Crypto payments processor Wyre was forced to limit withdrawals at the beginning of this year but was able to resume operations after receiving an undisclosed amount of funding from a mystery investor. Wyre has never disclosed why the withdrawal limits were needed.
This injection of funds came a few days after Stephen Cheng was elevated to interim chief executive officer (CEO) after previously serving as chief risk officer (CRO) and chief compliance officer (CCO). Last month, Cheng was promoted to permanent CEO. Previously, he was CCO at Prime Trust.
Wyre’s valuation peaked when Bolt, a checkout application, decided to purchase the business for $1.5 billion. However, the deal eventually fell apart for undisclosed reasons.
Wyre had previously partnered with Binance in order to offer BUSD as part of its checkout product.
In an attempt to understand Wyre’s position in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, Protos has attempted to look into the corporate structure of Wyre and discovered some strange details.
What is Wyre?
Wyre is a San Francisco-based company that has been active around the world. In 2017 it acquired Remitsy as part of its push into the Chinese market and opened a new Beijing headquarters. Former Remitsy CEO Richard Bensberg would serve as a director in Beijing for about two years before leaving and joining Blockstream, according to LinkedIn.
Wyre’s support documents list the banks it’s able to work with in China and says, “Wyre can deliver your payments to most major Chinese banks.”
One of the founders is Australian Michael Dunworth who was in line to make over $200 million in the Bolt deal before it fell to pieces. He founded Wyre along with Ioannis Giannaros, who he met in Silicon Valley.
Giannaros was the firm’s CEO until he transitioned to executive chairman to allow Cheng to step up as CEO. This move was announced on January 7 this year.
However, corporate filings suggest that Giannaros didn’t leave the role at that time. Wyre Payments Inc — the entity that holds the money transmitter licenses in the United States — filed its annual corporate report in Florida near the end of February. This listed Giannaros as CEO, president, director, and secretary of the corporation. It’s not clear why he was still listed as CEO after he’d supposedly stepped aside.
Furthermore, Giannaros still holds important positions in a wide variety of other corporate entities that appear to be important for the company.
Its user agreement also references Wyred OÜ as one of its affiliates. This is the entity that users in the European Union are told to contact. Based in Estonia, it lists Giannaros as the ultimate beneficial owner but is also in liquidation, with the liquidator named as Alexander Urmas Vest. Estonian newspaper Postimees reported several years ago that Vest also goes by the name Urmas Sääsk and was previously convicted of fraud.
Giannaros also remains the sole director of Wyre Payments PTY LTD, the Australian entity referenced in the user agreement, according to corporate filings reviewed by Protos.
Why does it matter?
Wyre is still an active payment processor in use by cryptocurrency companies, yet its legal terms reference one company that’s dissolved and another that’s liquidated. Wyre’s main entity in the US still lists as CEO someone who supposedly stepped away from the position.
Wyre has yet to disclose why it had to institute withdrawal limits, who provided the funding that allowed it to remove the withdrawal limits, and why the legal documents on its website include a web of different entities in various states of use or decay.
Wyre claims in tweets that it “operates with transparency” but the reality seems vastly different.
Protos has reached out to Wyre with further questions and will update if we hear back.