Tracking Down Tron USDT (Part One)

Tether Apr 16, 2021

The purpose of this write-up is to attempt to track down as much of Tron's USDT resources as possible.

This is being done because:

  1. There are no other comprehensive resources in existence that have taken the time to do so (at publication)
  2. Most of Tether's recent activities have taken place on Tron's blockchain
  3. Out of all of the blockchains that USDT uses (Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tron), crypto users are likely least familiar with navigating Tron in a meaningful manner.

Most of the USDT currently in existence is on Tron's blockchain

Using Notes as a Reliable Reference

Fortunately, when USDT first announced that they would be transitioning to the Tron blockchain (for whatever reason), great pains were taken to document this process with the goal of ensuring we'd be in a position to unmask Tether's activities if it their actions started to become too obfuscated.

USDT Announcing Their 'Migration' to the Tron Blockchain

This announcement was made on the Tether website on March 4th, 2019.

archived link: https://archive.ph/b07Z2

From that time onward, there were a slew of exchanges that announced their intentions (publicly) to support USDT on the Tron blockchain

Exchanges Announcing Support of USDT on Tron

Important: Its worth noting that, despite the fact it was announced on March 4th, 2019 that USDT would be adding Tron to its list of host blockchains, exchanges did not announce their intentions to add Tron and ERC20 support for Tether until April 29th, 2019. This is worth noting because Ravid Yosef and Reginald Fowler, two operators of Crypto Capital Co. (Tether & Bitfinex's payment processor), were revealed to be the subjects of an unsealed federal indictment on April 25th, 2019.

Below is the Full List of Exchange Approvals

  1. April 29th, KuCoin announces that it would be supporting USDT on Ethereum & Tron = https://www.kucoin.com/news/en-kucoin-to-support-usdt-tron-and-usdt-erc20
  2. May 22nd, 2019 - DigiFinex announces that it would be supporting ERC20 USDT = https://www.digifinex.com/en-ww/notice/378
  3. July 3rd, 2019 - Poloniex announces that they, too, would be supporting ERC20 USDT = https://twitter.com/Poloniex/status/1146513491173486593
  4. July 3rd, 2019 - Binance announces that they will not only support the ERC20 version of USDT, but that they would be ditching the Omni-version of USDT entirely in favor of the ERC20 version = https://www.binance.com/en/support/articles/360030263211
  5. February 27th, 2019 - Huobi announces that they will be adding support for 'Ethereum-based Tether' = https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/huobi-global-offers-deposit--withdrawal-in-tether-erc20-300803113.html\
  6. May 31st, 2019 - Paolo Ardoino announces that Tether would be launching on $EOS in an interview with CCN = https://www.ccn.com/exclusive-bitfinex-cto-tether-launching-on-eos
  7. May 13th, 2019 - Paolo Ardoino (with a co-sign from Barry Silbert (https://twitter.com/barrysilbert/status/1127882591774883840)), announces that Bitfinex was able to raise $1 billion from "private investors", less than 2 weeks after they had been charged with fraud by the New York Attorney General accompanied with the news that they lost $900 million to their payment processor, whose leaders had been indicted on federal charges of bank fraud just 5 days after the N.Y. AG's allegations were made public = https://twitter.com/paoloardoino/status/1127839301218254851

Identifying Owners of Tron USDT Addresses

While certain details have become significantly more opaque in the crypto space, Tron's ecosystem (as well as Tether and Bitfinex affiliates) were doing their best to maintain legitimacy in the space through transparency, 'explainer articles', and various other constructions.

In specific, 'Whale Alert' inadvertently assisted our efforts significantly from the middle of March through the beginning of 2020 (before COVID took hold).

Below is a screenshot showing one specific transaction we used to identify Binance as an entity on Tron's blockchain:

Its worth noting that it was the other Whalebot (t.me/whalebotalerts), that specifically annotated this 300M USDT movement by Binance as a "chain swap" FROM Tron TO Ethereum (see below):

The last relevant transaction (alleged burn) is published below since it appears it was cut off in the screenshot above:

Those interested in following along or conducting their own personal research can view the same string of messages as what's depicted above by visiting this link:

WhaleBot Alerts 🐳
🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨 300,000,000 USDT ($300,078,000) transfered from Binance to Tether TreasuryBlockchain: Tron20 seconds agoTX - link @WhaleBotAlerts

Extracting Out the Relevant Information Here

Since Changpeng Zhao of Binance publicly confirmed that there would be 300M "burned" on Tron to later be "redeemed" on Ethereum, we have credible reason to believe that the transaction identified as the one where Binance sent 300M to the Tron Treasury will also definitively ID Binance's address on the Tron blockchain, in general.

source: https://tronscan.org/#/transaction/3c1bcee1667eba8d53397eccee40c9e1195e50d2e7581aea392d078b7f87c27a

This logically leads to us being able to conclude that address TAUN6FwrnwwmaEqYcckffC7wYmbaS6cBiX is owned by Binance exchange.

Thus, we can mark that down on our (now empty) 'rich list' for Tron:

Identifying Huobi and Bitfinex

This process will be even easier than it was for Binance, since Paolo Ardoino served publicly confirmed the involvement of Bitfinex with Tron during a "chain swap".

All of the information related to one of those particular chain swaps can be found here:

Dissecting How Bitfinex Covertly Sent Over $150 Million to Huobi Via ‘Chain Swaps’
This report will dissect how Bitfinex was able to covertly transfer over $150million to Huobi covertly during a Tether ‘chain swap’. Quick Review: ‘What are Chain Swaps?’A ‘chain swap’ (supposedly) occurs when a large entity (such as, ‘Binance’,‘Bitfinex’, or another exchange) decides to “burn” …

Below is the tweet where 'whale_alert' on Twitter announced that 40 million USDT were being transferred to the Tether Treasury from Bitfinex.

The full chronology of tweets published by 'whale_alert' are published below (including the first one above)

Paolo Ardoinio (CTO of Bitfinex) replied to one of these tweets, stating that it was part of a "chain swap" initiated by Bitfinex

In Plain English, Here's What (Allegedly) Happened:

Tracking Down the Bitfinex 'Chain Swap'

Below is a picture of the specific transaction that Paolo was referring to (there are a lot, so it had to be parsed out among the others that were present):

Here is the specific transaction ID:

TRONSCAN | TRON BlockChain Explorer
TRONSCAN is the first blockchain browser in the tron community. It supports multiple login methods and provides a complete browsing and search experience. Experience the tron-ecology in the TRONSCAN blockchain browser.TRONSCAN是首款社区型波场区块链浏览器,它支持多种登录方式,提供完善的浏览和查找体验。体验波场生态尽在TRONSCAN波场区块链浏览器。

As well as a view of what the transaction looked like on Tronscan :

Given what we know about the 'chain swaps' (from Paolo Ardoino's confirmation), there is no doubt now that address TXFBqBbqJommqZf7BV8NNYzePh97UmJodJ belongs to Bitfinex.

Above is our updated table.

While this is another satisfying addition to the list, we're not quite done yet.

Going further through the write-up linked above, it appears that we included yet another screenshot of the Huobi address (as identified by Tronscan)

Purposeful Attempts to Obfuscate / Hide Tron Blockchain Addresses

For those unfamiliar with the Tron ecosystem, the best source of blockchain analysis for the Tron blockchain would be 'tronscan' (also owned by Justin Sun).

Below is a screenshot showing what the website looks like at the time of writing:

Since inception, this website has maintained a "rich list" for each currency (token) on its website.

Below is what the USDT 'rich list' was for Tron at the top of this month:

Fairly mundane, correct?

Perhaps not if you're someone that knows they used to have the names of each wallets' respective owner next to their address

The above screenshot was included in an article that Librehash originally published several months ago (in 2019).

That can be found here: https://librehash.org/dissecting-how-bitfinex-covertly-sent-over-150-million-to-huobi-via-chain-swaps/

What's curious here is that the "Name Tag" section has been removed entirely from Tronscan at the time of writing.

A topical search via search engines and other resources provided no press releases, announcements and/or acknowledgment of such an alteration to Tron's primary block explorer (which is, again, owned by Justin Sun).

Updating the Tron Tether Rich List is Far From Impossible

In fact, we did just that on April 4th, 2021 (in a tweet where Paolo Ardoino was tagged, specifically)

Specifically, the tweet contained the following image:

Follow-Up Post Two Days Later

No more than two days later, there was a follow-up post made to Paolo Ardoino seeking clarification on erroneous statements he made regarding the purpose of a 1.2 billion USDT disbursement minted at the Tron Tether wallet address.

Shortly after that, Paolo issued a statement on those addresses on Twitter, claiming the following: '

"PSA: 1.2B USDt inventory replenish on Tron Network. Note this is a authorized but not issued transaction, meaning that this amount will be used as inventory for next period issuance requests and chain swaps."

It was later discovered (by Librehash) that Paolo Ardoino had failed to account for nearly 1.2 billion USDT tokens.

Now, at the time of writing, Tether has gone nuclear by attempting to outright obfuscate all of their addresses on the Tron protocol (more on that soon).

They also recently announced that they would be launching on a new protocol entirely soon (Polkadot)

Tags

cryptomedication

Happy to serve and help wherever I'm needed in the blockchain space. #Education #EthicalContent #BringingLibretotheForefront

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