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What’s going on with Arbitrade?

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Up above: plants on balconies are the only sign of life at Victoria Hall, the global headquarters of Arbitrade (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Dirt and dust cake the smoked glass doors and windows of Victoria Hall, while trash litters an approach area of overgrown shrubs.

The doors are locked; there is no one inside. At the front entrance, an overflowing cigarette butt receptacle is so rusted at its base it appears likely to topple at any moment.

This is the global headquarters of Arbitrade, the cryptocurrency exchange and coin company that claims it has “title” to gold bullion worth more than $15 billion.

With that bullion, it intends to back a series of crypto tokens with $1 worth of the precious metal per token. One of the tokens is called dignity; it peaked in value at 29 cents in May, but has been on the slide ever since, and yesterday was trading at a ¼ cent per token on CoinMarketCap.

The company has made headlines since announcing in June that it intended to establish Bermuda as its home. At the time, it told The Royal Gazette it intended to create hundreds of jobs on the island.

Arbitrade claimed it was securing title to billions of dollars of bullion through a partnership with Sion Trading FZE of Dubai, which it described as “the only licensed gold trader on the Dubai Gold Exchange”.

However, subsequent inquiries by The Royal Gazette revealed that Sion Trading was not a member of the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange, and had no affiliation or relationship with it. Instead, Sion holds a commercial licence in the Ras Al Khaimah economic zone, United Arab Emirates, and has a “flexi desk” address at the Rakez Business Zone.

During the summer, Victoria Hall, a vacant seven-storey office block on Victoria Street, was listed for sale at $6.5 million.

Arbitrade, which had been based in an office above a former dress shop in a beach community in Canada, took possession of Victoria Hall in October. It did so through an amalgamation of its subsidiary, Arbitrade Properties (Victoria Hall) Ltd, with the 36-year old Victoria Hall Company Ltd.

In December, The Royal Gazette sent 12 questions to Arbitrade, seeking information from the company about its operations, its personnel, and its ambitions. Today, three months later, and after repeated inquires, we are still awaiting answers to those questions.

Here are the questions together with, where appropriate, explanations as to why we are seeking the information.

• Will Arbitrade give full disclosure about the gold bullion claim, such as announcing the auditing firm that has verified the account?

• How many mining rigs does Arbitrade have up and running at present?

We also asked how many crypto mining rigs Arbitrade expected to have running by the end of this year. The reason we asked these questions was because the company intends to partially raise revenue by mining cryptocurrencies. In November, the company said it had about 8,700 rigs.

• Is dignity about to be listed on more exchanges, how many and when?

We asked this because Arbitrade’s dignity token trades only on Livecoin.net, a bitcoin and alt-coin exchange. The exchange suffered a malfunction in September that temporarily restricted trading in Arbitrade’s token.

• Has Steve Braverman met the CEO of Binance?

We asked this because Mr Braverman is Arbitrade’s chief operating officer. Binance is the world’s biggest crypto exchange. In an interview with The Royal Gazette in December, analyst Ronnie Moas claimed Mr Braverman had told him the dignity token was going to be listed on “a dozen exchanges”, and that he was going to Malta to meet the CEO of Binance.

Binance has a Bermuda connection. In April, the company and the Bermuda Government signed a memorandum of understanding that proposed Binance develop its global compliance base on the island, creating at least 40 jobs, and develop a digital asset exchange in Bermuda “as soon as practicable”.

• Is Mohammed Markatia still involved?

We asked this because Mr Markatia was named as a director last March, and later as senior vice-president of technology, and president of technology, for Arbitrade’s payment systems subsidiary company Arbipay.

He has a technology background and his resume includes founding PaySmart America and TSI Group of Companies, which were involved in distribution networks for prepaid products.

While he is still listed as an Arbitrade director on the register of directors in Bermuda, he does not appear on the line-up of Arbitrade directors on the company’s updated website.

Attempts to contact Mr Markatia through his Florida-based technology solutions company 24Seven Technologies, and his Twitter account, which has been publicly dormant since November, have been unsuccessful.

• What is Thomas Carter Ronk’s association to Arbitrade?

We asked this after Mr Ronk’s name was mentioned in online discussions regarding Arbitrade. Mr Ronk is chief analytics officer at Wallstreet Online Protection Research, a distributed computing system.

• Has Arbitrade applied for an operating licence in Bermuda?

We asked this to find out how close the company was to being able to proceed with its next phase of development on the island.

We had additional questions that have subsequently become moot.

In communications with Arbitrade during the past three months, The Royal Gazette has been told that its questions are being dealt with, including, on January 10, that “the company will shortly be making a series of press statements touching upon a number of your questions”.

However, Arbitrade has released no press releases since November, except for news about a civil action in a Florida court. Meanwhile, the only signs of life at Victoria Hall are the plants that grow on the outdoor balconies.

Crypto base: Victoria Hall is the global headquarters of Arbitrade, but the building remains in darkness (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
No one there: the unkempt approach area to Victoria Hall, the global headquarters of Arbitrade (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Crypto base: Victoria Hall is the global headquarters of Arbitrade, but the building remains in darkness (Photograph by Akil Simmons)