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DOJ Charge Oyster Protocol Founder With Tax Evasion

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Several crypto project developers have faced the long arm of the law in 2020 as indictments have come from several agencies. The latest in the line is Amir Bruno Elmaani, the founder of the defunct cryptos protocol Oyster Protocol.

Living Fast on Investor Funds

A recent announcement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that the agency had indicted Elmaani for running a “multimillion-dollar tax evasion scheme.”

The statement explained that the DOJ had unsealed an indictment charging him with the crime, adding that the Securities and Exchange Commission had also filed civil charges against him.

As the indictment reveals, Elmaani reportedly made millions from selling Oyster Pearl tokens. However, he didn’t report any of his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service, and he funneled most of his income through shell companies abroad.

He also reportedly filed a false tax return and dealt in gold and cash to obfuscate his funds.

The indictment alleged that Elmaani had been selling his Pearl tokens since September 2018. He had been operating under the alias “Bruno Block.” He claimed that the tokens would power the Oyster Protocol – a self-proclaimed online data storage platform.

He then launched an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) through a shelf corporation, adding that same year that he would keep millions of the Pearl tokens as his ownership stake in the Oyster Protocol project.

The DOJ alleged that Elmaani’s tax return for 2017 showed just $15,000 in earnings for that year. In 2018, his returns showed no income. However, despite claiming not to have earned anything, he still managed to purchase luxury items worth $10 million.  

Elmaani is believed to have stored physical gold bars in his yacht, while also spending large sums on other personal expenses. For instance, he purchased two homes for $700,000.

The jig was up when he was found to have been minting new Pearl tokens despite claiming in October 2018 that the asset’s supply was fixed. His actions led to exchanges suspending Pearl, leading to the asset’s plummeting value and investors suffering substantial financial losses.

Elmaani’s penalty should be made public soon. He has been put behind bars, and the DOJ appears intent on keeping him there for an extended period.

The DOJ’s Big Year

The DOJ has been incredibly effective in its enforcement against crypto crimes this year. From cracking down against privacy coins to apprehending alleged criminals, the agency has had its hands full.

In October, the Department published guidelines for enforcing crypto laws. The guidelines highlighted its belief that cryptocurrencies can be transformative, and therefore should be effectively controlled. In a statement, Attorney General William Barr explained:

“The Framework provides a comprehensive overview of the emerging threats and enforcement challenges associated with the increasing prevalence and use of cryptocurrency; details the important relationships that the Department of Justice has built with regulatory and enforcement partners both within the United States government and around the world; and outlines the Department’s response strategies.

However, many in the crypto space weren’t exactly impressed. Meltem Demirors, an executive at investment firm CoinShares, criticized the guidelines for being a parade of instances where cryptocurrencies had been used for criminal activity.

Demirors added that this appeared to be a deliberate effort to overshadow some of the assets’ benefits.

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