Depending on the source you believe, there are between 20 and 30 billionaires worldwide who made their money primarily trading cryptocurrency. Last fall, in a span of less than 30 days, four of that elite number died under unusual circumstances. Considering all four were relatively young and in good health, the actuarial odds against that happening are astronomical.
Coming at a time of wild volatility and unprecedented corruption in the crypto markets, the deaths have raised reasonable suspicions. In the financial press, on reddit forums and over podcasts, journalists and amateur sleuths are abuzz with questions, speculation, and theories of foul play.
The first and most bizarre of these deaths occurred on the morning of Oct. 28, when 29-year old American, Nikolai Mushegian, was found, presumably drowned, in the water near a beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mushegian co-founded the crypto lending platform MakerDAO, and helped design the Stablecoin cryptocurrency architecture.
Just hours prior to the discovery, he posted a tweet stating that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies and a “pedo elite” intended to murder him and claimed his former girlfriend was a spy.
Among other disturbing posts, Mushegian had previously tweeted about “evil” people in a “central banking cartel” who used “debt and blackmail” as weapons and his fear that he would be “suicided by the CIA”. News reports quoted unnamed sources, said to be friends, saying, “He saw a psychiatrist at times. He smoked a lot of pot. A tremendous amount.”
Citing police reports, local press printed that Mushegian had been swimming when he was swept away by strong rip currents. This is odd, considering he was found fully clothed with his wallet in his pocket.
Three Dead in Four Days
Then, just under three weeks later, three more crypto billionaires died in a span of just four days.
On Nov. 22, Javier Biosca died at an exclusive hotel at the resort town of Estepona in southern Spain. Initially, his lawyer reported he accidentally fell from a fifth floor balcony, but later reports say he jumped to his death in the presence of witnesses.
Biosca brokered crypto through his company, Algorithmics Group, and stood accused by Spanish authorities of operating a Ponzi scheme and defrauding over 750 investors out of over half a billion euros.
He had been released on €1 million bail just three weeks earlier and was believed to be on the run from Russian and Romanian organized crime figures based in Andalusia.
In the weeks prior to his arrest, Biosca had unsuccessfully attempted to purchase a bank in Guinea-Bissau. It’s claimed that Biosca’s crypto wallet held 37,000 bitcoins, which have since been transferred to a hardware ‘cold wallet.’ On the day of his death, Bitcoin hit a two-year low following the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX exchange.
The very next day, the 30-year old co-founder of Amber Group, Tiantian Kullander, reportedly died unexpectedly in his sleep. A native of Hong Kong, Kullander formed the Jamaican-based digital asset conglomerate along with a group of other Goldman-Sachs and Morgan Stanley alumni.
Amber Group was valued at over $3 billion and had recently raised $200 million in funding.
While effusive news reporting praised Kullander as a hard-worker and devoted family man, there has as yet been no medical explanation for what would cause such a young man to die suddenly in his sleep.
Two days later, 53-year old Russian crypto billionaire Vyacheslav Taran was traveling from Lausanne, Switzerland, to Monaco, when his helicopter crashed, killing him along with the French pilot. Another passenger scheduled for the flight avoided death by canceling at the last minute.
Taran co-founded and was president of the crypto and foreign exchange trading platform Libertex Group, and founder of Forex Club, a group of multinational foreign exchange traders. He had been reported in the Ukrainian press to be connected to Russian intelligence agencies.
Taran joins a growing list of Russian billionaires who died in the past year under suspicious circumstances.
It’s speculative what effect, if any, events in the crypto markets may have had on these deaths. But it’s worth noting they occurred at the same time Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX Ponzi scheme was unraveling and being exposed. At $32 billion, the resulting bankruptcy of the world’s second largest crypto exchange rocked the markets as the FTX token, FTT, held by over a million users, headed to near zero.
It’s impossible to accurately state the amount of wealth lost from the cascading effects of FTT’s collapse, but Bankman-Fried had his hand in nearly every corner of the crypto markets.
In the runup to the FTX collapse, Bankman-Fried was bailing out other failing crypto currencies to the tune of billions of dollars and giving tens of millions in alleged illegal contributions to Democratic political campaigns. And not only was Bankman-Fried illegally siphoning off billions to prop up his own Alameda Research hedge fund, but an unknown hacker was looting FTT hot wallets — allegedly using FTX’s own software — stealing, by some estimates, over $600 million.
Hear No Evil
On the day Bankman-Fried had agreed to face questioning on the FTX debacle before the House Banking Committee, the notoriously politicized U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) had him arrested and jailed in the Bahamas.
That’s odd, because normally prosecutors preparing an indictment would be licking their chops at the prospect of a criminal defendant testifying under oath. The timing of his arrest led legal observers and lawmakers to comment that powerful figures were maneuvering to silence SBF.
Those criticisms were reinforced when SDNY prosecutors made a show of demanding $250 million bail, which was, in reality, a signature bond that held no hope of recovering anything near that amount should he flee.
Bankman-Fried was back at his parents home in Palo Alto in time for the holidays.
We may have to wait years for a trial to expose if there were any nexus between the historic collapse of FTX and the untimely deaths of four crypto billionaires in the fall of 2022.
If Bankman-Fried agrees to a favorable plea deal, as other FTX and Alameda Research corporate officers have already, those questions may never be asked, nor answered.