In 2020, a number of crypto project developers had dealt with the long arm of the law as indictments have been made by several agencies. The latest to be charged was the founder of Oyster Protocol, a defunct crypto protocol, named Amir Bruno Elmaani. The Department of Justice (DoJ) recently confirmed in an announcement that Elmaani had been indicted by the agency for operating a multimillion-dollar scheme for tax evasion. According to the statement, an indictment was unsealed by the DoJ where he was charged with the crime. It was also disclosed that civil charges against the founder were also filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
It was revealed by the indictment that Elmaani had reportedly earned millions by selling Oyster Pearl tokens. However, none of these earnings had been reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and most of the income had been funneled through shell companies abroad. It was also reported that he dealt in cash and gold for obfuscating his funds and filed false tax returns. According to the indictment, the protocol’s founder had been selling the tokens since September 2018. He had used the alias ‘Bruno Block’ for doing so. He had claimed that the Pearl tokens were for powering the Oyster Protocol, which was advertised as an online data storage platform.
He used a shelf corporation for launching an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). In the same year, he added that he would maintain his ownership of the Oyster Protocol project by keeping millions of Pearl tokens. As per the DOJ, the tax returns filed by Elmaani for 2017 showed his earnings to be only $15,000 in that year. His returns showed zero income in 2018. Moreover, even though he claimed that he hadn’t earned anything, Elmaani was still able to make a purchase of luxury items for a staggering $10 million.
It is believed that Elmaani was storing physical gold bars on his yacht, and had also been spending substantial amounts of money on various other personal expenses. For instance, he spent $700,000 on two more homes. The truth was revealed when it was discovered that he was minting new Pearl tokens, even though he had claimed in October 2018 that the tokens had a fixed supply. Due to his actions, Pearl tokens were suspended by exchanges, which prompted a fall in the asset’s value and investors had to put up with major financial losses.
His penalty would be made public soon. For now, the DoJ has put him behind bars and they are intent on keeping him there for a long time. This year, the Department of Justice has proven to be quite effective in enforcing against crypto crimes. From arresting alleged criminals to cracking down against privacy-based coins, the agency has had a busy year. In October, they had published guidelines for enforcement of crypto laws. These highlighted that cryptocurrencies needed to be controlled because they could be transformative. However, a lot of people in the crypto space are not pleased with this approach.