The Singapore High Court has recently made a significant ruling by declaring cryptocurrency as property in a case involving Bybit, a popular cryptocurrency exchange. This ruling is a noteworthy development in the legal recognition of digital assets. Along with recognizing crypto as property, the judgment emphasized that this asset class can be held on trust as a “subject matter.” The case summary mentioned that the Rules of Court had already acknowledged crypto as property. According to Order 22 of the Rules of Court 2021, cryptocurrency falls under the definition of “movable property.”
The case in question involves Bybit filing a lawsuit against Ho Kai Xin for breaching an employment contract and illicitly transferring over 4.2 million USDT (Tether) to an address secretly controlled by her. Ho, in turn, accused her cousin, Jason Teo, of stealing the assets without her knowledge. Ho argued that she was not responsible for the addresses in question, claiming that only Jason had control over them.
Bybit sought a declaration from the court asserting that Ho held both the USDT and fiat currency on trust for the company. The plaintiff also requested the court to order Ho to return the proceeds. In his ruling, Judge Philip Jeyaretnam found that Jason Teo “does not exist” and hence did not play the role claimed by Ho. Jeyaretnam also highlighted that Ho took advantage of her employment with WeChain, a Singapore-based company providing payroll services to ByBit and related entities.
Consequently, the judge ordered Ho to transfer back the assets to Bybit based on the “Balance of Probability” standard. This ruling underlines the importance of upholding trust and ethical practices in the cryptocurrency industry. It sets a precedent in recognizing digital assets as legally protected property, which can be regulated and safeguarded under the existing legal framework.
The recognition of cryptocurrency as property by the Singaporean court is significant in terms of establishing clarity and legal protection for individuals and entities dealing with digital assets. This ruling brings more confidence and legitimacy to the crypto industry and opens doors for further acceptance and adoption. As the cryptocurrency market continues to evolve, it is crucial for legal frameworks to adapt and provide adequate safeguards, ensuring the protection of individual rights and property ownership within the digital realm.
It remains to be seen how this ruling will impact future cases involving cryptocurrency disputes and transactions in Singapore and potentially influence legal perspectives on crypto as property in other jurisdictions. The increasing recognition of cryptocurrencies as property further reinforces the need for proper regulations and compliance measures to prevent fraudulent activities and ensure the stability and security of the digital asset ecosystem.