Binance raises red flags by selling Russian arm to brand-new CommEX

Troubled crypto exchange Binance has sold its business in Russia to a brand-new crypto exchange named CommEX — but crypto sleuths were quick to point out that the exchange may still be run by Binance.

This isn’t the first time Binance was forced out of a country by regulators, only to hand business off to a firm that appears to be in its pocket. Dutch users were told they could no longer use Binance in August, only to be heavily incentivized to use little-known exchange Coinmerce instead.

As Protos reported, Coinmerce has historically acted as a broker for Binance. However, a spokesperson told Protos since publication that it had “no ties” to Binance apart from an onboarding deal.

Similarly, Binance has exited Russia following a report by Bloomberg that the exchange was under investigation by the US Department of Justice for violating sanctions. At the end of August, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) also claimed the crypto exchange was violating US sanctions for enabling “substantial” ruble trade volumes through sanctioned Russian banks.

Hot on the heels of the WSJ article, Binance’s top execs in Russia stepped down. Now, Binance says it has sold its business to CommEX — which was literally created yesterday.

CommEX ties to Binance

“Who the f*ck is CommEX?” users on X, formerly Twitter, are asking. A fair question.

According to its newly-created X account, CommEX stands for Community Exchange. This sense of ‘community’ seems to run deep. Binance and CommEX’s website source code share similar traits.

For example, as pointed out by one X user, CommEX’s internal codes for APIs are the same as Binance.

Just like when Dutch users were encouraged to move to Coinmerce with a “one-click” exchange, Binance is pushing a move to CommEX on Russian users by offering a sweet 25% trading discount for BNB holders on the newly-made exchange.

Binance chief Changpeng Zhao announced a 25% trading fee discount for BNB users on CommEX.

Read more: Binance withdraws Germany crypto license request as Europe bites back

Crypto sleuths were quick to point out other similarities, like almost identical language in CommEX’s and Binance’s terms of service.

It appears that, just like in the Netherlands, Binance is seeking to maintain regional control in Russia through a proxy firm. A risky move, if true — regulators across the world already have enough reasons to go after the firm.

Will Binance pull the same move in France?

Meanwhile, Binance is reportedly struggling to find a banking partner in France. Regulators raided its European headquarters, located in Paris, back in June as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged money laundering.

Left without its former banking partner Paysafe, Binance must now find a replacement to maintain operations — or perhaps sell to another fresh-out-the-oven exchange… CroissantEx, anyone?

Update September 28, 13:45 UTC: A previous version of this article included the headline ‘CommEX ties to Binance and Coinmerce’ which has been removed. Added comment from a Coinmerce spokesperson in third paragraph.

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