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Investigative journalist sheds light on scam which ensnared Malkin, discusses US citizenship scandal

5 novembre 2019
On Sunday, Sport Express' top hockey reporters Igor Eronko and Mikhail Zislis spoke to Alexey Gryatskikh, a leading expert on cryptocurrency and one of the authors and researchers of the original story about Evgeni Malkin's involvement in the unfolding saga of his $4 million investment in a scam project called Mark.space, which used his name to launch an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and raised millions in funds which have now disappeared.

Gryatskikh clarified certain points of the original story, explaining how professional athletes fall for these schemes and the possible consequences to follow.

His main point was focused on the fact that while the average Russian citizen has a very low level of understanding of high-level finances ("sixth-grade level"), for athletes, that level is even lower. This is not a matter of intelligence, but rather the fact of athletes honing their skills in a very narrow and specific field, which precludes them from fully understanding the investments they make. The athletes, according to Gryatskikh, look to turn their money into status. While the safest options available are jobs in coaching or management positions in the top tiers of Russian hockey, as well as the possibility of involvement in politics (Slava Fetisov is now a member of Russian parliament, the Duma), there are those looking to raise their profile through business investments. In this, they are often at the mercy of unscrupulous friends (such as Malkin's pal Alexander Strokatov), who was among a group that sold Malkin on some of his "projects."

As a result, Malkin's name is on official documents, listing him as a partner in some of the corporations formed as part of the Mark.space venture, thus exposing him to potential legal liabilities. Unlike his companions, Malkin is not likely to skip town and settle down in a third world country. His legal problems will depend on the jurisdictions where the corporations were formed, the laws that those countries have regarding cryptocurrency, and the jurisdictions of the victims that choose to come forward. In this, Gryatskikh stated, victims choose to not come forward quite often in these types of scams, as they do not want to be seen as patsies and fools.

As a result of Malkin being an American citizen, it remains to be seen whether he broke any laws in the United States by possibly failing to declare his investment, as well as the money raised by the ICO, which of course has disappeared. Despite the fact that people have been bilked out of millions of dollars, the bigger story in the Russian media has been the revelation that Malkin, an early member of Putin Team, a "patriotic organization" founded by Alexander Ovechkin and joined by many celebrities who support Russian president Vladimir Putin, is a holder of American citizenship. Technically, nothing is illegal about his actions, as Russia allows people who are not elected officials or judges to hold a "second citizenship" in another country.

While many politicians and pundits have declared that Malkin did nothing wrong, others have been less forgiving. Sports journalist Daria Tuboltseva of Sport24.ru opined that Malkin is a hypocrite. In a previous interview he stated: ""I never liked when people said that 'we need to be friends with the West, with America, with everyone.' There are no friends. Only we [Russians] are friends to each other. The rest is just political relationships. Today you are friendly, tomorrow you go to war. We've done that [in our history]." To follow that up with an admission of US citizenship and the declaration that "America is my second home" seems rather weak. Slava Fetisov, mentioned earlier, said that this is not something he would have done, nor is it necessary for his career. Former NHLer Andrei Nazarov was quoted as saying: "I would not trade the Patriarch's Ponds of Moscow or my home in Chelyabinsk for a ranch in America!"

To this end, Gryatskikh declared something rather interesting. He suggested that people should look into the status of Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, since he believes there is "circumstantial evidence" that they also hold US citizenship. In Ovechkin's case, that could seriously tarnish his reputation as a loyal Putin supporter in Russia.

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