Big-time Brexit and Boris Johnson donor Christopher Harborne has been named in disclosures first reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that suggest Tether evaded blocks by US banks through falsifying documents.
These claims, wholly denied by Tether, say shell companies, false documents, and shady intermediaries like Harborne were used to con banks into keeping accounts open and money flowing. The WSJ cites emails by Tether owner Stephen Moore in which he says the firm should stop making fake invoices because he “would not want to argue any of the above in a potential fraud/money laundering case.”
Tether is the largest stablecoin in the crypto industry left standing. It claims to be 1:1 backed to the US dollar — one would presume a firm requires a healthy relationship with a US bank account for that.
In a statement to the WSJ in response to its article, Tether called the report’s claims “wholly inaccurate and misleading.” It said Tether and Bitfinex have “world-class compliance programs” and uphold the letter of the law.
Christopher Harborne tied to Tether’s alleged fraud
Under the pseudonym Chakrit Sakunkrit, Harborne was and could still be a major shareholder of Digfinex, the parent company of Tether and Bitfinex.
Silvergate closed its accounts with Tether and Bitfinex in 2018, and denied a request to reopen them that fall. First reported by the WSJ, Harborne then applied for an account at Signature through his aviation fuel brokerage AML Global.
In the application, Thailand-based Harborne alleged he would primarily use the account to trade crypto on exchange Kraken to hedge currency exposure. The fact that he operated under a pseudonym that owned 12% of Tether and Bitfinex (and therefore would have been familiar to Signature) was never mentioned.
Soon after, however, employees at Signature flagged large inflows from Bitfinex on AML’s account.
“Bitfinex was not mentioned anywhere in the paperwork that was provided,” a Signature employee wrote, according to the documents reported by the WSJ. “If they are buying/selling with Kraken, why is the money only coming in from Bitfinex?”
Signature then flagged the account for potential anti-money laundering and closed it.
Christopher Harborne was Brexit’s biggest donor
Harborne’s name came up several times in the Panama Papers back in 2018, for acting as an intermediary for large firms — just like he’s now accused of doing with Tether.
Protos revealed in 2021 that Harborne donated nearly £14 million ($16.8 million) to Nigel Farage’s Reform UK (formerly Brexit Party) between April 2019 and February 2020, when he was a Digifinex shareholder. This meant Harborne gave the majority of the party’s Brexit funds — Reform UK raised £18 million ($21.6 million) in total.
More recently, it was revealed that former UK prime minister Boris Johnson received the largest donation ever made to an individual MP when Harborne donated £1 million ($1.2 million).
Harborne has further been involved in several crypto ventures, including:
- Digital Currencies Governance Group (DCGG), a set of UK crypto advocates that listed Harborne as a lobbyist during its first six months.
- INSEAD’s Blockchain Research Fund, a blockchain initiative funded by Harborne and created by his former university. INSEAD is also a listed partner of DCGG.
- Seamico Securities, a financial services company. Harborne is listed by Bloomberg under his Thai identity as a former board member. Four years ago, Seamico made plans to tokenize the real estate industry.
- Singular AI Consulting Limited, a tech company (dissolved as of October 2022) co-founded by Harborne and Genesis co-founder and CEO, Marco Andreas Streng.