What links crypto trading to the world of 1980s kids’ animation? The answer comes at the end of a riveting report by Bloomberg Businessweek, which investigates the background to the wildly popular cryptocurrency Tether.
Tether is a stablecoin: it is pegged to the U.S. dollar, in theory at least. Traders buy it in order to access cryptocurrency exchanges, which generally can’t handle conventional currency. The coin is issued by Tether Holdings Ltd., which has put out 69 billion tokens in total. This supposedly leaves it holding $69 billion, but questions about where Tether’s assets are — or indeed whether it actually still has them — have dogged the company for years.
Bloomberg reporter Zeke Faux embarked on a search for the reserves that are meant to back this currency. His paper trail led him through the murk of Tether’s offshore operations, which are run by evasive executives under criminal investigation.
Only one financial institution was willing to tell Faux that it works with Tether: Deltec Bank & Trust in the Bahamas. And here comes the leap: the bank’s chairman is Jean Chalopin, founder of production company DIC Entertainment, where he co-created the Inspector Gadget franchise in 1983. Faux briefly sketches Chalopin’s improbable career arc:
He made himself a cup of tea and told me he’d come to the Bahamas in 1987 after selling his first animation studio, DIC Entertainment. The sale had made him rich — he bought a castle outside Paris and a pink colonial in the Bahamas, which later served as the villain’s home in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.
Chalopin banked at Deltec, then invested in it, becoming its biggest shareholder. He expanded its operations to crypto, eventually taking on Tether as a client in November 2018. The bank now handles around $15 billion of Tether’s money.
The article is worth reading in full. With a few extra gags and gizmos, it would read like a plausible plot for an episode of Inspector Gadget.