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DARK HISTORY

The New Zealand shooter profited from a notorious crypto pyramid scheme

Reuters/Joseph Campbell
Mourners pay their respects to a victim of the New Zealand shooting.
  • Matthew De Silva
By Matthew De Silva

Tech reporter

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

In his 74-page screed, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the suspected New Zealand shooter, claims he invested in a cryptocurrency called BitConnect. Longtime crypto observers know BitConnect as an infamous pyramid scheme, which falsely promised a 1% daily interest payment. The project is better known for generating memes than investment returns. However, Tarrant says he profited from BitConnect’s rise and used his riches to travel the world.

Crypto is just a sliver of the New Zealand shooter’s story, but his identity as a young, uneducated man fluent in internet culture meant he was the ideal mark for an online get-rich-quick scheme like BitConnect. Less typically, it appears the shooter got in and out of BitConnect before suffering any financial harm himself.

BitConnect was founded in 2015, per Crunchbase, and its cryptocurrency was publicly released in 2016. Little is known about the company’s founders, which include Satish Kumbhani, and Divyesh Darji, both natives of India. Some crypto watchers identified BitConnect as a scam almost from its start, but the company folded only after US state regulators served it with cease and desist letters. BitConnect closed its “lending operation”—the heart of the scheme—in January 2018, although the scam was notorious enough to warrant a mention from John Oliver. Darji, who supposedly led the company’s Asian business, was arrested in New Delhi in August and earlier this year the FBI posted a notice seeking victims in its BitConnect investigation.

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