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Whistleblower Kidnapped in Ukraine After Accusing Crypto Firm of Exit Scam



A group of people pushed a man into a gray minivan on a dark street. The man yelled, “Help! Help! No!” and pushed against the van. Passersby shouted, “Let him go!” and tried to stop the van. The man was finally stuffed inside and the van left. 

This blurry video, apparently filmed by an unidentified witness Wednesday night in Kyiv, Ukraine, and circulated by local news publications Thursday morning, might mark a new chapter in the story of Bitsonar, a crypto investment firm that raised millions of dollars from investors in the U.S. and Europe, which they are now unable to access.

The Ukrainian media wrote that the man driven away in the minivan was ex-Bitsonar employee Yaroslav Shtadchenko. Shtadchenko’s wife Julia confirmed to CoinDesk her husband appeared in the video and had gone missing last night around 11 p.m. local time as he was coming home from work. She also said she found her husband’s personal belongings on the street after her neighbors told her he was kidnapped. 

The harrowing incident highlights the proliferation of risky investment schemes and dubious operators in the crypto industry, but also blockchain technology’s potential to help track missing funds.

Complaint to FBI in the works

According to Julia Shtadchenko, before going missing, Yaroslav Shtadchenko called Bistonar’s CEO, Marius Ziubka, and told him he was going to file complaints about Bitsonar to law enforcement in different countries, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. Then, on Wednesday, the lawyer of Bitsonar’s founder called Shtadchenko and suggested “settling the conflict peacefully,” his wife said. 

After that, Yaroslav Shtadchenko was kidnapped on his way home. Julia Shtadchenko said she filed a police report Wednesday night but hadn’t heard any updates on her husband’s whereabouts.

In July, Yaroslav Shtadchenko gave an interview to the Russian crypto news publication Forklog under the pseudonym Jan Novak, saying that Bitsonar was founded by former Ukrainian government clerk Alexander Tovstenko, and Shtadchenko worked for the company as a project manager. Both Forklog and Shtadchenko’s wife confirmed Shtadchenko used that pseudonym. 

In the interview, Shtadchenko claimed that Tovstenko stopped withdrawals from the platform in the beginning of 2020 and then got away with the money of investors. 

Shtadchenko told CoinDesk in July that Bitsonar received about $2.5 million from investors across the globe. On Aug. 6, the website went down and users lost access to their accounts. 

Read more: A Former Beauty Queen Raised $12M to ‘Revolutionize’ Cannabis. The Courts Can’t Find Her

CoinDesk was contacted by 11 people saying they haven’t been able to withdraw their money from Bitsonar since February, and one investor who couldn’t get his crypto out since May. According to them, Bitsonar would explain withdrawals were paused because of an audit, but the withdrawals were never resumed. According to the analysis of Bitsonar’s bitcoin wallets by CoinDesk, Bitsonar’s treasury is now empty. 

Source: Crystal Blockchain

The users who spoke to CoinDesk are from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Denmark, Norway, Netherland, Finland and other countries. Some of them said they would like to pursue legal action but didn’t know where to start. According to Julia Shtadchenko, her husband was ready to file complaints himself, and had the drafts ready. She shared the draft of the complaint to the FBI with CoinDesk.

Legitimate-looking business 

Bitsonar looked credible, at least in the beginning. The project advertised itself as a startup that used trading bots to earn high profits on investors’ crypto. Pavel Lerner, a well-known crypto adviser with Ukrainian origins, worked with Bitsonar, which gave the enterprise additional credibility. 

Popular YouTube channels dedicated to crypto trading advertised Bitsonar, including MMCrypto, CryptoTV, CryptoJoker, and Ivan On Tech (he later reportedly deleted the videos).

Read more: YouTube’s Whac-a-Mole Approach to Crypto Scam Ads Remains a Problem

Lerner himself told CoinDesk he was introduced to the Bitsonar team by his friends and was hired in May 2019 to set up trading bots. “We launched bots for trading on Huobi and Bitfinex,” he said. Lerner said he was fired from Bitsonar in November.

“I’m not sure what was on their minds and how they raised money. They fired me because they were not satisfied with the bots’ profitability,” Lerner added. 

Bitsonar OÜ was registered in Estonia and had obtained a local crypto business license, according to the document published by Forklog. “I trusted Estonia (good startup scene) and licenses too much,” one of Bitsonar’s investors from Finland, who asked not to be named, told CoinDesk.

According to Shtadchenko’s July interview in Forklog, the company had been working normally throughout the summer and fall of 2019. But in December 2019, the team was told by Tovstenko to prevent clients from withdrawing funds by any means, Shtadchenko said. 

Then Tovstenko refused to pay annual bonuses to the Bitsonar employees and flew to Dubai to celebrate the New Year, Shtadchenko told Forklog. Later, Tovstenko posted a YouTube video of himself partying, he added.

There was no mention of Tovstenko on the Bitsonar website, but apparently he took an active role in the operations. One of Bitsonar’s investors, Ukrainian entrepreneur Vladimir Chaika, told CoinDesk he personally met Tovstenko and gave him $100,000 in cash in exchange for the paper IOU and a promise of up to 11% monthly profits. He never got his money back, he said. Lerner said he met Tovstenko several times and thought he was either an investor or the founder of Bitsonar.

Yaroslav Shtadchenko said he used his access to Bitsonar’s website to publish information about Tovstenko, who he claimed ran away with the investors’ money. He also published Tovstenko’s contact information, including email address, Telegram handles, Facebook and Instagram profiles, and mobile phones. 

CoinDesk tried all of the above but got no response. Two of the Telegram handles listed by Shtadchenko, @alexsky888 and @SkyAlex88, received the message but did not respond. One of the phone numbers belongs to a man who said his family name is not Tovstenko but Kovalenko. 

‘Mom and pop’ investor story

How did investors from across the world get involved with a company set up by an unknown founder in Kyiv? One telling example is Eli Taylor, a 42-years old United Parcel Service (UPS) worker from Portland, Ore., in the Pacific Northwest.

One evening in January, Eli was sitting in his condo watching YouTube videos. He became an avid viewer of videos by crypto influencers talking about making money from bitcoin. They were analyzing charts, talking about price movements, showing how to use different platforms – and, of course, advertising their sponsors. They looked professional and smart, and Eli liked them.

At that time, some of those channels were also promoting Bitsonar. Until the end of January, Bitsonar offered a “Christmas special,” with extra perks for larger investors. Eli decided to give it a try. 

“The first thing you learn about crypto is, if it’s not your keys, it’s not your crypto. Never give out your crypto, unless you’re paying for something or you’re trading. And I broke that rule with Bitsonal, but it was because they were so seductive,” Eli told CoinDesk via a WhatsApp call.

He invested 5 BTC and 114 ETH, worth about $100,000 in today’s prices, in Bitsonar, he said, which was most of the crypto he had. Now, that money is probably gone forever.

Eli Taylor is still not out of the woods. Working at UPS allowed him to accrue some savings and make some investments. He started with stocks and invested via an online brokerage, then got into crypto in 2018 via the Robinhood app, which had just added crypto at the time.

He seized the moment to buy bitcoin during the price lows of summer 2018, when one bitcoin cost around $3,000, Eli said, but then sold a lot of it and bought altcoins, which then performed very badly. “If I just would have HODLed I would do well,” he said. 

“I was doing pretty well until the end of last year, we were having a little bull market,” Eli said. “But then there was a decline, and I just started just to play around and do my own thing and watch videos.” 

“I was watching a lot of videos on YouTube, and you can learn more on YouTube than anywhere else, if you have your wits about it and you are careful, and you can use other people’s advice to do your own strategy.”

Read also: Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Sues YouTube Over Bitcoin Giveaway Scams

People analyzing price charts looked smart and qualified – and a bunch of them were advertising Bitsonar. Some even showed how they deposited some crypto with Bitsonar. Plus, there was this Christmas special offer. Eli decided to jump in.

At first, it went pretty smoothly, he said. “The customer service was very helpful and proactive, and I was able to even close one of my investments and cash out on my profits. Very professional emails, detailed, they looked very honest. Very detailed, vivid explanation, and it was convincing.” 

Withdrawals worked for Eli until late May – unlike most users, who couldn’t take their money out of Bitsonar since February. Eli was able to pull out about $5,000 worth of crypto out of Bitsonar before May, he said. Shtadchenko told CoinDesk that Eli was the largest investor in Bitsonar.

Following the coins

Bitsonar users provided CoinDesk with multiple bitcoin addresses that they used to send bitcoin to Bitsonar, along with the addresses Bitsonar sent funds from when users withdrew. All those addresses are now empty. 

According to CoinDesk analysis using Crystal blockchain-sleuthing software, there have been 564 bitcoin addresses associated with Bitsonar. All of them are now empty. The entire cluster of addresses received nearly 115.5 bitcoin, which is more than $1.3 million at the current price. 

According to Shtadchenko, Bitsonar accumulated up to $2.5 million in crypto, and more than half of it, up to $1.5 million, came from the retail investors who saw the promotion of Bitsonar by bloggers. About $650 million came from large investors who handed over physical cash.

Read more: Data Shows Millions Leaving Crypto Wallets Tied to Long-Troubled Exchange

To be sure, blockchain analytics tools like Crystal are never 100% precise and it’s hard to say if Bitsonar actually has anything left in its wallets. It’s also impossible to definitively confirm that all the addresses associated with Bitsonar in Crystal really belonged to Bitsonar, or that it’s a full list. 

“Given the pseudo-anonymous essence of most cryptocurrencies, blockchain analytics techniques (especially address clustering algorithms) have been mostly of a heuristic nature, meaning the results are obtained from probabilistic methods,” says Kyrylo Chykhradze of Crystal Blockchain.

Gaining 100% confidence in attributing bitcoin addresses to certain entities can only be done with off-chain insights, which means knowing exactly who is the owner of a particular address in the real world, Chykhradze added. 

As of Thursday night, the fate on Bitsonar investors money, as well as Yaroslav Shtadchenko’s whereabouts, remain unknown. CoinDesk will monitor the situation. 


The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Elon Musk, Tim Cook Deny Meeting to Discuss Tesla Acquisition




Besides Musk, Cook has also owned up to not having met with Musk on no occasion when he appeared on the New York Times Sway Podcast.

Elon Musk, Tim Cook Deny Meeting to Discuss Tesla Acquisition

The claims published in Tim Higgins new book ‘Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century,’ that the Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO and Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) had a meeting to discuss the possible acquisition of the electric automaker has been refuted by both parties.

According to Insideevs, the conversation in which Tim Cook said ‘f*** you’ to Musk via a phone call has been adjudged as false. According to the book from Higgins, a New York Times reporter, the Apple boss called Musk to discuss a possible acquisition deal as far back as 2016. Higgins claims that both CEOs’ discussions fell apart when Musk demanded to continue being the CEO of Apple following the acquisition. The proposition was not well received by Cook who said ‘f*** you’ and hung up the phone.

While there has been a consideration to give up Tesla to Apple as Musk agreed to, that was when the former’s valuation is just about 6% of what it is today. Moreover, Musk said despite requesting to meet with Cook for the takeover consideration, the meeting never actually happened.

“Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever. There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla. There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever. He refused to meet. Tesla was worth about 6% of today’s value,” Musk revealed via his official Twitter account.

Besides Musk, Cook has also owned up to not having met with Musk on no occasion when he appeared on the New York Times Sway Podcast according to an earlier Bloomberg report.

Elon Musk Says He Had No Interest Running Apple and Tim Cook

As the most valuable automaker in the world by market capitalization, there appear to be no signs that Tesla is up for sale as Musk once intended close a decade ago. Moreso, Elon Musk has said via his Twitter account that he never at any time expressed interest in taking over Apple. Per his words:

“Indeed. Both Cook & I have been clear publicly that we have never spoken or otherwise communicated. I tried to speak to him & he declined. Nor have I ever expressed any interest in running Apple to anyone. Cook is, all things considered, obviously doing an incredible job.”

The doubled-checked claim from both Cook and Musk leaves Higgins’s assertions to be questionable. Despite the book being reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Musk duly noted that the author has “managed to make his book both false *and* boring.”


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Benjamin Godfrey

Benjamin Godfrey is a blockchain enthusiast and journalists who relish writing about the real life applications of blockchain technology and innovations to drive general acceptance and worldwide integration of the emerging technology. His desires to educate people about cryptocurrencies inspires his contributions to renowned blockchain based media and sites. Benjamin Godfrey is a lover of sports and agriculture.

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Li Auto Set for Secondary Listing in Hong Kong to Raise $1.93 Billion




Chinese carmaker Li Auto set to offer secondary listing in Hong Kong as a hedge against geopolitical risks between America and China.

Automobile manufacturer Li Auto (NASDAQ: LI), is going ahead with a secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) despite regulatory crackdowns in the country. The Chinese electric vehicle startup, which is already listed on the NASDAQ, is looking to raise $1.93 billion. It plans to do this by offering 100 million Class A ordinary shares to investors at 150 Hong Kong dollars or $19.29. Li Auto plans to funnel the proceeds from its share offering into research and development of technology and future models. The automobile company is also looking to scale production and increase retail activities around its products. 

Li Auto will announce a final price on August 6th amid the crackdown on Chinese listings. The recent regulatory actions have sparked a huge recent sell-off in Chinese technology stocks. The sell-off has affected everything from food delivery to ride-hailing.

The Chinese government looks to tighten its grip over Chinese technology companies in a bid to avoid a tech-led bubble bursting. This comes on the back of the US SEC imposing stricter listing requirements for Chinese-based companies in America. Amid the excitement and uncertainty of the crackdown, Chinese electric vehicle makers are also looking to capitalize.

Li Auto Is One of Many Chinese Tech Companies with Secondary Listings in Hong Kong

Several Chinese companies already listed on Wall Street have secondary listings in Hong Kong to hedge against Chinese-American tensions. In July, Xpeng (NYSE: XPEV) generated $1.8 billion in a Hong Kong listing. The Li Auto rival issued 85 million Class A ordinary shares and is also already listed in the US. Other Wall Street Chinese technology companies with secondary listings back home are Alibaba, NetEase, and 

Owing to the increasing growth of Chinese electric vehicles, the competition has become very intense in recent times, especially among startups. Li Auto, Xpeng, and Nio are all jockeying for dominance in the playing field. In addition to this, all three companies are also directly competing with established companies such as Tesla and BYD. Even the more traditional automakers are always looking to take a sizable market share in the automobile industry. As far as the electrical startups go, Xpeng has already proven to be a force in coming years and is already being dubbed ‘The Chinese Tesla Rival’.

In July 2021, Li Auto recorded a record number of monthly vehicle sales. The company said it delivered 8,589 of its Li One vehicles, the only model in its current model lineup. The Li One is a hybrid vehicle with a fuel tank for charging the battery, giving the car an increased mile range.

Li Auto sold the highest number of vehicles among the trio of Chinese electric vehicle startups listed in the US. Xpeng delivered 8,040 vehicles which was also a company record. In comparison, Nico sold 7,931 cars in the same period.

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Tolu is a cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiast based in Lagos. He likes to demystify crypto stories to the bare basics so that anyone anywhere can understand without too much background knowledge.
When he’s not neck-deep in crypto stories, Tolu enjoys music, loves to sing and is an avid movie lover.

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Wealthfront Says Clients Can Now Invest in Grayscale BTC and ETH Funds




With the uncertainty in the current investment ecosystem, Wealthfront says it is set to offer its customers an expert-backed recommended portfolio.

Robo-adviser Wealthfront has made a bold move to offer its clients a means to gain exposure to Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) through Grayscale investment funds. Per a blog post published by the firm, its expanded product offerings include the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (OTCMKTS: GBTC) and Grayscale Ethereum Trust (OTCMKTS: ETHE). The firm noted that its clients can invest as much as 10% of their total portfolio in the trusts, citing risk and volatility as the reasons for the restrictions.

“You can add GBTC and/or ETHE to your portfolio by following the instructions here and selecting a combined allocation of up to 10% of your total portfolio. We limit your allocation to GBTC and ETHE because, as a fiduciary, we act in your best interests at all times, and these investments can be riskier and more volatile than most ETFs,” Wealthfront said in the blog post.

The maturity of the cryptocurrency ecosystem has seen a growing clamor for exposure or investments in assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum by both retail and institutional investors. Several economic fundamentals have contributed to this rising embrace of nascent assets including the pangs of inflation which has continued to contribute to the devaluation of fiat currencies like the US Dollar. More than ever, the investment community is seeing a more flexible and promising means of hedging against inflation through digital assets.

The move by Wealthfront to integrate the GBTC and ETHE is geared toward enhancing the quality of investment options by its clients. While there is no obligation on customers to invest in these offerings, their availability implies the Robo adviser is moving in line with the trends in the growing digital world.

Wealthfront Grayscale Funds: Value Added Services to Owing Crypto

The Wealthfront system uses advanced automation to take “chore out of managing your portfolio and works to maximize your after-tax returns at no extra cost.” Just like the investment manager is offering GBTC and ETHE investment options, it also gives its clients the way to acquire other investment products including ARK ETFs as well as other vehicles that represent innovative tech and social advancements.

The firm said the newly added products are complementary to the existing products as customers “can now choose from a bigger selection of ARK ETFs, pick ETFs that are specific to industries like cannabis or self-driving cars, or choose from a larger pool of socially responsible investments, adding that “the choice is yours.”

With the uncertainty in the current investment ecosystem, Wealthfront says it is set to offer its customers an expert-backed recommended portfolio. As a value-added service, the firm said its clients can bring over investments from another firm and they will handle the details that is billed to drive productivity. 

Wealthfront is arguably one of the largest Robo advisors in the world with about $25 billion in assets under management. Grayscale also holds as much as $25.5 billion in the GBTC trust and $7.47 billion in its ETHE trust.

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Benjamin Godfrey is a blockchain enthusiast and journalists who relish writing about the real life applications of blockchain technology and innovations to drive general acceptance and worldwide integration of the emerging technology. His desires to educate people about cryptocurrencies inspires his contributions to renowned blockchain based media and sites. Benjamin Godfrey is a lover of sports and agriculture.

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