S.Korea, US seeking extradition of crypto entrepreneur Do Kwon -Montenegro

FILE PHOTO: Do Kwon, the cryptocurrency entrepreneur, who created the failed Terra (UST) stablecoin, is taken to court in handcuffs, to face charges of forging official documents, in Podgorica, Montenegro, March 24, 2023. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

PODGORICA (Reuters) - South Korea and the U.S. are seeking the extradition of Do Kwon, an international fugitive accused of a multibillion-dollar fraud, and another suspect arrested in Montenegro last week, the Montenegrin Justice Minister Marko Kovac said on Wednesday.

Do Kwon, a South Korean national, is a cryptocurrency entrepreneur and former CEO of South Korea-based Terraform Labs, the company behind the stablecoin TerraUSD that collapsed in May 2022 and roiled cryptocurrency markets.

A U.S. indictment announced last week charged Do Kwon, who co-founded Terraform Labs and developed the TerraUSD and Luna currencies, with two counts each of securities fraud, wire fraud, commodities fraud and conspiracy.

He presided over the two digital currencies that lost an estimated $40 billion or more last year. South Korean authorities issued an arrest warrant for him last September.

"The extradition of Do Kwon (and the other suspect)... has been officially requested" by South Korea and the United States had asked for Do Kwon's extradition as well, Kovac told a news conference in the capital Podgorica.

But Kovac said the two had been charged in Montenegro with forging documents and would be extradited only after a trial and any sentence served in the small Adriatic republic.

Do Kwon and the second suspect - identified as Hon Chang Joon in a Montenegrin police statement - were detained on March 23 at Podgorica airport as they tried to board a flight to Dubai, according to Kovac.

Montenegrin police charged the two with forging official documents after police said they had found doctored Costa Rican passports, a separate set of Belgian passports, laptop computers and other devices in their luggage.

Kovac said the South Korean and U.S. extradition requests also called for the handover of the computers.

A court in Podgorica ordered them placed in 30-day pre-trial detention.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Stevo Vasiljevic; editing by Jan Harvey and Mark Heinrich)

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