(Bloomberg) -- The arrest of Three Arrows Capital co-founder Su Zhu in Singapore on Friday was yet another example of the dramatically declining fortunes of formerly highflying crypto founders around the world.
Three Arrows once ranked among the largest and most successful crypto-native hedge funds, and its charismatic and often deliberatively provocative co-founders appeared to revel in the attention they attracted. But when the fund suffered big losses in 2022 owing to a series of ill-fated bets on Luna tokens and other investments, Zhu and his co-founder Kyle Davies went into hiding, leaving creditors owed around $3 billion.
Read: Ex-Credit Suisse Traders Amass Billions of Dollars of Crypto
After an extended absence from social media and months of speculation about their whereabouts, the pair eventually resurfaced in Dubai where they said they were helping to launch OPNX, a platform for tokenized versions of bankruptcy claims — including those associated with bankrupt crypto exchange FTX. On X, formerly known as Twitter, Zhu and Davies started posting photos and conducting media interviews from destinations including Thailand, Bali, Spain and Malaysia.
All the while, Zhu and Davies were engaged in a months-long fight with Teneo — the firm appointed to unwind Three Arrows — with each accusing the other of failing to cooperate.
“Kyle Livingstone Davies and Su Zhu (together, the ‘Founders’) — both of whom have maintained a particularly active social media presence in the wake of the failure of their company — have failed to offer forthright cooperation,” Teneo wrote in a February filing. “All the while, Mr. Davies has continued to post on his Twitter account, openly ignoring the Court’s directives and enjoying media attention while he continues to thwart efforts by [liquidators] to gain access to documents and information,” Teneo said in the filing.
Zhu and Davies, for their part, have accused Teneo of not engaging constructively to return funds to creditors. Friday’s arrest brought things to a head.
Zhu, who had previously told Bloomberg he was worried about going to jail, was detained at Changi Airport as he tried to leave Singapore for failing to comply with a court order compelling him to cooperate with Teneo. The firm said it had received a committal order sentencing both Zhu and Davies to four months in prison. Teneo is seeking to recover more than $1 billion directly from the two men. Neither Zhu nor Davies responded to requests for comment.
Singapore’s financial regulator had already banned the pair from conducting regulated activity in the city-state for nine years. Davies’ whereabouts are currently unclear. His lawyers didn’t return a request for comment. Bloomberg News has reached out to Singapore police for comment.
Read: Three Arrows Founders, En Route to Dubai, Describe ‘LTCM Moment’
Zhu’s arrest is only the latest in a string of legal interventions against alleged wrongdoing in crypto, following a series of high-profile business collapses and fraud scandals that wiped out trillions of dollars in market value last year.
FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas in December and is due to go on trial in New York on Oct. 3. Ex-Celsius chief executive office Alex Mashinsky was arrested in July. Do Kwon, who created the collapsed Terra stablecoin and the associated Luna token that helped bring down Three Arrows, is in custody in Montenegro, accused of forging identity documents. All three men have denied the allegations against them.
Read: How Do Kwon Went From Crypto King to Fugitive to Jail: QuickTake
Singapore isn’t the only jurisdiction to have take action against the former hedge fund managers. Dubai’s crypto regulator fined the duo along with OPNX’s management in May for failing to abide by its rules for marketing, advertising and promotions. After Zhu’s arrest, the OX token associated with the OPNX platform traded as much as 40% lower at around $0.013. The token hit an all-time high of $0.077 in August, according to CoinGecko data.
In the US, which has engaged on a sweeping crackdown on crypto at both the federal and state level, authorities have been probing whether Three Arrows misled investors and failed to register with local agencies, Bloomberg News reported in October.
Teneo said it will seek to engage with Zhu on matters relating to Three Arrows and recovering lost funds while he is in prison. The estate has been steadily auctioning and selling off Three Arrows’s assets to raise funds for creditors, including an attempted $30 million sale of the co-founders super-yacht, “Much Wow.”
--With assistance from Jonathan Randles, Hannah Miller and Claire Boston.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.