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Top Headlines for 15 April, 2022

FBI Suspects Lazarus for $625M Ronin Hack

According to the FBI, a notorious North Korean hacker group is responsible for the $622 million exploits of the Ronin network. The group known as Lazarus was singled out as a potential suspect after the United States Treasury Department added an Ethereum wallet to its list of sanctions against them.

Crypto analytics company Chainalysis confirmed that the wallet listed on the Treasury’s sanctions list was the one involved in the exploit. After the hack, the wallet address was identified as belonging to the ‘Ronin attacker.’ Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis also included Lazarus as the primary suspect in a Medium post on the incident.

Lazarus was allegedly behind infamous attacks such as the WannaCry ransomware and Sony Pictures hacks in 2014. Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic found it unsurprising that the incident was linked to North Korea. The firm explained that the Ronin hack mirrored many of the features of previous high-profile attacks carried out by Lazarus.

Man Arrested for Running Unlicensed BTC ATM Network

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting New York resident Robert Taylor for running 46 unlicensed Bitcoin ATMs across multiple states. The prosecutor alleges that Taylor has been facilitating his customers in laundering money.

Taylor’s ATM kiosks have reportedly sold $5.6 million worth of BTC from 2017 to 2018. Customers were paying around 20-30% in transaction fees on these machines. The defendant is being charged with operating an unlicensed money transmission business, committing third-degree criminal tax fraud and offering false instruments for filing.

Taylor is also accused of promoting his business on social media in a way that attracted clients that have committed recent felonies. Law enforcement seized nearly three hundred thousand dollars from 20 of Taylor’s Bitcoin ATMs. DA Anthony Bragg claims that “Taylor went to great lengths to keep his Bitcoin ATMs as secret as possible to attract a clientele that would pay top dollar for anonymity.”

Although running a Bitcoin ATM business is not illegal in the United States, the operator must acquire proper licenses and permissions in many states.

Avalanche Raises $350M

Avalanche blockchain developer Ava Labs is raising $350 million in a funding round that will give it a $5.25 B valuation. The new valuation will put the company on the list of the world’s most valuable crypto startups.

Ava Labs has raised over $290 million across seven funding rounds since it was founded in 2018. The company brought in $230 million in 2021 through a token sale led by crypto VC firms Polychain Capital and Three Arrows. In 2020, the startup raised $12 million through a private token sale led by Galaxy Digital and Bitmain, among others. In 2019, they secured a seed round of $6 million from a group of investors that included Polychain Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

Avalanche is competing with Ethereum and Solana by offering high speeds and cheap gas fees for applications, including for trading and games. It has been gaining traction in 2022 as many users and developers flocked to the Avalanche Summit in Barcelona in March 2022.

Ava Labs has not yet officially revealed any details about its latest financing round. However, leaked information has positively impacted the price of Avalanche’s native token, AVAX, which spiked by 5%. AVAX has a market capitalization of $21 billion, making it the 10th biggest cryptocurrency globally as of 15 April 2022.

Nouns DAO Funds Indie Film

The decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) behind the Nouns NFT collection has contributed 6.9 ETH worth $21,000 to the crowdfunding campaign for an indie feature film titled ‘Calladita.’ It’s one of the first instances of a DAO making an on-chain proposal to fund a feature film.

The movie is the brainchild of director Miguel Faus, who tells the story of a young domestic worker named Calladita who is hired by a wealthy Spanish family. The new film production is an adaptation of a previous short movie made by Faus and is wholly funded through NFT sales.

The film will include imagery associated with the NFT collection and even list Nouns DAO as an associate producer in the credits. NFTs are heavily featured in the film; for instance, a character in the story owns a huge art gallery with an extensive collection of NFTs. Faus said his work offers an exciting opportunity for investors to get their NFTs featured in a movie. The director also suggested that filmmakers embrace Web 3.0 technologies like NFTs, especially for its potential to disrupt the industry.

TerraForm Labs Gifts LFG $880M in LUNA

TerraForm Labs has gifted $880 million worth of LUNA tokens to Luna Foundation Guard (LFG) to help promote its blockchain ecosystem, Terra. The foundation will use the donation to increase its UST backstop reserve consisting of Bitcoin and Avax tokens.

LFG has exchanged 10 million tokens received from Terraform Labs for UST in batches of 1000 tokens at a time. It is steadily accumulating BTC and as of 12 April, 2022 has acquired nearly $2.3 billion worth of Bitcoin. It intends to build a $10 billion Bitcoin reserve for the popular stablecoin TerraUSD (UST).

UST is pegged to the U.S. dollar through another Terra cryptocurrency, LUNA. Terra’s protocol burns its LUNA reserves whenever the price of UST goes above 1 USD. If the token price goes in the opposite direction, traders can arbitrage UST for LUNA, thereby stabilizing its value.

Terra’s co-founder, Do Kwon, nevertheless thinks this model is not reliable for maintaining price stability in the long run. He is concerned that the stability mechanism could lead to a debt spiral in which too many users can rush to swap their UST tokens for LUNA, a scenario that could severely devalue the price of the cryptocurrency.

Microstrategy To Buy More BTC

Microstrategy CEO Michael Saylor proclaimed in his letter to shareholders on 14 April, 2022, that the firm will continue its strategy to buy and hold more BTC.

The U.S.-based business intelligence company has the largest Bitcoin reserve of publicly listed firms with reserves of 129218 BTC, worth $5.1 billion as of 14 April, 2022. The second biggest holder amongst public companies is automaker Tesla with 43200 BTC.

In its filing with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Saylor commended his firm’s success in executing a highly profitable investment strategy with Bitcoin. Microstrategy reportedly paid only $3.2 billion for its BTC reserve, meaning that as of April 14, 2022, the company made a paper profit of $1.2 billion on its investment.

On 28 March 2022, MacroStratey, a business intelligence firm subsidiary of Microstrategy, raised an additional $205 million from Silvergate bank using Bitcoin as collateral. The subsidiary will use the newly raised capital to accumulate more BTC for its parent organization.