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Voyager Crypto Sinks Into Bankruptcy

FILE: Illustration shows representation of cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dash plunging into water. Taken 5.23.2022

U.S. crypto lender Voyager Digital said Wednesday it had filed for bankruptcy, becoming another casualty of a dramatic fall in prices that has shaken the cryptocurrency sector.

In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Tuesday, Voyager Digital - based in New Jersey but listed in Toronto - estimated that it had more than 100,000 creditors and somewhere between $1 billion and $10 billion in assets, and liabilities worth the same value.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures put a hold on all civil litigation matters and allow companies to prepare turnaround plans while remaining operational.

"The prolonged volatility and contagion in the crypto markets over the past few months, and the default of Three Arrows Capital on a loan from the company's subsidiary, Voyager Digital, LLC, require us to take deliberate and decisive action now," Voyager Chief Executive Officer Stephen Ehrlich said in a statement.

In a message to customers on Twitter, Ehrlich said the process would protect assets and "maximize value for all stakeholders, especially customers".

Voyager said on Wednesday it had more than $110 million of cash and owned crypto assets on hand. It intends to pay employees in the usual manner and continue their primary benefits and certain customer programs without disruption.

Last week, Voyager said it had issued a notice of default to Singapore-based crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC) for failing to make payments on a crypto loan totalling over $650 million.

Voyager has hired Moelis & Company and The Consello Group as financial advisers, Kirkland & Ellis LLP as legal adviser and Berkeley Research Group LLC as restructuring adviser.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures put a hold on all civil litigation matters and allow companies to prepare turnaround plans while remaining operational.

Voyager had last month signed an agreement with trading firm Alameda Ventures, founded by Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of major exchange FTX, for a revolving line of credit. A filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of New York showed that Alameda was Voyager's largest single creditor, with unsecured loans of $75 million.

Alameda did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Mine Massacre Families May See Justice Soon

FILE: Some of the thousands of platinum mineworkers report for work at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum, mine in Marikana, South Africa, June 25, 2014, following the resolution of the five-month strike in the sector.

Outstanding claims of compensation from the massacre of 34 workers at a South African platinum mine a decade ago are likely to be settled this month, an official said on Wednesday.

Police gunned down 34 mineworkers and injured 78 others as they repressed a wildcat strike that had turned violent at the Marikana mine northwest of Johannesburg on August 16, 2012.

The massacre was the worst act of police violence since the end of apartheid, which had been legally dismantled 11 years earlier.

Solicitor-General Fhedzisani Pandelani announced that the last civil claims against the government were on track to be resolved before the end of August.

Forty-eight claims remain, Pandelani told a press briefing in the capital Pretoria.

"I can also give the assurance that to the extent that is possible, we could in fact be in a position to resolve all of those matters within this month," he said.

Pandelani said the last cases hinged on the extent of personal injuries, medical examinations or actuarial calculations.

Compensation claims directly related to miners who were killed had already been settled last year, with the state paying almost 76 million rand ($4.6 million) to the victims' families, he said.

He added it was "regrettable" it took so long to bring the cases to a close.

South Africa marks the 10th anniversary of the massacre that shocked the nation on August 16.

Algerian Education Scammers Get Jail

FILE: A man adjusts a student's mortar board during the graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai. Taken 6.28.2006

Two Algerian social media influencers were sentenced on appeal Tuesday to a year each in prison, with six months suspended, over a scam targeting students seeking education abroad, local media reported.

Among the charges faced by Farouk Boudjemline, known as Rifka, and Mohamed Aberkane, alias Stanley, were criminal association, forgery, theft, fraud and money laundering.

Their co-accused Numidia Lezoul faced the same charges but was acquitted.

All three are well-known in the north African country, and were originally sentenced to one year each and fined the equivalent of 650 euros for promoting the "Future Gate" agency.

Oussama Rezagui, the head of the agency, was given a six-year jail sentence, reduced on appeal from seven years, and a heavy fine.

The scam involved charging students large sums to arrange their university registration and provide accommodation, but left them to their fate once there.

This ruse had defrauded many Algerians wishing to study abroad, particularly in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.

Crypto World's Cracks Widen

FILE: Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture. Taken 2.14.2018

The recent Nomad hack was the eighth-biggest crypto theft on record. Other thefts from bridges this year include a $615 million heist at Ronin, used in a popular online game, and a $320 million theft at Wormhole, used in so-called decentralized finance applications.

When thieves stole an estimated $190 million from U.S. crypto firm Nomad last week, it was the seventh hack of 2022 to target an increasingly important cog in the crypto machine: Blockchain "bridges" - strings of code that help move crypto coins between different applications.

So far this year, hackers have stolen crypto worth some $1.2 billion from bridges, data from London-based blockchain analysis firm Elliptic shows, already more than double last year's total.

"This is a war where the cybersecurity firm or the project can't be a winner," said Ronghui Hu, a professor of computer science at Columbia University in New York and co-founder of cybersecurity firm CertiK.

"We have to protect so many projects. For them (hackers) when they look at one project and there's no bugs, they can simply move on to the next one, until they find a one weak point."

At present, most digital tokens run on their own unique blockchain, essentially a public digital ledger that records crypto transactions. That risks projects using these coins becoming siloed, reducing their prospects for wide use.

Blockchain bridges aim to tear down these walls. Backers say they will play a fundamental role in "Web3" - the much-hyped vision of a digital future where crypto's enmeshed in online life and commerce.

Yet bridges can be the weakest link.

"Blockchain bridges are the most fertile ground for new vulnerabilities," said Steve Bassi, co-founder and CEO of malware detector PolySwarm.

Nomad did not respond to requests for comment, but it has said it is working with law enforcement agencies and a blockchain analysis firm to track the stolen funds. Late last week, it announced a bounty of up to 10% for the return of funds hacked from the bridge.

Nomad said on Saturday it had recovered over $32 million of the hacked funds so far.

"The most important thing in crypto is community, and our number one goal is restoring bridged user funds," Mohan said. "We will treat any party who returns 90% or more of exploited funds as a white hats. We will not prosecute white hats," he said, referring to so-called ethical hackers.

Several cyber security and blockchain experts told Reuters that the complexity of bridges meant they could represent an Achilles' heel for projects and applications that used them.

"A reason why hackers have targeted these cross-chain bridges of late is because of the immense technical sophistication involved in creating these kinds of services," said Ganesh Swami, CEO of blockchain data firm Covalent in Vancouver, which had some crypto stored on Nomad's bridge when it was hacked.

"Cross-chain bridges are an attractive target for hackers because they often leverage a centralized infrastructure, most of which lock up assets," said Victor Young, founder and chief architect at U.S. blockchain firm Analog.

So how best to address the problem?

Some experts say audits of smart contracts could help to guard against cyber thefts, as well as "bug bounty" programs that incentivize open-sourced reviews of smart contract code.

Others call for less concentration of control of the bridges by individual companies, something they say could bolster resiliency and transparency of code.

Morocco Moves Toward U.S. Extradition of Cybercrimes Suspect

Representative illustration of cybercriminal. Courtesy VOA Bangla

Morocco's top court has given a preliminary endorsement over the extradition to the US of a French national suspected of cybercrimes, judicial sources said on Monday.

The Moroccan court gave a "favorable opinion" on the extradition of Sebastien Raoult, 21, but a source close to the case explained that the court "did not order" the extradition at this time.

Raoult's French lawyer, Philippe Ohayon, said the court decision "reinforces our determination" that Raoult be extradited to France, not the United States.

"We believe that Sebastien Raoult has not simply been abandoned by France but that he has been sacrificed," because a French-American operation arrested five other suspects in France the same day Raoult was detained in Morocco, the lawyer said.

French magazine L'Obs reported that the FBI suspects Raoult of belonging to the Shiny Hunters hacking group, which has allegedly targeted US companies including Microsoft.

The report said US authorities were seeking Raoult's extradition over accusations including electronic fraud and identity theft.

Raoult could face more than 100 years in prison in the United States over the charges, according to L'Obs.

A police source in Morocco had confirmed in late July that Raoult was taken in for questioning on May 31 at the Rabat-Sale airport in relation to an Interpol red notice over a cyber-piracy case.

Red notices ask member countries to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal action.

The extradition itself can only be decided by Morocco's prime minister after a proposal by a committee that also includes the justice and foreign ministers, the source said.

Tanzania Tightens Belt Against Inflation

FILE - A view of the skyline of Tanzania's port city of Dar es Salaam. Taken 7.12.2013

Tanzania will reduce liquidity (money supply) over the rest of 2022 in order to tackle a surge of inflation, the central bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) said on Saturday.

"The MPC approved the Bank of Tanzania to reduce the speed of expanding liquidity in the remainder of 2022, in order to tame inflationary pressures from the demand side, while safeguarding the growth of the economy," an MPC statement said, without offering further detail.

Inflation in the East African country hit 4.4% in June, the latest month for which data was available.

Tanzania's National Bureau of Statistics reports that prices climbed at a faster pace for transport (8.9 percent vs 7.2 percent in May); food & non-alcoholic beverages (5.9 percent vs 5.5 percent) and housing & utilities (4.6 percent vs 4.3 percent). On a monthly basis, consumer prices were up 0.5 percent, the same rate reported for May.

The MPC warned in its statement that inflation could rise further because of prices globally for food, fuel, and fertilizer.

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