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Confido, an ICO startup whose name means “I trust”, has done a bunk with 1,235 ETH. The company was supposed to have been creating a trustless payment system using smart contracts. Instead, it was the project’s founders who have proven themselves trustless after deleting all their accounts and going dark. The $375,000 exit scam highlights the risks that are inherent to the still largely unregulated ICO market.
Trust Less, Question More
As a since-deleted Medium article published by Confido explained:
Confido takes away the trust barrier in exchanges involving cryptocurrencies, while also staying decentralised and trustless.
After protesting of “legal issues” over the weekend, however, the startup hastily scrubbed its online presence. Google still has a cached version of the site and a who.is enquiry pulls up the following information, citing a residential Berlin address:
Joost van Doorn is also the project’s founder and CEO supposedly. It is unlikely that the company information is correct, although the name might be, given that van Doorn has since deactivated his personal Facebook account along with Confido’s. The confido.io domain was registered with Namecheap, who accept payment in bitcoin.
An FAQ on the company’s cached website poses such questions as “Why is the hard cap so low?”, to which they reply: “We think the current ICO space is messed up; companies are raising millions without a fully working product or existing customers. We have talked with financial analysts and we simply don’t need more than $400,000 to develop and market our project.”
Irony Upon Ironies and Insult to Injury
The Confido contract address currently has a balance of 0 ether and just 676 CFD tokens, worth a total of $21. As word broke of the exit scam on November 19, the token’s value plummeted by 94%. It’s currently trading on Kucoin, Etherdelta, and Mercatox, though suffice to say there aren’t many buyers.
Google webcache also reveals a snapshot of the team’s now deleted Twitter, where the ironies continue to stack up:
The 4.5 million CFD the team refer to currently sit in this address. On 4chan’s /biz/ messageboard where traders gather to troll, shill, and occasionally dispense sound investment advice, there was an abundance of pink wojaks as the despair sank in, and it was a similar story on Reddit.
What Hope of a Happy Ending?
There remains a slim chance of a happy ending to this sorry story. Tokenlot, who had promoted the Confido sale on their site, reportedly issued the following information after the exit scam came to light:
Days earlier, some of the /biz/ forum’s more astute users had posted warnings that the team behind Confido didn’t seem to exist, but were shot down with one sceptic jibing “You sold the future of online crypto commerce at 5 M market cap OP. You sold too early and you will have to live with that”.
In a thread on November 19, someone posted:
wait a second, is this real? I woke up not too long ago and I am down over $54K on my investment in CFD…I bought in with almost everything I had when it was .94 cents. What is happening? I am seeing rumors that the developers did an exit scam. Is this true? Does anyone know why their website is down? I’m not getting any responses from email or anything. I feel really f*****g sick. Can someone tell me please what is happening?
The Confido scam arrives the same day a survey revealed that 15% of institutional traders won’t go near ICOs until tighter regulation arrives. While the vast majority of initial coin offerings are conducted in good faith, all it takes is a few bad apples to ruin things for everyone.
As Confido were posting news of “legal troubles” which have been widely interpreted as the first phase of their planned exit, one Twitter user highlighted the fact that Coinmarketcap is running a trio of ads for projects which are dubious at best and fraudulent at worst. Bitcy, Resonance, and Bitconnect all promise “guaranteed returns”, which should be an instant warning sign. As the Confido case shows, however, it doesn’t require unrealistic claims to hook investors: all it takes is a plausible sounding ICO with a modest hard cap.
What do you think can be done to protect investors from ICO scams? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Twitter.
Bitcoinocracy is a free and decentralized way to measure the Bitcoin community’s stance on a given proposition. Check vote.Bitcoin.com.
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For the past couple of weeks we've written frequently about the sudden political turmoil in Saudi Arabia that resulted in two Saudi princes being killed in a span of just 24 hours and dozens others being detained on charges of corruption while having their bank accounts frozen. Here are couple of our most recent background posts on the topic:
- The Saudi Purge: The Middle-East Is On The Verge Of A New War
- If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn't Worry You, You're Not Paying Attention
Now, per an exclusive report from Reuters, it appears as though the latest casualty of the Saudi shakeup is a financing deal sought by the $8 billion dollar Kingdom Holdings which is owned and run by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal...at least until he was recently arrested that is.
Kingdom Holding’s plan to borrow money to fund new investments has stalled because owner Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been detained in Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption crackdown, according to four banking sources familiar with the matter.
Kingdom 4280.SE had approached banks to obtain the loan, but the financing plan has been held up because the lenders are worried about potential repercussions if they lend to the prince’s company, the sources said.
One of the sources, who was approached for the loan, said it would have been worth roughly 5 billion riyals ($1.3 billion).
For those who aren't familiar with the company, Kingdom Holdings is a leading Saudi investment firm with stakes in prime real estate including New York’s Plaza Hotel and London’s Savoy Hotel.
The busted bank deal apparently surfaced after Kingdom Holdings attempted to pledge an equity position it recently acquired in Banque Saudi Fransi as collateral for a new $1.3 billion loan but several banks balked until the charges levied against Prince Alwaleed bin Talal were resolved.
Kingdom completed the acquisition of a 16.2 percent stake in local lender Banque Saudi Fransi (BSF) 1050.SE in September, buying about half of France’s Credit Agricole stake in BSF for 5.76 billion riyals.
The company approached banks to obtain a loan that would have been secured by its BSF stake, as the company wanted to leverage the newly acquired shares in order to make new investments, according to the sources.
One of the four sources, a senior banker at a Saudi financial institution, said the loan deal would not go ahead until the situation facing the prince was resolved.
Of course, Kingdom Holdings is likely not the only Saudi company finding it difficult to tap debt markets these days as Moody's recently warned that a prolonged freeze of bank accounts could "damage corporate credit quality" all across the country.
Eight Saudi and international bankers, including the four sources, said in addition to the Kingdom loan, a range of other transactions involving clients who are directly or indirectly involved in the detentions had also been put on hold.
Banks have not reached the point of recalling existing loans, but they have increased the level of scrutiny for some new financing, the bankers said.
In a report last week, debt rating agency Moody’s said a prolonged freeze of bank accounts in Saudi Arabia could damage corporate credit quality in the kingdom because large depositors were often large borrowers and business owners.
“Saudi Arabia’s corporate sector remains dominated by unlisted family-owned businesses with uneven governance and disclosures and frequent intermingling of individual and corporate activities, which ultimately could expose corporates to these individuals’ frozen accounts,” Moody’s said.
Meanwhile, despite assurances from the Riyadh government that the economy would not suffer from the country's political turmoil "because investigators are targeting only individuals, not their companies," Kingdom Holdings shareholders don't seem to be convinced...
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