PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — South Korea and the United States have requested the extradition from Montenegro of Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon, who is wanted in connection with a $40 billion crash of the firm’s cryptocurrency that devastated retail investors around the world, Montenegro's justice minister said Wednesday.
Do Kwon and another South Korean citizen were arrested in Montenegro last week on international arrest warrants. A court in the small European country ordered the two detained for 30 days for legal proceedings, Justice Minister Marko Kovac said.
South Korea asked Interpol in September to circulate a “red notice” asking the agency’s 195 member nations to find and apprehend the 31-year-old Kwon.
He and the other man were arrested at Montenegro’s Podgorica Airport on March 24 while trying to depart for Dubai using fake Costa Rican passports, authorities have said.
They are believed to have been hiding in Serbia but moved to Montenegro after South Korean investigators tracked their whereabouts and asked Serbian authorities to detain them, the South Korean Justice Ministry said when the arrests were made.
Kovac, the Montenegrin justice minister, said both men were under investigation in Montenegro for possessing false documents and could face criminal proceedings for the offense, which carries a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.
It was not immediately clear when and to which country Do Kwon could eventually be extradited. Kovac said South Korea was seeking the extradition of both suspects, while the U.S. requested only to have Kwon handed over.
“The Ministry of Justice of Montenegro guarantees that the citizens of South Korea will be granted all the rights in accordance with the laws in Montenegro and international agreements,” said Kovac.
Kwon and five others connected to Terraform are wanted because of allegations of fraud and financial crimes in relation to the implosion of its digital currencies in May 2022.
TerraUSD was designed as a “stablecoin,” a currency which is pegged to stable assets like the U.S. dollar to prevent drastic fluctuations in prices. However, around $40 billion in market value was erased for the holders of TerraUSD and its floating sister currency, Luna, after the stablecoin plunged far below its $1 peg in May.