Investigation launched into NZ crypto firm with missing CEO

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened an investigation into failed New Zealand-based cryptocurrency trading platform Digital Asset Exchange, trading as Dasset.

Dasset was placed into liquidation in August 2023.

The SFO has asked anyone who has information that may be relevant to this investigation, or who was a customer of Dasset, to contact it at

In their first report on Dasset, released on August 21, liquidators David Ruscoe and Russell Moore (both of Grant Thornton) said at least $6.3 million in cryptocurrency was unaccounted for - the difference between what Dasset customers thought they had in their digital wallets and the digital assets actually on hand, around $600,000 worth of cryptocurrency.

Staff were owed $16,700 in unpaid wages, the IRD $203,700 and various unsecured creditors $53,700.

In an interim report issued on December 21, the liquidators said they had secured most of the $600,000 worth of digital currency, but efforts to learn more about the missing $6.3m had been hampered by the fact that chief executive Stephen Macaskill had disappeared off the radar.

"Overall progress has been hindered by the fact that we have had no contact with the CEO since the third day of the liquidation, despite our numerous attempts to contact him. While the third-party offshore exchange has been forthcoming with information, the CEO is understood to retain the key knowledge of how the overall exchange worked and also how/if customer records are stored," Ruscoe and Moore said.

The liquidators were still in the process of trying to verify around 5000 customers’ balances.

Efforts had been undermined as Macaskill appeared to be the only person with detailed knowledge of key Dasset systems.

Dasset ran into turbulence after it lost its banking services provider, who was not replaced, in January 2023.

Over the next few months, a number of customers complained to regulators that they could not access funds, transfer funds to another exchange or reach anyone at Dasset.

Although Dasset promoted that it was on the Financial Service Providers Register and subject to the register’s disputes provider, the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme (Ifso), the scheme did not have the teeth to pursue customers’ complaints, from May onwards, about being unable to access accounts or reach Dasset staff. Cryptocurrency is an unregulated financial product in New Zealand.

Dasset was dropped from Ifso in July 2023 for failing to respond to customer complaints.

After their initial assessment, the liquidators referred Dasset to the SFO. The Financial Markets Authority has also been investigating Dasset. The watchdog has sent questionnaires to Dasset customers - who ranged from an Auckland mother of two who lost access to her life-savings of $40,000 to an investment banking veteran who lost millions.

Ruscoe updated this afternoon that the liquidators have still not been able to contact Macaskill.

He could not comment on the SFO investigation.

The FMA also declined comment.