This article is more than three months old

My search for a Hong Kong crypto exchange that disappeared with $57m led to an empty office in a strip mall

My search for a Hong Kong crypto exchange that disappeared with $57m led to an empty office in a strip mall
People & CultureRegulation
BitForex was supposed to be operating a crypto exchange for six million users from this building in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Callan Quinn/ DL News
  • BitForex is the latest exchange to vaporise in Hong Kong.
  • A trail of company addresses led into the city's industrial zone.
  • Investors were left high and dry as Bitcoin soars.

BitForex’s registered office is in Kwai Fong, an area of the New Territories in the north of Hong Kong.

Normally this would not be a scintillating piece of information. But BitForex is an online crypto exchange that withdrew almost $57 million from its hot wallets on February 23 and vanished. Then it blocked users from accessing their accounts.

That’s right. Another phantom Hong Kong crypto exchange had struck.

Fraud syndicates

Just months after the mysterious owners of JPEX made off with about $200 million in customer assets, this latest episode underscores how big a problem Hong Kong has when it comes to suspicious crypto players.

The city, long a hub for scores of over-the-counter Bitcoin outlets, can now add another case to its image problem. And with Bitcoin soaring, officials fear crypto “fraud syndicates” are just getting started.

Even though regulators have been clamping down, BitForex was not among the 14 firms on the Securities & Futures Commission’s list of flagged platforms.

With a self-proclaimed six million users and a claim that it had 51-200 employees on LinkedIn, I set out to find the office — the actual, physical office — where BitForex was supposed to be based.

According to the company registry in Hong Kong, the company was incorporated in 2018.

Join the community to get our latest stories and updates

On its LinkedIn page, BitForex says it is headquartered in the city, registered in the Seychelles, and has teams in Germany, Estonia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and other nations.

Given that, you’d think the outfit would have a floor or two in a swank downtown skyscraper, as tends to be the norm with crypto companies, or perhaps an office in the tech hubs of Cyberport or the Science Park.

You’d be wrong.

Kwai Fong is a mainly residential area, named for the Kwai Fong housing estate. Around the corner from the metro is Tai Lin Pai Industrial Area, where two addresses have been linked to BitForex.


Getting there is a 40-minute trip from downtown almost to the end of the Tsuen Wan line on the metro.

The trip yielded little information. An employee working at the spot said that their company offered virtual addresses, mostly to mainland Chinese businesses looking to set up a Hong Kong office. The site was the listed address for thousands of companies.

He could offer no further information about BitForex. But I had another lead.

BitForex also listed its company secretary at another office just around the corner.

This address, listed as apartment D/3 on the second floor of another industrial complex, did not seem to exist between apartments D/2 and D/5. (Addresses containing the number “4″ in Hong Kong are often skipped as the number is considered bad luck.)

However, there was a business consultancy service at D/5.


A final address linked to BitForex is located in Mong Kok, a popular tourist spot full of shops and markets. This particular tower block was located above a strip mall, phone shops and gadgets for sale downstairs and quiet offices upstairs.

This address was also listed on press releases issued by the company. A neighbour said the current occupants of the office were on holiday.

Multiple companies at one address

Letters and parcels left outside were addressed to several different companies, suggesting it may also serve as a virtual address service. Indeed, a Google search showed multiple companies using the same address.

At all three addresses, neighbours did not recognise the name BitForex or the name of its CEO, Jason Luo.

In a blog post on January 31, Luo said he had decided to step down from his position and that a new leadership team was poised to take the reins.

Despite this, Luo remains the sole shareholder and director of the company, according to its business filings.

His address is recorded as being in Shenzhen, a mainland Chinese city bordering Hong Kong.

Callan Quinn is DL News’ Hong Kong-based Asia Correspondent. Get in touch at

Related Topics