South Korea says waiting for Montenegro to extradite Terraform Labs founder Kwon

By Thomson Reuters Mar 7, 2024 | 9:55 PM

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea is waiting for Montenegro to extradite Terraform Labs co-founder Do Kwon, the justice minister said on Friday, after reports that a court in the Balkan nation had overturned a decision to hand over the jailed crypto entrepreneur to the United States.

Justice Minister Park Sung-jae said Montenegro had yet to contact his country but his ministry would take the necessary measures once they received an official notice.

“I understand there’s not a lot left in Kwon Do-hyung’s detention period so whatever measures need to be taken swiftly,” Park said, referring to Kwon by his full Korean name.

Montenegro news service Vijesti reported that the Court of Appeals had overturned a High Court decision to extradite Kwon to the United States. Kwon has said that he would prefer to be extradited to South Korea.

A civil trial on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission fraud charges against Kwon was scheduled to start on March 25 although he was expected to miss at least the start of the proceedings because of the delay in extraditing him from Montenegro.

Kwon and his company Terraform Labs were sued by the SEC last February over the May 2022 collapse of the TerraUSD and Luna cryptocurrencies, which authorities have said caused about $40 billion of losses in crypto markets.

The SEC said Terraform and Kwon deceived investors about the stability of TerraUSD, a “stablecoin” designed to maintain a constant $1 price, and how a popular Korean mobile payment app used the Terraform blockchain to settle transactions.

Kwon has denied wrongdoing. He also faces related U.S. criminal charges, and has been held in Montenegro since his arrest last March.

Kwon is separately under indictment in South Korea which has also sought his arrest.

Kwon had appealed a ruling by a court in Montenegro’s capital of Podgorica that he should be extradited to the United States instead of his native South Korea, which he preferred.

Legal analysts have said Kwon would face a relatively lighter sentence if convicted in South Korea where the longest prison term sentence for financial crimes is 40 years.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Jihoon Lee; Editing by Ed Davies and Miral Fahmy)