MOSCOW – If you're looking to hide money from the authorities, don't choose Binance, says CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ).
The cryptocurrency exchange mogul sat down to talk with CoinDesk's Anna Baydakova during his recent visit to Russia. Our conversation – over 80 minutes long – touched on everything from custody to security to the crypto exchange's plans for Eastern Europe and Russia.
During the interview, CZ rejected the popular perception of Binance as a global crypto pirate.
"There is a common misconception that Binance is kind of an outlaw, that we don’t work with compliance, we don’t work with law enforcement," he said. "Even in the very early days we very cooperative with every government, with every law enforcement agency, every regulatory body."
What about political dissidents who face criminal charges under oppressive regimes? Sadly, the same: if there is a criminal case against you, Binance will have to work with the authorities and possibly give out your information.
As CZ warned:
"I hope those guys don’t use us. Much better, use decentralized exchange of some kind, privacy coins of some kind — just don’t bother us, I hope. We don’t have a chance. Unfortunately, in such cases, there is not much we can do, we just don’t have a choice."
Russia is one of the key markets for Binance and that the exchange is interested in hiring local developers, CZ said. He also talked about the prospects for Binance's stablecoin project, Venus. Smaller economies are more likely to welcome the project, he said. He expects it to be popular in Bermuda, which recently started accepting taxes in Binance's U.S. dollar-pegged stablecoin BUSD.
CZ doesn't expect to see Venus-related stablecoins get traction any time soon in large countries like Russia, the U.S. and China. Government-approved stablecoins, although far from the original decentralized and uncontrolled nature of crypto, are important for the development of the crypto infrastructure, he said:
"The real world is not binary, fiat or crypto. We may not be able to advance [crypto adoption] in one big giant leap. We can have more degrees of decentralization."
CZ also addressed the 125x leverage option Binance recently introduced. To those who think it's just a way for careless traders to get "rekt," he responds: you don't have to use the sharpest knife you see.
"This is what users have been asking for. So we give them what they want," he said. Asked if even higher leverage could be available on Binance one day, he said it was, "at some point, when there is enough liquidity":
"500x exists in FX trading, in traditional financial markets. For cryptocurrency markets, it’s too high right now. But in six months, in a year, who knows?"
CZ also talked about the ambitious and controversial blockchain projects underway at social media and messaging giants Facebook and Telegram. Not even a total ban could stop them, he said.
"Even if the regulators stop Libra, stop Telegram, those teams will launch something different. When an idea is in people’s heads you can’t kill it," he said.
"The best case is, both of them clear the regulatory hurdle and they launch. They have a large number of users, we’re happy to support them," he went on. "Worse case, they shut down, but those teams will do something in the blockchain space that will be a different iteration of the current thing. I don’t think they will be killed forever."
Watch all four parts of the conversation below:
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