An Australian cryptocurrency influencer has been accused of not yet being able to repay significant sums of money in digital currencies.
- Nugget’s News CEO Alex Saunders is accused of not being able to repay money
- The crypto influencer has allegedly told friends he is on repayment plans
- Several tech companies have distanced themselves from Mr Saunders
Launceston-based Alex Saunders is the founder and CEO of Nugget’s News, which has 140,000 subscribers on YouTube and also provides a fee-based service.
The company, which was founded in 2017 by Mr Saunders, promotes itself as a digital media channel that “delivers unfiltered coverage of the latest developments in cryptocurrency, housing, precious metals, commodities, stocks and other financial markets”.
Allegations Mr Saunders owes people money have been plastered all over Twitter, after US crypto-influencer Richard Heart last week posted a series of screenshots that appear to show the Nugget’s News founder asking him for money.
“I drive a Subaru hatchback but im (sic) the richest guy in Tasmania,” said one message allegedly sent to Mr Heart from Alex Saunders.
In messages seen by the ABC, Mr Saunders asks people to invest in a so-far unrealised crypto project called Decentra Bank, or Decentral Bank (DCB).
Several developers Mr Saunders named as being linked to DCB in messages and audio recordings, that have since been posted on Twitter, have issued public statements stating they are not involved in the project.
One of those named was technologist Jamie Skella who provided messages from April, in which Mr Saunders asked if he knew of a “whale” (a lender) who would invest in the DCB project.
“He also asked for me to be the project lead, but nothing ever materialised,” Mr Skella said.
Another tech company mentioned by Mr Saunders, Block8, said it was not involved in DCB and was “currently seeking legal advice regarding the [Mr Saunders’] claims.”
The ABC has also spoken to five people in countries including Australia, the UK and New Zealand who said they are each owed significant sums of money.
At least one said he has engaged a lawyer.
In one message exchange Mr Saunders appears to ask a follower to send ethereum to an electronic wallet. Another message seen by the ABC shows that a different person who allegedly loaned Mr Saunders money transferred ethereum to the same electronic wallet.
“I am gutted,” one of Mr Saunders followers told the ABC.
An overseas hedge fund manager the ABC spoke to said he sent Mr Saunders bitcoin in January, which had not yet been paid back.
Screenshots show what appeared to be Mr Saunders asking the hedge fund manager for bitcoin on two separate occasions.
“Sorry to put this on you mate. But I felt like I could trust you. I’d 10x’d my FTX account. Then got greedy,” said the message allegedly sent from Mr Saunders.
In response to the claims on Twitter, cryptocurrency exchange FTX said it had escalated the matter internally.
Twitter user @Bitboy_Crypto, who also uses the name Ben Armstrong said he loaned Mr Saunders 5 bitcoin.
Mr Saunders said in messages shared that he intends to pay everyone back. He has also indicated that he has entered into repayment plans with those he owes money to.
A message exchange from April this year appeared to show Mr Saunders explaining he had been “ripped 20 BTC [bitcoin] lending to a friend of a friend.”
“The worst thing is that my big out to fix this all up is this project I have been working on which is an absolute belter,” he told another follower in a recorded audio message posted online.
“Let’s say we were to do a coin launch tomorrow, I could be sitting on millions of dollars, tens of millions.”
“If we can sort of get this out, I can pay everyone off overnight.”
Former colleagues distance themselves from Alex Saunders
The allegations have prompted those once associated with Mr Saunders to make public statements.
Collective Shift managing director Ben Simpson, who previously worked with Mr Saunders, issued a video update on Sunday to members.
In the video, Mr Simpson said he had confronted Mr Saunders about the public allegations against him.
“He looked at me straight in the eye and said ‘don’t worry about, like, you know, there is a couple of people I owe money, I am on repayment plans, don’t worry about it,” Mr Simpson said in the video.
In a separate statement to the ABC, Mr Simpson said Mr Saunders was not a shareholder in Collective Shift and was no longer a content contributor.
“Collective Shift is an independent entity and has had no involvement with any projects undertaken by Alex Saunders.”
Mr Saunders has not responded to the ABC’s questions about the allegations.
The peak blockchain industry body Blockchain Australia confirmed it was aware of the claims and had been in contact with Mr Saunders.
“We have contacted Mr Saunders and have been advised that claims are being handled by his legal representative,” the statement said.
“We have formally requested Mr Saunders respond to the allegations.”
Mr Saunders was a board member of Blockchain Australia in 2019.