Here’s a tip if you’ve ever been accused of taking part in a Ponzi scheme: Don’t invite Edward Snowden to speak at your investor conference.
Snowden — who famously leaked data in 2013 on the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of US citizens in 2013 — called out the host of an “elite real estate investment club” over the weekend for allegedly bilking investors out millions of dollars.
The former CIA contractor, who has been living in exile in Moscow since then to avoid being tried in the US on espionage charges, did a live video interview on Saturday for the conference, which was hosted by a self-proclaimed investing guru named Sunil Tulsiani.
Tulsiani, who is banned from trading securities for life by the Ontario Securities Commission for his part in a $4.5 million Ponzi scheme, told attendees that Snowden’s history of whistleblowing should inspire the members of his investment club to “kill the virus” of “I can’t afford it.”
Tulsiani opened the talk with a softball question to Snowden about how accurate Oliver Stone’s portrayal of him in his 2016 movie, “Snowden.” But after speaking for nearly 6 minutes about whistleblowing and ethics, Snowden called out Tulsiani over his regulatory run-ins.
“Just before I connected, I had a friend reach out to me and tell me they heard things on this conference, like someone saying that they couldn’t afford this [and] the host saying ‘Find a way to afford it,’” Snowden said.
He then changed his screen to show the image of a 2017 CBC article which included a photo of Tulsiani and detailed his involvement in a Ponzi scheme. “As a whistleblower, it is my obligation, both personally and professionally, to ask: Is this you?” Snowden asked.
Tulsiani twice confirmed that he was indeed the subject of the story, at which point Snowden said he needed to bow out.
“The things that I’ve heard tonight make me very uncomfortable with this event … But my advice to everyone on this call tonight — everyone looking at this — is look up what you’re getting involved in … think hard about if you want to continue with this. Because, for me, ladies and gentlemen, for tonight, I don’t. Thank you so much and good night.”
After Snowden abruptly logged off, Tulsiani scrambled to address the awkward silence, saying it was “totally unexpected and I’m so sorry this has happened.” He asked to take a five-minute break before returning and, according to Vice News, a hot mic caught somebody lamenting a “waste of a f-ing day.”
When Tulsiani returned, he blamed Sowden’s exit on a “clickbait article” that did not properly clarify that he and his Private Investment Club (PIC) simply played a role in — as opposed to being convicted in — the scheme, according to Vice.
“I want you to know that I’m pretty smart, and if I wanted to disappear I would have,” Tulsiani said. “If I stole millions of dollars, I would not be here … I was never charged criminally.”