Freeway, a UK-based crypto platform that promised annual returns up to a mind-boggling 43%, halted withdrawals on Sunday, according to a notice published to the company’s website. Freeway’s native cryptocurrency, which goes by the ticker FWT, plummeted 74% following the announcement and, to top it all off, the Freeway website appears to be scrubbing the names and photos of some executives.
Upset users have taken to the community Telegram channel for Freeway, expressing frustration that they can’t access their accounts. People who told friends and family members to invest in the platform seemed the most angry, based on comments viewed by Gizmodo early Monday.
The news, first reported by the crypto-watcher Twitter account FatManTerra, comes in the wake of other high-profile collapses in the crypto space this year, including Celsius, which has filed for bankruptcy. FatManTerra tweeted on Saturday that they believed Freeway was a Ponzi scheme which would likely collapse by this time next year.
Well, apparently we didn’t have to wait a whole year for things to collapse. It seems to have happened in just a day, as Freeway’s website includes a varied assortment of confusing terms to explain that users can no longer access their money. And it sounds a lot like what Celsius said after it announced it was halting withdrawals back in June.
“As all of you will be aware, there has been unprecedented volatility in Foreign Exchange and Cryptocurrency markets in recent times,” the note on Freeway’s website says.
“Freeway has therefore decided to diversify its asset base to manage exposure to future market fluctuations and volatility ensuring the long term sustainability and profitability of the Freeway Ecosystem. This will allow Freeway to maintain the highest level of Supercharger simulation rewards,” the note continues.
What the hell are Supercharger simulation rewards? A YouTube video titled “Freeway Superchargers Explained,” demonstrates how users can earn an incredible rate of return by giving Freeway money—from 10% for buying the native token to as high as 43% in staking returns. But it’s not clear how giving Freeway this currency actually yielded such an incredible profit for users. Oddly enough, users could also “stake” gold, earning a return. It’s also not clear how that was supposed to work.
Freeway has processed roughly $160 million in value, according to its website, though that claim couldn’t be independently verified. There’s nothing on the website that explains how any kind of service was offered by Freeway beyond turning crypto into more crypto. And while it might sound great to just get paid a ton of money for doing nothing, that’s not typically how any real value is created in the world.
“We built it to create benefits and rewards for people and I want to see those people benefit and rewarded for it,” Graham Doggart, one of Freeway’s founders, said in a typical explanation from a video posted to the company’s YouTube channel.
Despite publishing dozens of videos on YouTube, each Freeway explanation seems to speak about the platform as some kind of great money-generating machine without actually explaining the mechanism that allows it to work. And incredibly, it doesn’t seem to matter if the crypto market more broadly is doing well or doing poorly, you’re always going to be making money, according to the promotional videos from Freeway.
“It doesn’t matter if the market’s going up or down, you’re always getting a little bit more of what we already have,” Matt Spangard, CTO of Freeway, said in a video from July 12, 2021.
“The market takes a dip, when it goes back up, you’ve got more than you started, so you’re way better off than if it was in a traditional account somewhere or even offline,” Spangard continued.
The Freeway execs call it “social finance,” which is described in similarly opaque terms.
“Social finance is a concept where money, or finance, is being executed in a way that benefits all the people that are connected to it,” Sadie Hutton, founder and co-CEO, said in a YouTube video without elaborating on what the hell that means.
One of Freeway’s claims to fame was winning an award for “Staking Platform of the Year 2022" at a conference called AIBC Asia in Dubai, where it was up against companies that included Celsius, according to a video published to Vimeo featuring a man named Martyn Richard, dubbed Chief Brand Officer.
The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows that eight people used to be listed on the company’s homepage as of last month. The site lists Sadie Hutton as founder and co-CEO, Graham Doggart as founder and co-CEO, as well as Peter Neilson as founder and Director, along with plenty of others. But the Freeway website currently doesn’t list anyone as being attached to the project.
A YouTube video published in July of 2021 shows plenty of additional faces attached to the project that aren’t included in the round-up of primary executives listed on the website last month.
Hutton, Doggart, and Spangard did not immediately respond to questions emailed early Monday and the announcement on Freeway’s website didn’t clear up any of the confusion. The company is positioning the halt in withdrawals as a temporary thing, promising to update its community later.
While this process is ongoing, Freeway will be allocating capital to its underlying portfolio and this means for a temporary time we will not be buying Supercharger simulations until our new strategies are implemented.
We will notify you when we are ready to recommence partial Supercharger simulation purchases (buy-backs) and then again as we can recommence full Supercharger simulation purchases as well as on platform Freeway Token (FWT) Deposits and Buys.
While we complete this process we cannot comment further beyond this statement.
We look forward to updating you further soon.
The Freeway website explained the company was working on something called the Freeway Spend Account, including a “virtual debit card” in the future.
Judging from the Freeway YouTube channel, it appears the Freeway project actually started as something called AuBit, which posted its first video on October 16, 2020. Sadie Hutton appears in the video talking about “Freeway tokens,” claiming they’d been building their project for three years “in stealth” before announcing it to the world.
“We’ve been doing a private sale of our AuBit One security tokens—that’s not something that’s available for retail, so we don’t promote or publish that—but we have actually been selling... we’ve sold close to two million dollars of AuBit One now,” Hutton claims in the video.
That video has just 223 views on YouTube as of this writing and you can see an evolution over the course of 2021 shifting away from the AuBit brand to more prominently talking about Freeway. The website AuBit.io currently redirects to the Freeway website, though old videos on Vimeo seem to show executives for something called AuBit Prime, including Sotirios Botsios, who’s listed as Director of Technology and Operations, and Sotiris Probonas, listed as the CEO.
“I think the answer to that is obvious,” one user responded.