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From billionaire to Montenegro jail: The rapid rise and fall of Terra chief Do Kwon

Do Kwon, a billionaire and the CEO of Terraform Labs, was arrested in Montenegro on 21 October 2021. He was charged with money laundering and violating capital market laws in South Korea, where he allegedly transferred illegally obtained funds through Terra’s blockchain platform. Kwon was also accused of embezzling funds from the company and taking them out of the country.

Kwon’s rapid rise to success began with the launch of Terra in 2018, a decentralized platform that aimed to bridge the gap between fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies. Terra quickly gained popularity and raised over $214 million in funding, attracting high-profile investors such as Binance and Coinbase.

Under Kwon’s leadership, Terra expanded rapidly, launching a suite of decentralized applications and partnering with major brands such as Starbuck and Carousell. The platform also created its own stablecoin, UST, which grew to become the 8th largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.

However, Kwon’s success was short-lived. In August 2021, reports emerged of Terra’s involvement in a Ponzi-like scheme in South Korea, where the platform’s native cryptocurrency, LUNA, was used to attract investors. The Korean Financial Supervisory Service launched an investigation into Terra and Kwon, leading to his arrest in Montenegro.

The news of Kwon’s arrest shook the cryptocurrency industry, with many investors and experts raising concerns about the lack of regulation and accountability in the sector. Others expressed disappointment in Kwon’s actions, which they saw as a betrayal of the ideals of decentralization and transparency that underpin blockchain technology.

As of writing, Kwon remains in custody in Montenegro, and his future as a CEO and billionaire is uncertain. The case against him is ongoing, and if convicted, Kwon could face a lengthy prison sentence and heavy fines.

The downfall of Do Kwon serves as a cautionary tale for the cryptocurrency industry, highlighting the need for greater transparency, oversight, and accountability. It’s also a reminder that high-profile CEOs are not immune to legal repercussions for their actions, even in an industry that prides itself on its decentralized and innovative nature.

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