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Axie Infinity CEO Moved Crypto Tokens Before the Company Revealed Hack

Sky Mavis, the company that makes the online game, says the executive was shoring up funds to protect the business and help users after Ronin attack.

A couple in suburban Manila on the Axie Infinity site.

A couple in suburban Manila on the Axie Infinity site.

Photographer: Jam Sta Rosa/Getty Images
Updated on

This spring, Sky Mavis, the startup that makes the video game Axie Infinity, announced it had suffered a devastating hack. While most video games are primarily recreational, Axie Infinity’s popularity relied largely on its players’ ability to trade and earn crypto tokens that had financial value, and players had stashes that represented significant savings. The hack forced the Vietnam-based game developer to shut down its system for pulling tokens out of the game, essentially freezing the assets of its users before they could react to the news. 

Most of them, anyway. In the hours before the announcement and freeze, a digital wallet belonging to its chief executive officer and co-founder, Trung Nguyen, made a large transaction that included about $3 million worth of Axie Infinity’s main token, AXS. The tokens moved from Axie’s blockchain—a digital ledger for recording transactions—to the crypto exchange Binance. Although the transfer was visible to anyone with an internet connection, there’s nothing about the wallet that directly connects it to the person controlling it, as is true of most crypto transactions. But after being presented with an analysis of public data that seemed to link the wallet to Nguyen, Sky Mavis confirmed that he controlled it.