Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by trading volume, said on Friday it does not own Indian platform WazirX despite disclosing the acquisition two and a half years ago in a move that baffled industry players, including the Indian company which insists the purchase took place.
Changpeng Zhao, founder and CEO of Binance, said in a series of tweets that the company has “tried to get the deal done for the past few years” but has yet to finalize the deal, citing “a few issues” which he declined to elaborate.
Binance announced the acquisition of WazirX in late 2019 in a blog post. The official blog post, which featured a photo of Zhao and WazirX founders, also showcased Binance executives’ enthusiasm for the deal.
“The acquisition of WazirX shows our commitment and dedication to the people of India and strengthens the blockchain ecosystem in India as well as another step towards money freedom,” the 2019 post said.
WazirX also reported that it was “successfully acquired by Binance” in a separate blog post.
Zhao said on Friday that Binance does not “own any stake in Zanmai Labs,” the entity operating WazirX and created by the original founders.
“On November 21, 2019, Binance published a blog post indicating that it had ‘acquired’ WazirX. This transaction never went through. Binance has never – at any time – held shares of Zanmai Labs, l entity operating WazirX,” he wrote.
“Binance only provides wallet services for WazirX as a technology solution. There is also integration using off-chain transmission, to save on network charges. WazirX is responsible for all other aspects of the WazirX exchange, including user registration, KYC, trading, and initiating withdrawals,” he added.
The clarification follows India’s Law Enforcement Directorate freezing WazirX’s assets worth more than $8 million, citing an alleged violation of exchange rules.
“Recent allegations regarding the operation of WazirX and the manner in which the platform is managed by Zanmai Labs are of deep concern to Binance. Binance is working with law enforcement around the world. We would be happy to work with ED in any way possible,” Zhao added.
India’s Anti-Money Laundering Agency said in its order on Friday that Binance rarely responds to queries sent to its official legal compliance email address.
WazirX is the largest crypto exchange in India by trading volume. Its annual transaction volume topped $43 billion in 2021, a “1,735% growth over 2020,” the company said late last year. The platform also provides its technology to several other Indian exchanges.
Nischal Shetty, co-founder of WazirX, disputed Zhao’s claims, saying that Binance had indeed acquired WazirX. In a series of tweets, he said:
The public dispute over ownership took an even stranger turn on Saturday. In a tweet, Zhao said that Binance had asked WazirX to transfer the source code, deployment and operations of the system as recently as February this year, a request which he said was denied by WazirX. “Binance has no control over their systems. WazirX has not cooperated with us and also seems uncooperative with ED,” he added.
Shetty also doubled down on his claim that Binance owns WazirX, a claim Zhao called a “deception.”
The story has been fully updated to include additional details.