Australia’s corporate regulator will examine details of the collapsed bitcoin company Blockchain Global after a Guardian Australia investigation revealed links between two of its directors and a series of failed crypto investment schemes.
Blockchain Global collapsed in 2021 owing creditors $58m, with the liquidator referring its directors – Allan Guo, Sam Lee and Ryan Xu – to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission for potential breaches of the Corporations Act. This included possible breaches of director’s duties, breaches of trust and unreasonable director-related transactions.
Asic initially advised liquidators Pitcher Partners that it did not intend to take action after it received the first report on the company’s activities in March 2022.
However, after a Guardian Australia investigation into the HyperVerse crypto investment scheme, which has links to Lee and Xu, Asic has begun an examination of the liquidator’s report. A final version was filed to Asic in October.
An Asic spokesperson told Guardian Australia: “Asic confirms that it is assessing reports from the liquidator in relation to BGL”.
Guardian Australia has revealed widespread losses to the HyperVerse investment scheme, which escaped regulator attention in Australia despite being flagged by authorities overseas – by one as a possible “scam” and another as a “suspected pyramid scheme”.
Court documents filed in January in the US against Bitcoin Rodney, a senior US promoter of HyperFund and HyperVerse, allege the scheme operated with a network or promoters making “fraudulent promotional presentations” to investors and potential investors. He has been charged with operating and conspiring to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
An affidavit filed by the US internal revenue service alleges that early investors were “paid with funds collected from more recent investors”, and the company’s claimed revenue-generating bitcoin mining operations did not exist. There is no mention of either Xu or Lee in the court documents filed by authorities in that case.
Lee has denied being behind HyperVerse, saying his involvement was limited to technology provision and the funds management side of the organisation. Both Lee and Xu appeared in the HyperVerse global launch event in 2021, alongside a fake chief executive officer called Stephen Reece Lewis. Xu and Lee also both featured prominently in promotional material for the schemes that preceded HyperVerse, known as HyperFund and HyperCapital.
Reece Lewis has since been revealed by the Guardian to be the British man Stephen Harrison, who said he was hired for a short period via a talent agent to play a “corporate presenter” and that he had no role in the actual business.
Lee relocated to Dubai in 2021, while the whereabouts of Xu is unknown. Guo is not involved in the Hyper group schemes.
US-based crypto analysis firm Chainalysis estimates losses to HyperVerse in 2022 amounted to US$1.3bn (A$1.97bn).
The move by Asic to examine the Blockchain Global collapse comes as the liquidator also reveals a possible link in the company’s records to the operation of HCash, which was a cryptocurrency linked to the Hyper investment schemes.
“The liquidators have identified two debt transactions totalling $500,000 in Blockchain Global’s main bank account [linked to HCash]. These transactions both occur on 5 August 2019,” Pitcher Partner’s liquidator Andrew Yeo told Guardian Australia in a statement.
“It is not clear whether the funds were used for this intended purpose.”
Rewards that were accumulated through the earlier Hyper schemes were converted to HCash before they could be converted to other cryptocurrencies.
According to a “HyperTech group organisational chart”, HCash was one of three Australian companies behind the Hyper investment schemes, in alliance with Blockchain Global, Collinstar Capital and the HCash Foundation.
According to the HyperTech group’s promotional material, Collinstar Capital, Blockchain Global and HCash were a “multi billion dollar group of companies”.
The HCash official Telegram group confirmed its association with HyperTech and HyperCapital in 2019, saying it was “allied with the HyperTech group”.
Asic documents show that HCash Tech Pty Ltd was owned by Xu and Jianbo “Jacob” Cheng and was established in 2017. An application for it to be deregistered was made in May 2023.
Collinstar Capital was owned by Xu until mid 2022, after which it was taken over by Cheng.
Asic documents reveal shares of the company’s 40 founders were transferred from Xu to Cheng for $5.50, while 200,000 noncumulative preference shares were transferred at no cost, with a value of $125,000 listed as unpaid.
Cheng did not respond to questions from Guardian Australia.
Lee did not respond to questions from Guardian Australia before the publication of a previous article about his involvement in the establishment and operation of HyperFund and HyperVerse. He has previously denied the schemes are a scam.
In a WhatsApp message after the article was published he alleged it included “misstatements” about his role in running the Hyper schemes, but did not respond when asked what they were. He also claimed that “people on the internet continues [sic] to make things up”.
Lee has also not responded to questions from Guardian Australia about the liquidators’ findings in relation to Blockchain Global.