZ$4.4 million converted from the exchange’s own 344 bitcoins and NZ$200,000 from sale of assets such as furniture and equipment from Cryptopia’s office.

    However, expenses arising from the ongoing liquidation process amount to NZ$3.7 million including distributions to preferential creditors, salaries, legal expenses and liquidators fees. That leaves NZ$7,164,835 in assets that can potentially be refunded to users.

    The start of that process still looks likely to be some time coming. Although said to be "well underway," the report also offers an explanation of the time-consuming process needed to identify each customer’s holdings.

    “We are working to reconcile the accounts of over 900,000 active customers, many holding multiple crypto-assets, millions of transactions and potentially over 900 different crypto-assets." the liquidator said.

    It's proving extremely difficult to find out how much of which assets customers held on Cryptopia, the liquidator said, citing two reasons. Firstly, the customers did not have individual wallets, and crypto assets were instead pooled in general wallets.

    Grant Thornton explained:

    " While Cryptopia held details of customer holdings and reported these on the Exchange, the crypto-assets themselves were pooled (co-mingled) in coin wallets. As a centralised exchange, customers' trades would occur in the exchange's internal ledger without confirmation on the blockchain."

    Additionally, the exchange never completed reconciliation of its customer databases with the cryptocurrencies actually held in its wallets, leaving a “mammoth task” to ascertain each customer’s holdings.

    Also a potential hurdle to eventual payouts is the fact that there are legal issues to be resolved first. The liquidator has appealed to New Zealand's High Court seeking directions on the legal status of crypto assets in the nation.

    Whether the court rules that crypto assets count as property or not will decide whether they can be held on trust for affected customers or whether the firm keeps beneficial ownership, Grant Thornton said.

    The liquidator’s next statutory report is not due until May 2020, however, it expects to provide another update to stakeholders after the High Court hearing in February.

    Cryptopia went into liquidation in May after it suffered from financial losses and plummeting trading volume due to the January hack. Soon after, Grant Thornton filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. in order to preserve the only records of customer data that were stored on a server in Arizona.


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