Tragedy or rug pull? Inside the collapse of a ‘charitable’ NFT project


Launched in November 2021, nonfungible token (NFT) market Orica held itself up as an “ethical platform” benefitting artists, collectors and charities alike. At the time, the group was concerned in distinguished tasks — from building a school in Uganda to aiding victims of human trafficking to helping Ukraine

But lower than two years later, the project’s founders have disappeared, and the market’s consumer interface has gone offline. All that continues to be are the project’s charity efforts, which proved to be real, in tandem with allegations from disgruntled customers that the builders orchestrated a rug pull. In a new revelation, co-founder Danial Zey breaks his yearlong silence, not solely denying all allegations and insisting the project was “hacked” but in addition claiming that the project remains to be ongoing. Cointelegraph investigates. 

An ICO amid the bear market

According to preliminary coin providing (ICO) data web site CryptoTotem, Orica ran a fundraiser from Aug. 14 to Sept. 14, 2021. It aimed to boost $3.1 million from the sale of its Orica (ORI) token. In its ICO, Orica promised to earmark 50% of the complete provide of ORI for “NFT marketplace rewards.” Another 10% was presupposed to be equipped to “advisors and partners,” 15% given to the workforce and 25% offered to traders. At launch, Aug. 21, 2021, the value of ORI rose to a peak of $3.638 per coin, then fell to $0.036 by Oct. 1, 2022, primarily based on information from Live Coin Watch. 

The token not has tangible worth at the time of publication, and its communication channels seem to have gone chilly. A former consumer, who wished to stay nameless, instructed Cointelegraph that the “[NFT] marketplace kind of dried out with not enough people using it and then very quickly everything went kind of offline including their website.”

ORI price chart. Source: Live Coin Watch

The philanthropy that survived 

In late 2021, the firm partnered with Austrian charity project Bbanga to help build a school for children in the Ssese Islands in Uganda. Bbanga commissioned German digital artist Mellowmann to release Uganda-inspired digital art pieces as NFTs, which were then to be sold via Orica’s marketplace. The sale surpassed the $6,500 goal needed to construct the school.

Mellowmann and Bbanga NFT sold at the Orica auction. Source: Orica

A former Orica staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, told Cointelegraph that “the Uganda school received full payment as this was overseen by Sani, Founder of the Bbanga Project, who was working with Orica at the time.” The project released a video this June showcasing that some of the school’s buildings had already been built, including a main hall and library.

The Orica and Bbanga school in Uganda. Source: Bbanga

On Dec. 21, 2021, charity group Hope for the Future also announced that it would be selling NFTs on Orica to fund its efforts. Hope for the Future is another Austrian-based nonprofit that helps victims of human trafficking reintegrate into society after they are rescued from captivity. The charity continues to operate today. Its efforts to help Ukrainian artists also materialized in the REFUGE campaign that ran in March 2022. 

An embroidery NFT “Obra” previously held for sale on Orica. Source: Aline Brant

When prompted on the matter, the former Orica staff member said, “All artists were paid in full.” An amount close to $30,000 was raised in conjunction with Orica’s efforts to help Ukraine and was processed by crypto donations processor The Giving Block. In one of the last statements before going cold, Zey wrote: “We donated 10% of the amount we ever made. Our main product is tech that is built to give to people.”

And the project that didn’t …

Despite official claims as to why the project went down, blockchain data and user complaints suggest irregularities. 

On May 11, 2022, the Polygon version of Orica was deployed as part of its migration from BNB Smart Chain. This version had a total supply of just 84 million tokens, 16 million less than the original Orica token on BNB Chain. The Polygon version of ORI was a “liquidity generator” token with built-in liquidity supplier and swap features. It had the skill to name contracts on the decentralized alternate QuickSwap, which is a fork of Uniswap v2 on Polygon. 

On June 4, 2022, an Orica Discord server admin who goes by the identify “Plem” instructed customers the migration was full. According to Plem, customers had obtained tokens on the new chain equal to the ones they held on the earlier chain.

Orica asserting the Polygon migration. Source: Discord

Some customers complained that that they had not obtained their tokens. In response, the admin instructed them so as to add the new token contract in MetaMask. If they did this and nonetheless didn’t see their tokens, they had been requested to submit a assist ticket. 

But the deployer on Polygon didn’t instantly ship tokens to customers who held ORI on BNB. Instead, it transferred possession to a separate account, which proceeded to promote practically the complete provide of the coin by way of market-making operations. Zey acknowledged that this second account was not operated by him. Instead, he claimed that a “hacker” stole his deployer key and transferred it. The new proprietor proceeded to name varied liquidity supplier and swap features over the subsequent two months on QuickSwap.

Zey didn’t report this assault till Aug. 11, 2022, precisely one month after it had occurred. A member of the workforce had reported 24 days after the “attack” that the migration had been accomplished. The identical day, the new proprietor transferred an unusually great amount of tokens — 23,187,983 — to handle 0x14dd44e1d3f9a173998c53d75622127ce921ccee. After this transaction, the new proprietor continued to put up liquidity supplier transactions for ORI tokens till the new proprietor stopped on Sept. 11, 2022. In a comparable Aug. 11, 2022 Telegram message, Zey claimed that his laptop computer had been hacked and that tokens had been “moved out directly from the deployer.”

On Aug. 12, 2022, Plem introduced that the project can be “closing communications” on account of a “hard situation that involves massive uncontrollable tokens deployment and selling process.”

Orica workers stating that they might stop communications. Source: Discord

In the last message, customers had been instructed to ship direct messages to Zey if that they had questions, referring to the workforce’s blockchain operations lead. Subsequent messages to the group point out that Zey has blocked all messages.

Orica’s final message earlier than going darkish on Discord. Source: Discord
Co-founder Danial Zey’s response to a consumer inquiry earlier than new messages in the channel had been archived. Source: Telegram

Related: Newly discovered Bitcoin wallet loophole let hackers steal $900K — SlowMist

On Sept. 11, 2022, the new proprietor made a last switch of roughly 150 Polygon (MATIC), value $133.10 at the time, to handle 0xfE3fB1d3C9FBF50b6af3A60b5D070dF68D87b99e. This account had beforehand obtained 3,463 MATIC ($3,082 at the time) from the new proprietor. At the time of publication, 9.9 million ORI ($4,341 at at this time’s value) stays in the account that was transferred possession after deployment. 

Co-founder’s new revelations

Speaking to Cointelegraph on Aug. 17, 2023, Zey denied the rug pull allegations, stating: 

“I feel the state of affairs is complicated and it’s not clever to present out information that we would must win some of the funds again. About the half with rug pull. We had a workforce of greater than 15 folks and we paid them till the finish salaries plus we paid for the liquidity , Certik audit and a few components of the improvement.”

“Our tokens had been locked,” mentioned Zey. “On the blockchain it is usually provable that we had a number of extreme assaults on us. We are a charity project however nonetheless bought hacked,” he acknowledged whereas alleging that hacked funds had been laundered by way of cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, making it not possible to hint. “The few remaining people who labored with none wage like myself are nonetheless on this project working patiently behind the scenes however the comeback must be sturdy so we will make up for the state of affairs,” Zey claims. 

Zey didn’t reply to a request for the hash ID of transactions linked to the alleged Orica hack. 

Out of 12 workforce members listed in the project’s ICO, 5 have deleted their LinkedIn profiles — Zey, authorized counsel Ivan, course of supervisor Karim, IT project supervisor Pouriya and enterprise improvement supervisor Rilwan. The others, save for Zey, had been both unreachable or had left Orica by the time of its breakdown. 

The Orica founding workforce grew to become unreachable after final 12 months. Source: CryptoTotem

A combined legacy 

As of at this time, most of what stays of Orica is in the brick and stone of a college in Uganda and the artists it has helped.

But additionally remaining are the tokenholders who by no means obtained a correct rationalization as to why the project has ceased to exist. Despite breaking his silence, Zey by no means addressed the causes for the hiatus, and plenty of questions stay unanswered. 

It’s not unusual to see that traders and co-founders alike construct rapport round a project as buddies and exit as enemies throughout its collapse. But for Orica, there was not less than a transient second by which all the pieces appeared to have labored effectively.

Cointelegraph editor Zhiyuan Sun contributed to this story. 

Related: Crypto developer commits $2M rug pull fraud to fuel gambling addiction