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Oyster Protocol founder arrested; accused of operating multimillion-dollar tax evasion scheme

Alisha Roy

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Founder of the now-defunct cryptocurrency scheme Oyster Protocol, Amir Burno Elmaani, has been arrested and charged by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for a “multimillion-dollar tax evasion scheme.” According to the DoJ, 28-year-old Elmaani, who is also known as “Bruno Block,” was arrested this morning in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The notice went on to state that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is also filing civil charges against Elmaani.  

DoJ indictment alleged that Elmaani made “millions of dollars” from selling Oyster Pearl tokens, but that he failed to report these earnings to the IRS. Additionally, the DoJ said that Elmaani allegedly used shell companies to file “false tax return” and for “operating his business and owning assets:”

Elmaani made millions of dollars from the sale of a new cryptocurrency but evaded reporting that income to the IRS, including by filing a false tax return, operating his business and owning assets through pseudonyms and shell companies, obtaining income through nominees, and dealing in gold and cash.

FBI Assistant Director, William Sweeney, noted that despite Elmaani’s “minimal reported income in 2018,” “he still managed to spend over $10 million for the purchase of yachts.” DoJ also believed that Elmaani kept gold bars in a safe on a yacht he owned, and even spent more than $700,000 on purchasing two homes.

DoJ further alleged that Elmaani began promoting his Pearl tokens in September 2018 which would apparently power the data-storage platform – Oyster Protocol. Following which, Elmaani launched an ICO through a shell company under a pseudonym and that he would take a “founder’s share” of the tokens.

Back in June 2018, Elmaani said that he would retain millions of the tokens as his “ownership stake.” At the time, he claimed he would move the tokens between wallets under his control “to avoid being double-taxed.” However, the DoJ has accused that: 

Elmaani used friends and family as nominees to receive cryptocurrency proceeds and transfer them or US currency to his own accounts.

As a result of Elmaani’s conduct, exchanges have delisted and halted the trading of Pearl tokens with the price of Pearl tokens dropping substantially which have caused significant losses to investors.


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Alisha is a full-time journalist at AMBCrypto. Her interests lie in blockchain technology, crypto-crimes, and market developments in Africa and the United States

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