In a significant development in the cryptocurrency world, a United States Federal court has granted its approval for a class-action lawsuit against the individuals behind the creation of HelbizCoin. This milestone decision comes after nearly three years of legal proceedings and allegations of fraudulent activities and securities violations involving the Italian electric scooter-sharing company HelBiz. This article delves into the recent court ruling, the case’s history, and the potential impact of this verdict on the cryptocurrency industry.

U.S. Federal Judge Approves Class-Action Lawsuit Against HelbizCoin Creators(
U.S. Federal Judge Approves Class-Action Lawsuit Against HelbizCoin Creators(

The Lengthy Legal Battle

The roots of this legal battle trace back to 2020 when a class-action lawsuit was initially filed against Helbiz, its CEO Salvatore Palella, and associated partners. Investors, numbering as high as 20,000, allege that Helbiz engaged in deceptive practices to persuade individuals to invest in HelbizCoin during its 2018 Initial Coin Offering (ICO), which raised a substantial $38.6 million and issued an ERC-20 token. At the heart of the matter is the accusation that HelbizCoin was a “rug pull” and a “pump-and-dump” scheme.

The complaint goes further, asserting that the majority of the funds raised during the ICO were not used for the intended purpose but were retained by the company. In a significant twist, the lawsuit claims that HelbizCoin should be considered a security under federal law. This contentious argument has far-reaching implications for the broader cryptocurrency sector.

Legal Hurdles and Reversals

The legal journey was far from straightforward, as it initially faced a setback when a lower court judge dismissed the case in January 2021. This dismissal was based on a 2010 Supreme Court decision that limited the applicability of federal securities laws beyond U.S. borders. However, in a turn of events, the case was reopened in October 2021 by the 2nd United States Circuit Court of Appeals, which deemed the lower court’s ruling incorrect.

The Recent Court Decision

Fast forward to September 1, 2023, when the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York handed down its decision. The court ruled partially in favor of the investors, granting some of their requests while rejecting others. Importantly, claims against specific defendants such as Paysafe, Skrill, Decentral, and Alphabit were dismissed because the court lacked personal jurisdiction over these entities. Additionally, certain claims against the remaining defendants, including breach of contract and tortious interference, were also rejected.

However, Judge Louis Stanton’s decision did uphold several allegations made by the investors. The court acknowledged that the plaintiffs had effectively articulated their claims against individual defendants for fraud, price manipulation, violations of securities laws and commodities laws, violations of the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, and unjust enrichment.

Cryptocurrency Classification and Precedent

One of the most significant aspects of the court’s ruling was its determination that the ERC-20 token issued by Helbiz during the ICO qualified as a security under federal law. This finding carries substantial implications for the classification of cryptocurrencies and tokens, potentially setting a precedent for future cases dealing with similar issues.

Details In Short

  1. Location: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  2. Case Type: Class-action lawsuit
  3. Parties Involved:
  • Plaintiffs: Investors (approximately 20,000)
  • Defendants: Helbiz, CEO Salvatore Palella, and affiliated partners
  1. Accusations:
  • Fraudulent practices
  • Violations of securities laws
  • Price manipulation
  • RICO Act violations
  • Unjust enrichment
  1. HelbizCoin ICO: Conducted in 2018, raising $38.6 million and issuing an ERC-20 token
  2. Notable Defendant: Anthony Di Iorio, co-creator of Ethereum, associated with HelbizCoin ICO
  3. Initial Dismissal: Lower court judge dismissed the case in January 2021, citing a 2010 Supreme Court decision.
  4. Reopening: Case reinstated in October 2021 by the 2nd United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
  5. Judge’s Decision:
    • Partially in favor of investors
    • Claims against specific defendants without jurisdiction dismissed.
    • Upheld claims related to fraud, securities violations, price manipulation, RICO Act violations, and unjust enrichment.
    • Determined HelbizCoin as a security under federal law.
  6. Use of Blockchain Evidence: Lawsuit relied on the Ethereum ledger to substantiate claims, highlighting blockchain’s role in uncovering fraudulent activities.

Blockchain Transparency and Evidence

The HelbizCoin lawsuit made extensive use of blockchain technology, relying on the Ethereum ledger to substantiate the investors’ claims. The complaint included charts illustrating what the investors referred to as “spoof trading” during the ICO. Furthermore, evidence of additional “Genesis wallets” was presented, allegedly involved in similar activities during initial coin offerings (ICOs), including those sponsored by Anthony Di Iorio, one of the creators of Ethereum.

Michael Kanovitz, the attorney representing the investors, emphasized the importance of blockchain transparency in uncovering fraudulent activities. He likened the discovery of multiple genesis wallets to finding a fingerprint that leads to a limited number of individuals globally. Additionally, he pointed out that these genesis wallets were linked to ICOs endorsed by Di Iorio, raising suspicions of coordinated actions. However, it’s crucial to note that while the lawsuit claimed that Di Iorio had made false and misleading statements about the HelbizCoin ICO in Bitcoin Magazine, it did not present concrete evidence of his involvement in spreading false information. The court deemed this assertion as hypothetical and insufficient to prove that Di Iorio had disseminated incorrect details.

The approval of this class-action lawsuit signifies a significant moment in the cryptocurrency sector, shedding light on the legal boundaries and regulatory considerations in this evolving landscape. As the case continues to unfold, it will be closely watched for its potential to shape the future of cryptocurrency regulations and investor protections.

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