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Binance is launching an exchange in Thailand with a Thai energy mogul who’s worth $10.6 billion

Joseph Nair—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The world's largest crypto exchange continues to expand, despite ongoing regulatory trouble for it and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao.

Binance is partnering with Gulf Energy, one of Thailand's largest private producers of energy, to launch an exchange in Thailand, according to an investor presentation from Gulf Energy for the third quarter of 2023. Sarath Ratanavadi is the majority shareholder and CEO of the Thai energy company and, with a net worth of approximately $10.6 billion, the nation's second-wealthiest individual, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The third-quarter investor presentation said the new crypto exchange, dubbed Gulf Binance, obtained licenses to operate an exchange and brokerage in May, with plans to launch in January. Records from Thailand's Securities and Exchange Commission confirm the license approvals, which were issued on May 18. A Gulf Energy investor presentation from the first quarter of 2023 states that Gulf Energy owns 51% of the new exchange, with Binance receiving the remaining 49%.

Representatives for Gulf Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Fortune. "We confirm that the platform has initially launched as an invitation-only exchange," a spokesperson for Binance said in a statement to Fortune. "Our plan is to eventually open the exchange to the general public."

Binance's decision to launch an exchange in Thailand comes amid ongoing regulatory scrutiny of the world's largest crypto exchange and Zhao—especially in the U.S.

In March, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission sued both Zhao and Binance, which has a U.S.-based subsidiary, for allegedly conspiring to give American users access to its more profitable international exchange, which is supposedly off-limits in the States. In June, the SEC followed up with an even more damning lawsuit, alleging in 13 charges that Binance and Zhao "engaged in an extensive web of deception" to evade U.S. securities law. And rumors of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into Zhao and his crypto exchange have swirled for months.

Other countries, including France, have since followed the U.S.'s lead, conducting their own investigations into the crypto giant. But Binance hasn't slowed down. In April, the firm said it was expanding its business in Argentina. Most recently, the exchange's Japanese subsidiary listed 13 more tokens, and Zhao has touted a new Binance-branded crypto wallet.

Zhao's net worth has declined about $12 billion, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, along with Binance's trading volumes.

Update, Nov. 16, 2023: Added in comment from Binance.

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