Zhaojun He, co-founder and CEO of cross-chain bridging protocol Multichain, has resurfaced on Telegram for the first time since his unexplained and continuous detention by Chinese police last year.
According to user reports on Jan. 16, Zhaojun’s Telegram profile now displays as “last seen recently,” compared to the previous “last seen a long time ago,” indicating user activity. The current message is only displayed for individuals who have been active on the social media platform within the past three days. The CEO’s account posted no new messages.
“Can still be the police office accessing his Telegram so it doesn’t get auto-deleted,” one user commented. “But can also mean zj [Zhaojun] has access again to his phone.”
On May 21, 2023, Zhaojun, who held centralized access to the protocol’s assets and servers, was detained by Chinese police on unexplained charges. Users’ assets stored on Multichain were then mysteriously bridged to unknown addresses without their consent and withdrawn.
In a recent message, Andre Cronje, co-founder of the Fantom protocol, one of the largest users and subsequent victims of the Multichain incident, seems to have confirmed earlier rumors regarding the whereabouts of Zhaojun. “Local police in China, as part of a large scam investigation, tracked stolen funds to Multichain. Not in a way that Multichain was involved, but that the stolen funds were bridged via Multichain,” Cronje wrote, adding:
“This nuance is the core of the issue. As the stolen funds were “held” by Multichain, the majority of node operators were arrested and forced to hand over their access & keys. Using this access the police then seized the assets and are currently holding it as part of the ongoing investigation.”
Cronje explained that Fantom is working with law firms in Singapore, where Multichain is incorporated, in an effort to retrieve the misappropriated assets. Legal efforts in Mainland China, however, have stalled due to the absence of capacity for Fantom “to act on behalf of all impacted users.”
“Sadly, with anything regulatory, legal, or based around a criminal investigation, these things often take years to resolve,” The Fantom co-founder concluded.
Since the beginning of last year, Chinese authorities have cracked down harshly on Web3 and blockchain firms operating within Mainland China, where cryptocurrencies are officially illegal. If caught, Web3 founders face asset seizure and trials where the defendant is presumed guilty until proven otherwise. The crackdown has led to a reduction in money laundering operations and crypto scams. Still, it has also led to collateral damage for foreign investors using Chinese blockchain protocols without criminal intent.
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