Singapore High Court Breaks Ground: Crypto Officially Classified as Property!

Singapore High Court

In a groundbreaking ruling, Singapore's High Court declared crypto assets as property and capable of being held on trust in a case involving Seychelles-based exchange Bybit and a contractor, Ho Kai Xin. The court judgment, delivered by Judge Philip Jeyaretnam, has far-reaching implications for the legal treatment of cryptocurrencies and their potential use in trust arrangements. However, this article aims to critically analyze the ruling, its implications, and raise some pertinent concerns in the context of the rapidly evolving crypto landscape.

The Nature of Crypto Assets as Property

The central argument put forth by Judge Jeyaretnam is that crypto assets, such as the stablecoin USDT in question, are considered "things in action." This term implies that these digital assets are enforceable via court orders, just like any other property. This recognition by the court elevates cryptocurrencies to the status of tangible assets, subject to legal rights and obligations, akin to traditional forms of property like real estate or physical commodities.

While this decision may signal a step forward in providing legal clarity to the crypto market, it also raises questions about the nature of digital assets. Unlike traditional property, cryptocurrencies lack a physical existence and are purely digital entities. The classification of crypto assets as "things in action" may overlook their unique characteristics, leading to potential challenges in interpreting existing property laws and applying them to this novel asset class.

The Challenge of Identifying and Segregating Digital Assets

The judge's ruling references a public consultation response published by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which highlights the possibility of identifying and segregating digital assets. However, this notion is not without its challenges. Cryptocurrencies operate on decentralized blockchain networks, where transactions are pseudonymous and not directly linked to real-world identities.

The practical implementation of segregating and tracing digital assets could be incredibly complex and susceptible to errors, especially when considering the fungible nature of cryptocurrencies. Moreover, new privacy-oriented technologies are continually emerging, making the process even more difficult. As a result, enforcing trust arrangements involving crypto assets may prove cumbersome and less effective compared to traditional property disputes.

Incorporeal Right of Property: A Paradox?

Judge Jeyaretnam asserts that the holder of a crypto asset possesses an incorporeal right of property, which is recognizable and enforceable by the common law. However, the notion of an "incorporeal right" raises some paradoxical concerns. An incorporeal right typically refers to intangible rights like patents, copyrights, or intellectual property, which can exist independent of a physical form.

While it is understandable that cryptocurrencies are intangible, comparing their property rights to incorporeal rights creates an inherent contradiction. Property rights have historically been associated with tangible assets and are based on the concept of ownership and possession. The application of incorporeal rights to cryptocurrencies may muddy the waters in legal interpretations and may not adequately protect the rights of crypto holders.

Circularity of the Argument and Comparing Cryptocurrencies to Money

The judge acknowledges the potential circularity in the argument that crypto assets can be held on trust as a thing in action. This circularity arises from the fact that cryptocurrencies derive their value from social acceptance, similar to traditional forms of money. Judge Jeyaretnam draws a parallel to how conventional currencies gain acceptance due to societal trust and recognition of their exchange value.

While this comparison holds some merit, it is essential to recognize that fiat currencies are backed by governments and regulated financial systems, while cryptocurrencies operate in a decentralized and largely unregulated space. This distinction raises concerns about the suitability of applying the same legal principles to both forms of currency.


The Singapore High Court's ruling recognizing crypto assets as property and capable of being held on trust is a significant milestone in the legal recognition of cryptocurrencies. However, a critical examination of the ruling reveals potential challenges and ambiguities in applying traditional property laws to digital assets.

The unique nature of cryptocurrencies as purely digital entities, the difficulty of identifying and segregating assets on blockchain networks, and the paradoxical application of incorporeal rights raise important questions about the efficacy of the judgment. As the crypto landscape continues to evolve, it becomes imperative for legal systems worldwide to adapt and develop specific frameworks to govern and protect the rights of individuals and entities involved in cryptocurrency transactions.

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