As bitcoin and ether prices fell below technically significant levels, some traders are citing fear emanating from a report about the alleged PlusToken Ponzi scheme as the reason for the plunge.
The slide began at 18:28 UTC on Monday. In just seven minutes, bitcoin slipped 4 percent, to $6,800 from $7,085 according to data from Coinbase. In that time, ether took a bigger hit, dropping 7 percent from $140 to $130. Neither had seen such lows since Nov. 25, when the crypto markets suffered a temporary selloff.
With little news to go on, the markets found at least one culprit: Chainalysis’ new report, published nearly four and a half hours earlier in the day, saying 20,000 BTC (now worth $137 million) and 790,000 ETH (now worth $102 million) remain likely controlled by PlusToken “scammers.”
Further, Chainalysis claims $185 million in stolen bitcoin have already been liquidated by individuals related to PlusToken.
Six people tied to PlusToken were arrested and extradited to China from Vanuatu, where Beijing claimed the company operated a Ponzi scheme. Chainalysis said it was able to track down $2 billion in cryptocurrencies taken from victims, with a lot of that going to other “investors” – a hallmark of traditional pyramid schemes.
The arrests occurred a little more than a week before bitcoin reached its 2019 peak of $12,575.90. Since then, the cryptocurrency, which represents the lion’s share of the sector’s overall market cap, has drifted downward. While Chainalysis wouldn’t say for certain that liquidations from PlusToken-related accounts sunk bitcoin’s price, the blockchain forensics firm was willing to claim “that those cashouts cause increased volatility in Bitcoin’s price, and that they correlate significantly with Bitcoin price drops.”
A trader at an over-the-counter cryptocurrency broker attributed Monday’s steep decline to jitters that more of PlusToken’s ill-gotten bitcoin and ether was going to flood the market.
“This [Chainalysis post] may have something to do with it, driving a little bit of fear among participants,” he told CoinDesk, quickly adding: “It’s not news. I’m not sure why that story is driving the market. People see stuff on Twitter and make their own conclusions. It’s largely the tail wagging the dog.”