Australia’s Assistant Treasurer, Stephen Jones, has launched an investigation into the country’s securities regulator, the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC), for its failure to warn citizens about the potential risks associated with the HyperVerse crypto scheme. Despite global regulators issuing warnings and flagging the scheme as a suspected pyramid scheme, Australian regulators remained silent, resulting in significant losses for local and foreign consumers.
The recent Guardian report highlights the puzzling inaction of Australian regulators, who neglected to release a warning about the HyperVerse crypto scheme, unlike their counterparts in New Zealand, Hungary, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These countries all recognized the scheme’s fraudulent nature and issued alerts to protect their citizens. Assistant Treasurer Jones expressed his disappointment, noting that the scheme deceived innocent individuals into investing in a nonexistent product, with the only source of income being funds from new investors.
This lack of oversight by Australian regulators is concerning, as their primary responsibility is to safeguard the interests of investors and protect them from scams. The failure to warn users about the potential dangers of the HyperVerse scheme has had severe financial consequences, with on-chain analytics firm Chainalysis projecting losses of up to $1.3 billion for users.
The HyperVerse crypto scheme was operated by HyperTech, a firm led by Chairman Sam Lee and self-proclaimed “founder” Ryan Xu. Interestingly, both individuals were previously directors of Blockchain Global, an Australian crypto company that collapsed in 2021, leaving $58 million in debt to its creditors. Despite this background, local regulators have not yet indicated any intention to take legal action against HyperTech.
The scheme operated as a membership system, where clients had to pay for subscription packages and were promised rewards of 0.5% daily. Participants were also encouraged to recruit new members and build referral networks, with their rankings determined by the number of people they referred. However, as is common in Ponzi schemes, early investors profited by withdrawing funds, while subsequent clients suffered substantial losses.
The investigation has further revealed that Sam Lee was involved in another investment platform called We Are All Satoshi (WAAS), which received a desist and refrain order from California regulators. The Commissioner of Financial Protection and Innovation in California characterized WAAS as a fraudulent pyramid and Ponzi scheme, emphasizing that the platform did not offer any actual products and relied solely on funds from investors.
The failure of Australian regulators to detect and warn against the HyperVerse crypto scheme raises significant concerns about their effectiveness in combating fraudulent activities in the crypto space. This incident highlights the need for stricter regulations, more robust oversight, and improved communication to protect investors from falling prey to such schemes.
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones’s inquiry into ASIC’s handling of this matter is a step in the right direction. It is imperative that ASIC cooperates fully and provides transparent explanations for their inaction. The investigation must not only identify the reasons behind the failure to issue warnings but also hold those responsible accountable.
Furthermore, this incident emphasizes the importance of investor education and awareness. Crypto investors must be cautious and conduct thorough due diligence before investing in any scheme, as the potential for scams remains an unfortunate reality in this emerging industry. By being proactive in their approach and seeking reliable information, investors can better protect themselves from falling victim to fraudulent schemes like HyperVerse.
The Australian Securities Investment Commission’s failure to warn citizens about the dangers of the HyperVerse crypto scheme is a significant oversight that has resulted in substantial financial losses for many individuals. The investigation into ASIC’s handling of the situation is necessary to shed light on this failure and ensure accountability. Moving forward, stricter regulations, improved oversight, and increased investor education are essential to protect individuals from falling victim to such fraudulent schemes in the future.