Words Can Hurt

When Fiction Bites Reality

“This is a true story but I can’t believe it’s really happening,” the British novelist Martin Amis writes at the opening to his famous second book of the London Trilogy, titled London Fields.

When you are the subject of a criminal investigation, it’s hard exactly to pinpoint it, but you know you are. You know for a certain fact that you are being targeted for something by someone.

That’s the feeling I got sometime during 2017, when the Monkey Capital crypto project I founded fell to pieces. Something wasn’t right. Maybe it was the relentlessness of the thugs who smashed our non-ICO market. Maybe it was the adoration from the crowd beforehand, which was beyond eulogising. Maybe it was the contrast of those, or the strange people who I kept bumping into, always ready to lend a helping hard and then slap me round the face.

What I did not realise is that I was the target of a government probe. There was no reason especially why I should feel that way. I had never done anything to disrupt the status quo on a mega-scale. But there were things I had written that had set me up as the perfect picture frame.

The Millennial Reincarnations is an explicit, graphic and highly controversial novel. It was written over a 15 year period, so some of the incidents in it relate more to a teenage or post-teen generation world rather than that of an adult one. It deals with the issues of underage sex, heavy drug abuse, fraud, cryptocurrencies and spiritual reincarnation. It’s a response to a world which is substantially diluted with mediocre themes of political correctness outwardly, and which inwardly binges on young child models. Anyone can see this is the case — simply do a Google search and count the eyeballs a page gets. This is a world mired in hypocrisy and The Millennial Reincarnations ignores all that, pretending that there is no such thing as hypocrisy, just the bare-boned flesh of the soul.

The Millennial Reincarnations also contains a dialogue between a mother and daughter; to be precise, the richest woman in China, soon to be the Mainland’s first ever woman President, and her Eurasian only child. In the scene the mother describes with perfect precision how to commit the most ridiculous of bank frauds, lending a customer money in one country and then writing off the loan in another.

The contents of the book, naturally, is purely fictional. That is why it is a novel. It’s from the imagination. That the contents may be from the darker side of the moon as opposed to the one we show the rest of the world is what I felt validated the controversy of the content in a way. It shows us up as a society, reveals our inner perversions and self-abuses on a grand scale.

Then there is the article I wrote in Coindesk around the same time I was putting the final pages of TMR in place. That’s not fiction, of course, but it doesn’t add much of a twist to this sorry tale, since the protagonist is none other than a fraudster who is trading Bitcoin. One night, Daniel Mercede, a somewhat druggy, but ferociously smart, young entrepreneur got e-mailing me in a hasty back-and-forth. He began talking openly and carefree about his trading prowess on BTC Lake exchange, a massive Chinese crypto exchange at the time, and how he was able to seduce American retail investors, full of FOMO and short on trust for the international system upon which Bitcoin’s Blockchain thrives, into prices as high as a fifth over what he’d paid for the digital currency just seconds beforehand. I printed it all.

Mercede ended up being caught by the FBI after that article. I still don’t know how I feel about that. I am regretful in a way, since while I could tell he sounded like a hot money player, there was no direct intention to bring him into harm’s way. In all honesty, I’d have left him out the story if I had known it would cost him what it did, which is 6 years in a Federal prison for credit card theft and money laundering. Then again, maybe reality would have caught up to him in the end anyway. I don’t know. Either way, it did me no favours at all in the eyes of the police, no doubt.

The most damaging things I wrote however were in press releases. They weren’t fiction, and they weren’t exactly fact, either. They were that most dangerous of lines that crosses over both without ever being either. When I announced that I was buying Absolute Living Developments for $150 million, I was hoping to be able to incentivise the then-owner, George Leong, into selling to me for a song and wiping the liabilities clean off the balance sheet when I did.

It was a naïve idea, and in the end it cost me a whole cryptocurrency market, it nearly cost me my company, and it cost an agonising year of not knowing who was out to trash me. In January 2018, I was arrested before boarding a Club Class Virgin Atlantic flight. No doubt the police figured I was absconding to shift a large sum of money around somewhere (although new York would probably be your worst possible location to do that sort of thing). The truth was rather more boring. After being trashed on the internet for a good 2 years, after having my reputation selectively targeted and torn, piece by piece, to bits, by random attackers, who just would never go away, I had very little left. And I was being sued in a bogus lawsuit in Florida, to top it all off.

Someone in government had flicked through The Millennial Reincarnations, skim-read the Coindesk piece, looked at my intended $150 million purchase of what was to quickly become a bankrupt property development firm with thousands of out of pocket investors — none of whose money I ever saw or touched — and a hugely successful ICO marketing campaign and thought, this is our guy. This is the narcissist who stole everyone’s money. Let’s catch him however we can.

This much is revealed by looking at a timeline I drew up. The timeline shows how a journalist by the name of Adam Luck and the events that transpired around me eerily coincide and cluster within the same date range. Adam Luck, who wrote a hit piece in The Times about me — is no journalist — he is a detective. (Most recently, he wrote me a list of questions for a follow-up story which are answered in full here.)

If all this sounds somewhat far fetched, then consider that life is either only ever a lot more dull and less vivid than that which comes from the one in our imagination, or it is a lot more dramatic and exaggerated and implausible than we could ever hope to recreate in fictional terms with any degree of competence. In my case, I wrote the nightmare that came back in real-time to haunt me.

Perhaps one day it will give me the one thing I used to long for when I was at boarding school agonising over the prose of Martin Amis and James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov: a whole world of readers.

As it happens around 1997 I was at a dinner which Amis was also attending. As I got up to go to the lavatory, I stopped when I saw this rather short figure standing at the urinal. This is the one who composed all those beautiful passages, I thought at the time, speechless. Somewhere in between, I ran out to buy a book of his, brought it up to his table and asked him to sign it. “Oh,” he said smiling. “It’s you again.” He had remembered me from the lavatory! I asked if he could reference that event somehow. What he wrote above where he signed his name is sort of how I feel about Adam Luck and his merry team of men from HMRC.

“We can’t go on meeting like this.”