Evolved Ape NFT creator disappears with $4 million of investors' cash

The NFT market is worth around $5 billion per month, but it's fraught with danger.
The NFT market is worth around $5 billion per month, but it's fraught with danger. Photo credit: Supplied

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have exploded in popularity and value in 2021, with the market worth a staggering NZ$15.4 billion in the third quarter of the year.

However a lack of regulations, massive swings in cryptocurrency prices and the ability to use them for money-laundering purposes means there is considered more risk associated with buying NFTs over fungible goods.

Insider trading, pump and dump schemes and rugpulls - where the owners of a cryptocurrency project abandon it after stealing investors' money - have also occurred recently.

The latest example of the latter appears to be the Evolved Apes collection, 10,000 unique NFTs "trapped inside a lawless land. Fighting for survival, only the strongest ape will prevail".

Evolved Apes was intended to be a fighting game, with owners able to earn ethereum cryptocurrency in online battles.

But the anonymous developer, known as Evil Ape, has suddenly disappeared and the project's official Twitter account and website have been deactivated.

The blockchain record also shows around 800 ether, worth just over $4 million were transferred out of the project's wallet by the developer prior to the deactivation.

Vice's Motherboard said Mike_Cryptobull, one of the Evolved Apes investors, wrote a document for other owners explaining what happened.

"Evil Ape has washed his hands of the project taking away the wallet with all the ethereum from minting that was to be used for everything, from paying the artist, paying out cash giveaways, paying for marketing, paying for rarity tools, developing the game and everything else in between," he wrote.

Last week Evolved Apes were selling for thousands of dollars, with EvolvedApe #7212 the most expensive at $20,600.

It's now listed on sale on NFT marketplace OpenSea with a highest bid of just $284.

Sales are still happening, though, with Kotaku reporting more than $70,000 worth have been traded since the rugpull became public.

Each trade nets Evil Ape a four percent commission, which is why owners are vowing to fight on and make a new NFT project where the royalties go back to the community, Motherboard reported.

But Mike_Cryptobull also had some wise words for those looking to get involved: "Don't invest anything more than you can afford to lose."