Twitter Spaces host Mario Nawfal’s dubious crypto dealings

Mario Nawfal’s Roundtable is an incredibly popular Twitter Space that features celebrities and Fortune 500 executives and attracts thousands of US listeners. 

Nawfal also recently launched a second Twitter Space called Crypto Town Hall that offers sponsorships and interviews — often for hire — and focuses on breaking news topics with broad appeal.

However, Nawfal’s success may not be what it seems. An uncanny number of dubious international Twitter users join his Spaces punctually — and, curiously, he averages a similar number of listeners daily. As a result, there are many allegations that Nawfal pays for fake Twitter engagement.

Indeed, online sleuth Upper Echelon claims to have uncovered a number of shady business dealings involving the 29-year-old. These include a public company that has lost four-fifths of its value and a loan scheme that once refused to return lenders’ principal despite Nawfal’s signed guarantee to pay. Upper Echelon also accused Nawfal of reneging on a guarantee to his lenders.

Nawfal’s entire Twitter Spaces operation seems purpose-built for crypto promotions. He once claimed to charge over $20,000 per crypto sponsorship on his Roundtable or Crypto Town Hall shows.

Allegations of unconscionable pricing markups

Nawfal repeatedly uses his Twitter Spaces to call on startups to join his incubator. International Blockchain Consulting (IBC) group is one of his supposed startup incubators. Disturbingly, Upper Echelon found evidence that Nawfal’s supposed incubator, rather than investing in companies as a typical startup incubator, charged many of them for services like marketing or social media management.

IBC often claimed to sell these services to incubated companies at cost, with no markup. However, IBC actually marked up the services it resold quite dramatically. Nawfal admitted on video to collecting $2 million from a crypto client called Faith Tribe despite only paying $8,000 and a few weeks of work to assist it as a client.

According to Upper Echelon, IBC often sourced promotional services like bot engagement, fake followers, SMM panels, forum spamming, and repetitive Twitter comments.

Nawfal’s IBC was also invoicing Nawfal’s public company, NFT Tech, for generously-priced services. During his investigation, Upper Echelon could not confirm that a number of the services invoiced for were rendered and noted that some NFT Tech employees pushed back against paying certain, questionable invoices. One line item displayed “Promoting the Roundtable” — the name of Nawfal’s Twitter Space — as a service.

Sometime between June 1, 2022 (the date on the last viewable IBC invoice) and June 7, 2022, when Nawfal’s NFT Tech announced the appointment of a new CEO, investors pushed Nawfal out of his position as CEO. They also forced him to forfeit ownership of 666,667 restricted share units.

Nawfal often threatens to sue when confronted with evidence about his shady business dealings. Upper Echelon clapped back, threatening to countersue and filing an ethics complaint with the California bar against Nawfal’s attorney. Nawfal reluctantly relented.

Mario Nawfal’s long history of failed businesses

Nawfal describes himself as a ‘serial entrepreneur.’ He co-founded NFT Tech, which went public on the NEO (Cboe Canada) exchange. On May 30, 2022, when Nawfal was still running the company, shares were trading at CAD$0.70 (around $0.50). Today, they are worth 85% less.

Before his involvement with NFT Tech and IBC, Nawfal had a significant presence on a social media platform called BitClout (CLOUT). BitClout misrepresented the likeness of celebrities as though they were BitClout users without their consent. Its founder, Nader Al-Naji, issued CLOUT on a bonding curve to guarantee insider enrichment. Even after a name change due to BitClout becoming such a despised brand, CLOUT (now DESO) is trading 95% below its all-time high.

Read more: A critic’s guide to BitClout, this cycle’s most hated Bitcoin project

BitClout is now called Decentralized Social. Nawfal’s promotion of his BitClout/DeSo tokens earned him significant holdings within BitClout, which he parlayed into an initial dex offering (IDO) called the DESO IDO fund.

Nawfal’s disastrous IDO fund

A document obtained by Upper Echelon indicates the IDO was probably a loan agreement with IBC through which IBC would pay out just 20% of its crypto profits. It would keep the remaining 80%. The loan agreement stipulated that IBC would pay no interest for the first three months after an investor sent funds. IBC would also pay no interest after the termination of the agreement.

Nawfal and a partner called Terek created a ‘Family and Friends’ investment pool. This pool leveraged the loan agreement to buy tokens in IDOs.

According to Upper Echelon, investors — or, more accurately, ‘lenders’ — sent approximately $750,000 in funds, which IBC used for its Family and Friends pool. However, many of the tokens that the Family and Friends pool invested in significantly declined in value. For instance, the fund bought $30,000 in DeliqFinance tokens which returned just $8,000. The rare tokens on which Family and Friends made a profit didn’t earn enough money to rescue the fund. In fact, it ended up losing $150,000. These losses would have made it difficult to pay back all investors.

Another ‘public-facing’ portion of the IDO fund allowed smaller investors to invest as little as $1,000. A related Telegram group had 57 members who likely invested in the fund. Only a few investors ever got their money back. Most of them ended up writing it off as a rug pull. Nawfal and Terek stopped participating in the Telegram group for long periods of time.

Upper Echelon’s investigation ended five months ago. Protos has not been able to verify the current state of the above-mentioned funds, including whether or not Nawfal subsequently repaid or provided satisfactory relief to participants.

Threatens critics with lawsuits

Mario Nawfal has a dubious business history that’s unknown to the vast majority of his Twitter Spaces listeners. Like many crypto influencers, he’s promoted shady investment schemes like BitClout and IDOs and even helped list a penny stock that, predictably, lost almost all of its value.

Upper Echelon has covered Nawfal’s possibly-shady business decisions. Nawfal tried to defend those decisions in a video and then had his attorney send a cease-and-desist letter. That letter threatened to pursue a DMCA request to YouTube to remove Upper Echelon’s videos criticizing Nawfal or IBC. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows copyright holders to request the removal of online content that violates copyright laws. However, critics say that bad actors have abused the DMCA to have YouTube channels’ free speech silenced.

Upper Echelon filed a complaint against Nawfal’s attorney for unethical conduct. Nawfal subsequently sent proof that he had fired his lawyer and was trying to get a refund.

As one might predict, Nawfal tried to downplay the whole thing in another Twitter Spaces event, claiming, “I’ve got no skeletons I’m worried about.”

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