The whispers that cryptocurrency exchange giant Bitfinex has found a banking partner in the Caribbean are growing louder.
Citing three people with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg reports that the exchange operator has opened accounts at Noble Bank International, a financial institution based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Noble, notably, does not hold funds directly, instead partnering with Bank of New York Mellon as a third-party custodian.
This is not the first time that Noble has been fingered as Bitfinex’s banking partner. As CCN reported, BitMEX Research released a report in March suggesting that Noble was likely providing banking services to Bitfinex and Tether -- a cryptocurrency startup that issues a USD-pegged token that trades under the ticker symbol USDT.
Tether is closely associated with Bitfinex, even sharing a management team, though the companies have not publicly discussed the precise nature of their relationship. Tether, moreover, has never released a full third-party audit verifying that its tokens are fully-backed by USD, even as its market cap has swelled to $2.5 billion.
The BitMEX report noted that aggregate financial data indicated that Puerto Rico-based financial institutions had experienced a surge in cash deposits last year that correlated with both the rapid increase in newly-issued tethers and the growth of the cryptocurrency market as a whole.
According to Bloomberg, an anonymous source with “direct knowledge” of the matter said that Noble was “almost entirely responsible” for that increase, which saw cash deposits rise to $3.3 billion in Dec. 2017 from $191 million just one year prior.
Bitfinex’s difficulty finding a long-term banking partner has been thoroughly documented, and the firm is said to have bounced around institutions using a string of third-party accounts following the decision by Wells Fargo to close the exchange operator’s accounts.
In December, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) reportedly issued subpoenas to Bitfinex and Tether, though the results of the investigation have not been made public.
Neither Noble Bank nor Bitfinex immediately responded to requests for comment.
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