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Failed Crypto Exchange Dasset Now Target of Investigation by NZ’s Serious Fraud Office

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Serious Fraud Office Probes Collapse of NZ’s Dasset Exchange

  • New Zealand’s Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into the failed crypto exchange Dasset after its CEO went missing and $6.3 million in cryptocurrency remains unaccounted for.
  • Liquidators struggle with the investigation due to the CEO’s disappearance, hindering efforts to trace the missing funds and Dasset’s operations.
  • Customers, ranging from individuals to seasoned investors, face significant losses, prompting both the SFO and Financial Markets Authority to step in for a thorough investigation.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of New Zealand has recently opened an investigation into the defunct cryptocurrency trading platform Digital Asset Exchange, commonly known as Dasset. This development follows the company’s liquidation in August 2023, sparking concerns among investors and regulatory bodies.

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SFO Initiates Investigation into Dasset’s Downfall

Dasset, which ceased operations last year, has become a matter of public interest due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding its failure. The SFO is actively seeking information relevant to this investigation and encourages former Dasset customers to come forward. Individuals with any information can reach out to the SFO at dasset@sfo.govt.nz.

Liquidators David Ruscoe and Russell Moore of Grant Thornton, in their initial report on August 21, disclosed a significant discrepancy in Dasset’s accounts. They revealed that approximately $6.3 million in cryptocurrency, representing the difference between the customer’s expected digital wallet balances and the actual assets on hand, remains unaccounted for. The exchange only had about $600,000 worth of cryptocurrency available.

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Dasset’s Financial Struggles: Unpaid Wages, Debt, and CEO’s Disappearance

Further complicating the situation, Dasset’s staff are still awaiting $16,700 in unpaid wages, and various unsecured creditors and the IRD are owed $203,700 and $53,700, respectively. The liquidators, in their interim report issued on December 21, stated that they had secured most of the available $600,000 in digital currency. However, efforts to trace the missing $6.3 million have hit a roadblock due to the disappearance of Dasset’s CEO, Stephen Macaskill.

Macaskill’s absence has significantly hindered the investigation. He reportedly possesses critical knowledge about Dasset’s operations and customer records. Despite numerous attempts, the liquidators have failed to establish contact with him since the third day of the liquidation.

Dasset’s troubles began in January 2023 when it lost its banking services provider and subsequently failed to replace it. Over the following months, customers raised alarms over their inability to access or transfer funds and the lack of communication from Dasset’s team.

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Dasset’s Regulatory Troubles and Ongoing Investigations Amid Customer Losses

Despite being on the Financial Service Providers Register and subject to the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme (Ifso), Dasset faced criticism for its inability to address customer complaints. The cryptocurrency exchange was ultimately removed from Ifso in July 2023 due to its failure to respond to these grievances. It’s important to note that cryptocurrency remains an unregulated financial product in New Zealand.

The liquidators’ preliminary findings prompted them to refer Dasset to the SFO. The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has also been investigating the exchange, reaching out to Dasset customers for information. These customers range from an Auckland mother who lost her life savings of $40,000 to a seasoned investment banking professional who suffered a multimillion-dollar loss.

As of the latest update, the liquidators still have not managed to establish contact with Macaskill. They have refrained from commenting on the ongoing SFO investigation, and the FMA has also declined to provide any statements at this stage. The situation remains fluid, with the SFO’s investigation underway and many awaiting answers about the fate of their investments in Dasset.

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