Nexo Claims a Co-Founder Walked Away With Millions in Company Assets

Nexo, one of the world’s biggest crypto lenders, has quietly been engaged in a heated dispute with a co-founder who allegedly stole tens of millions of dollars’ worth of company assets after he was fired, according to a recent court ruling.

An account with the online exchange Bitmex that once held over $10 million in Nexo’s cryptocurrency was registered in the name of Georgi Shulev, a former banker who co-founded Nexo in or about 2017 and was “terminated” in September 2019, the decision said.

Nexo yanked Shulev’s access to his company email account and warned Bitmex that Shulev might try to “siphon away funds.” But Shulev told Bitmex that the money was his, and said he was worried that it might be “stolen” after losing access to his Nexo email account.

Bitmex froze the account and asked an English court to figure out who the rightful owner was.  

The details of this years-long dispute comes at a difficult time for crypto. Digital asset values have plummeted and some companies have been eyeing bankruptcy. Nexo has said it’s in good financial shape, but Shulev’s alleged money-grab isn’t the first time a crypto insider has been accused of taking advantage of the largely unregulated sector. 

Nexo transferred 1,451 bitcoins to the Shulev account in May 2019, before Shulev was fired, though it fell to 880 bitcoins by the time a court got involved, the ruling said. In addition, Nexo said Shulev absconded with 45 million Nexo tokens before surrendering them last year when they were worth about $60 million.

In an effort to settle the dispute, Nexo agreed last year to pay Shulev $1 million to surrender the tokens, but he balked after only transferring some of them —  prompting the English court to intervene. The judge on July 1 ordered Shulev to continue transferring the crypto assets to Nexo, but said he could hold onto an amount equal to what Nexo had agreed to pay him. 

Shulev told Insider he couldn’t comment without consulting his lawyers. Stella Zlatareva, a Nexo representative, told Insider that the company was grateful for the ruling and insisted that Nexo was a “safety-first lender.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a business where people will try to take advantage of their positions and do it in some very creative ways,” she said.

The price of bitcoin has fallen to below $20,000 since peaking last November at over $67,000, and the total value of all cryptocurrencies has fallen from nearly $3 trillion to $888 billion over a similar time frame, according to the website CoinMarketCap.

Companies like Nexo that pay rewards to crypto depositors or issue loans backed by crypto collateral have also been hurting, with one competitor, Celsius, suspending user withdrawals and reportedly hiring bankruptcy lawyers. Voyager Digital, another crypto trading platform, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Another company, BlockFi, struck a deal to be sold for a fraction of its previous valuation, but it’s still allowing withdrawals and its CEO has said BlockFi is “fully functional across all products.” Nexo, which is based in Bulgaria, has said that it is in good financial health and contemplating acquisitions, and it has attacked online critics who have suggested otherwise.

A “real-time audit” report on Nexo’s site claims that its assets are somewhere north of the $3.6 billion in customer liabilities on its balance sheet. That figure is down by more than half since March 5, according to an archived version of the report.

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