|Run Time: 90 minutes|
Release Year: 2022
Directed by: Luke Sewell
Cryptocurrency may have turned many people into millionaires and even billionaires, but the fact remains that it is still a gray zone. For all its shine and might, the crypto domain has been marred with deception and scams from time to time. For someone investing their hard-earned life savings in it, the risk of financial ruin is high.
The Netflix true-crime documentary titled Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King reinforces the point of why virtual currencies are still not out of the woods. It explores the mysterious death of a young Cryptopreneur and the founder of Canada’s once-largest crypto exchange QuadrigaCX, Gerald Cotten.
He passed away in 2018 when he was on a philanthropic tour to India.
When the word leaked that no one other than him knew the password to the offline cold wallets, it unleashed chaos among the unsuspecting investors. His death meant that access to cryptos and cash worth $190 million was also gone with him.
Conspiracy Theories & Wild Goose Chase
The events around his death led to a whirlwind of conspiracy theories.
A wild goose chase ensued on Reddit and Telegram. The desperate investors were congregating online to discuss the veracity of Gerald’s death. They surmised that he was still alive and that he had faked his death to run off with their money.
Gradually, the circle of blame widened, and Gerald’s wife Jennifer Robertson was also theorized to be a suspect or a close accomplice.
After you have seen the documentary and you know the story, you can’t blame the investors. With no help from authorities, they were trying everything in their control to retrieve their money.
As the press started looking into the matter, several secrets about Gerald’s shady past started tumbling out of the closet. It turned out that QuadrigaCX wasn’t his first rodeo. His last company called S&S investments was also a con act that he ran through online forums.
His links with another dubious figure, Michael Patryn – the alleged co-founder of QuadrigaCX with a criminal background – solidified the grapevine that his death was a small part of the large exit scam that he and his partner had concocted.
In the later part, we find out The Globe and Mail – a Canadian newspaper, hyped by the goings-on in Reddit forums and the potential of a major news break, sent one of their reporters to Jaipur, India to investigate Gerald’s death. Shortly thereafter, the idea of Gerald being alive was laid to rest when the hospital confirmed that he died of natural causes.
When law enforcement agencies got involved to trace the money trail, murkier things emerged. QuadrigaCX was routing money directly to exchanges abroad. A clear case of money laundering.
Gerald used to open fake accounts and credit himself with fictitious currency, which he traded with unsuspecting clients. People were paying real money to buy crypto but unbeknownst to them, the crypto credited to their accounts wasn’t real. Those were fake credits.
It became clear that QuadrigaCX was a classic Ponzi scheme to start with. He architected it to dupe gullible investors.
The money from new investors was used to pay the existing investors. When Bitcoin nosedived in 2018, his game was up. More and more old investors jumped ship as things became less rosy. The house Gerald built suddenly started leaking from all sides.
The central thrust of Luke Sewell’s documentary from the very start seemingly is to decipher the mystery around Gerald Cotten’s death. But it fails to unearth anything to the delight of wronged investors.
Even the viewer who awaits the climax hoping for some sort of big revelation ends up disappointed. Most of what is revealed is in the public domain already.
For the uninitiated in this case, however, Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King can be a riveting watch. Things unfold at a quick pace with lurid and surprising details that are sure to delight fans of investigative cinema.
The documentary ends on a cliffhanger, leaving questions about Gerald Cotten’s death unanswered. And, that, in my view is its major shortcoming.
I think the director should have put more meat into the possibility of Quadriga being an exit scam. After all, Gerald’s fishy past and events before and after his death lend strong credence to him being the mastermind of this vast deception.
Even after 3 years of his death, Theories on Reddit abound that he might be in the Bahamas, Bali, or Monaco, living under a new identity. Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King will only fan the flames of such theories until the resentful investors get a proper closure.
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