One of China’s richest men, billionaire and Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, may be a closet Bitcoiner. According to details in the recent “Paradise Papers” document leak, corporate entities Lei controls are linked to those controlled by Bitmain founders Jihan Wu and Micree Zhan. However, Bitmain denies there is any business connection.
Bitmain is the world’s leading supplier of ASIC chips and cryptocurrency mining hardware, and operates some of Bitcoin’s most popular mining pools. It’s considered one of the most profitable companies in the industry, even before digital asset price appreciation is considered.
Tech entrepreneur Lei, whose company Xiaomi is known for following a similar philosophy to Apple’s, is often described as “the Steve Jobs of China” (though he’s reportedly unhappy with that moniker). Forbes estimated his 2016 net worth as $9.8 billion USD.
What’s the Alleged Connection Between Lei and Bitmain?
The alleged connections result from the so-called “Paradise Papers” leaks of over 13 million confidential digital documents related to offshore business dealings and investments involving wealthy politicians, businesspeople and royalty. News reports stemming from the leaks began appearing in the first week of November 2017.
To be clear(er), there’s no available detail of any legal connections between Lei and Bitmain, or their firms.
QZ reported the “connections” between the various entities are not specified. Two entities that Lei controls are “related to” Beijing’s Changtong Wuxian Consulting Company — which is “connected to” another four entities controlled by Wu and Zhan.
Confused? QZ added the network of journalists who published the leaks categorized the links only as “other” — meaning they likely belong to the same holding group.
Speaking to Bitsonline, Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu dismissed the rumor as a misunderstanding, saying, “No, it is not true.”
“We used to hire the same lawyer which Lei Jun used,” Wu continued. “Changtong Wuxian does not own Bitmain shares.” That same lawyer, Wu said, is the owner and controller of Changtong Wuxian — the purpose of which is to build and transfer companies.
But Is Any Actual Bitcoin Involved?
It would be more interesting if the allegations involved actual bitcoins, though, and not just corporate investments. And given his background and interests, it might be more surprising if Lei were not involved with Bitcoin somehow.
Bitcoin commentator Elly Zhang said she’d contacted Bitmain to enquire if Xiaomi had any interest in its hardware. She tweeted later they’d confirmed a few Antminer sales, at least:
It’s often whispered that several of the world’s “one percent” high net worth individuals are cryptocurrency holders of varying degrees. These closet investors rarely, if ever, mention digital assets publicly, even in generall — but certain “whales” among them may have the power to shift markets by executing large trades.
Trouble in Panama and Paradise
The “Paradise Papers” shouldn’t be confused with an earlier leak of similar confidential material, dubbed the “Panama Papers“. However the same 380-strong network of media reporters (called the “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”) is reviewing the latest batch.
Both “leaks” involved the theft of documents from law firms specializing in offshore business structures — some legal, some allegedly less so. The first leak came from Panama firm Mossack Fonseca, causing embarrassment for high-profile individuals in most countries and even political resignations in some.
The Paradise Papers come from a number of different sources including offshore-specialist law firm Appleby, and corporate services providers Estera and Asiaciti Trust.
Is there anything of interest to bitcoiners in the Paradise Papers affair? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Images via WSJ, Pixabay