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‘I was never in control’: Former Himalaya Exchange CEO testifies in case over H-Coin cryptocurrency

Former Himalaya Exchange CEO Jesse Brown denied claims that H-Coin, supported by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, was "anchored in gold." As part of criminal proceedings against Guo, Brown also said the product's worth had been overvalued.

BROOKLYN (CN) — The cryptocurrency H-Coin was "anchored in gold," exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui claimed as he touted the product he helped create.

But that wasn't actually true, Jesse Brown, former CEO of the cryptocurrency market Himalaya Exchange, said in testimony Friday.

Guo, aka Miles Guo or Ho Wan Kwok, faces trial in Manhattan federal court over accusations he defrauded his own supporters out of more than $1 billion through a series of phony investment projects.

Guo claimed these projects were acts of resistance against the Chinese Communist Party. Prosecutors say otherwise.

Guo faces charges for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering, among other counts. If convicted, he could face decades in prison or even possible deportation to China, where he is wanted on accusations of rape, kidnapping and bribery.

Besides H-Coin, another scheme outlined by prosecutors was GTV, a video-sharing website that Guo founded with former Trump advisor and MAGA media mogul Steve Bannon.

Enter Jesse Brown, who prosecutors called to the witness stand on Friday in an effort to shine a light on what they've characterized as a series of scams by Guo.

Brown was initially hired to work for GTV in 2020. But he soon found himself involved in other parts of what he called the "Miles Guo ecosystem," including H-Coin and its exchange Himalaya Exchange, as well as the lifestyle brand G CLUBS and the fashion line G FASHION.

Brown said he was told to develop a cryptocurrency exchange — that is, Himalaya Exchange — where H-Coin would exclusively be traded. But despite his role in various Guo projects, Brown stressed he was just a bit player in the Guo ecosystem.

“I was in control of nothing,” Brown said.

That includes at Himalaya Exchange — where despite ostensibly serving as CEO, Brown said he never had any employees.

Shortly after his employment began, Brown said he learned of a London-based investment fund called Hamilton Investment Management. Brown said that company was also part of Guo's ecosystem.

At the end of 2020 — and without any explanation as to why — Brown said he removed as an employee from Guo Media and instead placed on the payroll at Hamilton. While nothing about his job responsibilities changed, Brown said he did lose his health insurance because of the shift.

After raising $100 million from supporters, H-Coin was ostensibly released in 2021. And yet at the time, Brown — who was then still serving as Himalaya CEO — said the cryptocurrency was not available to purchase.

“The Himalaya coin gives you exclusive deals within our ecosystem,” Brown told GTV in an interview on H-Coin launch day. A clip of that interview was among the evidence prosecutors presented in court.

Brown left Himalaya Exchange in 2023. In testimony, he said H-Coin wasn't a crypto product because it wasn’t on a blockchain and customers were not able to buy it. He said he didn’t disclose any of these details during his GTV interview because he didn't want to negatively impact the value of the coin.

Outside of Himalaya Exchange, H-Coin was never listed on any other cryptocurrency exchanges. Brown said stakeholders feared that offering it elsewhere could tank the value.

“There was quite a bit of fear among the stakeholders that if it was listed on other exchanges, the price would drop,” Brown said.

Guo also touted the product he helped create, even creating a music video entitled “Hcoin to the Moon." Now, though, prosecutors say the product was just part of a broader scheme by Guo to bilk money from supporters.

Follow @NikaSchoonover
Categories / Business, Criminal, Technology

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