BitMEX Co-Founder Fights UK Watchdog Over His Financial Data

BitMEX co-founder Benjamin Delo claims the Information Commissioner’s Office failed to uphold his rights in a case involving fintech Wise


key takeaways

  • Delo withdrew legal action against fintech company Wise after it complied with his request to hand over data
  • Wise earlier submitted three suspicious activity reports on Delo to a UK crime agency

The co-founder of crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX who was spared prison time will challenge a top UK agency over rights to his own data, which he claims had been withheld.

BitMEX insider Benjamin Delo was granted consent to seek judicial review against the UK’s data watchdog, claiming the agency failed to grant him personal information rights.

Delo’s solicitor, Matt Getz, said the UK High Court approved his client’s request for litigation against the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

“Mr Delo took these legal actions reluctantly, but out of principle, wanting to ensure that entities such as Wise fully comply with their data protection obligations and that the ICO adequately upholds the information rights of individuals, which is in the wider public interest,” Getz said in an emailed statement to Blockworks.

The approval follows Delo’s withdrawal of legal action against London-based fintech firm Wise, formerly called TransferWise, which had been forced to disclose suspicious activity reports tied to his account.

Delo claimed the ICO failed to support his right of access, which enables a data owner to obtain a copy of information that a company may have on them. He sued Wise earlier this year after repeated attempts beginning in 2020 to retrieve his personal data, saying he had the right to do so under the UK’s Data Protection Act of 2018

“It was disappointing that it ultimately proved necessary to commence formal legal proceedings to obtain data that Mr Delo is, and has always been, legally entitled to,” Getz said.

Wise bowed to his request in June. But Delo still wants to square with the ICO since it “failed to perform its duties and ensure that Wise upheld its obligations.” 

An ICO spokesperson told Blockworks they wouldn’t comment at the moment since the matter is ongoing.

The development was first reported by Law360.

Delo said in a February claim that he had the right to obtain copies of his data from Wise, including three suspicious activity reports, which the company had submitted to the National Crime Agency, according to Law360

He also claimed Wise unexpectedly closed his account in November 2020 after he transferred £300,000 (then worth $408,000) from a Hong Kong-based HSBC account to the Wise account. 

Wise is said to have held his cash for 135 days after the account’s closure, which meant Delo couldn’t earn interest on that balance. The move to close Delo’s account came weeks after he drew the attention of US authorities. 

BitMEX co-founder on probation for violating Bank Secrecy Act

In October 2020, the US Department of Justice charged Delo, along with co-founder Arthur Hayes and two other high-ranking BitMEX employees, with violating the US Bank Secrecy Act by illegally operating a crypto derivatives platform.

Both pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program at BitMEX. Separately, the co-founders agreed to pay a $10 million civil monetary penalty in February this year, imposed by the CFTC.

In June, Delo was sentenced to 30 months probation without home confinement, while Hayes was handed two years probation with six months home detention, as well as location monitoring.

BitMEX declined to comment, saying the matter was personal to Delo.

This article was updated on August 4 at 1:30pm ET.

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