Cryptocurrency-lending platform Celsius freezes withdrawals as Bitcoin hits 18-month low
The crypto industry took another blow yesterday when The Celsius Network, one of the largest cryptocurrency lenders, told its 1.7 million customers that it was pausing all withdrawals, swaps, and transfers between accounts due to “extreme market conditions.” The news comes as Bitcoin and Ether crashed to their lowest prices in over a year.
Following another turbulent weekend for the major cryptocurrencies, Celsius announced it was freezing account withdrawals and transfers. “We are taking this necessary action for the benefit of our entire community in order to stabilize liquidity and operations while we take steps to preserve and protect assets,” it wrote. The company never said when customers could expect to make withdrawals again.
There are reports that Celsius transferred $320 million worth of crypto to the FTX exchange right before announcing the account withdrawal/transfer freeze.
The decentralized finance (DeFi) platform operates by collecting customer deposits that it loans out to others to earn a return. Last year, Celsius managed to raise $750 million in funding from investors that included Canada’s second-largest pension fund, Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec (CDPQ), despite the lack of FDIC government insurance protection and warnings that the operation is no different from a Ponzi scheme.
The Celsius Network has rarely been far from controversy. The Wall Street Journal reports that it stopped offering interest-bearing accounts to US-based nonaccredited investors in April following regulatory pressure. The company was also the subject of a cease-and-desist order from New Jersey last year, and its CFO was suspended after being arrested in Israel in November on money laundering, fraud, and sexual assault charges relating to his previous job. Some say it also played a part in the collapse of Terra, which ultimately wiped almost $1 trillion off the value of crypto markets, but Celsius denies this.
The Celsius Network’s website claims the company had processed $8.2 billion worth of loans and managed $11.8 billion in assets as of May 17.
At the time of writing, Bitcoin is at $25,295, its lowest price since December 2020, while Ethereum is at $1,310, a low it hasn’t seen since January last year.