Cristiano Ronaldo has been hit with a $1bn (£791m) class action lawsuit for his involvement in promoting non-fungible tokens.
The Portuguese footballing legend had launched his own collection of NFTs through Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, in the run-up to last year’s World Cup.
NFTs are a form of digital art with varying levels of uniqueness, and Ronaldo’s range featured animated statues depicting iconic moments in his life.
Some of the rarest collectibles had sold for up to $10,000 (£7,900), but aggrieved customers claim his endorsement led them to make costly and unsafe investments.
This lawsuit comes a week after Binance reached a $4bn (£3.2bn) settlement with US regulators – sparking the shock resignation of Changpeng Zhao as CEO.
The billionaire, known as “CZ”, has pleaded guilty to breaking anti-money laundering laws and could face prison time when he is sentenced next year.
According to the lawsuit, Binance’s NFT sales were driven “with the willing help and assistance of some of the wealthiest, powerful and recognised organisations and celebrities across the globe” – including Ronaldo.
It is alleged that online searches for Binance surged by 500% after the footballer’s collection was announced, and his premium non-fungible tokens sold out in a week.
Court filings also claim Ronaldo should have disclosed how much he was paid for the high-profile partnership.
Ronaldo and Binance are yet to publicly comment on the lawsuit – and just two days ago, the former Manchester United player said he was “cooking something up” with the embattled trading platform.
Demand for NFTs has plunged in recent months following a dizzying bubble that saw images of cartoon rocks sell for millions of dollars – with everyone from Donald Trump to Snoop Dogg launching their own collections.
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This is not the first time that celebrities have faced legal action over their ties to crypto firms, with the industry rocked by a slew of bankruptcies and scandals.
A-listers including the comedian Larry David, tennis star Naomi Osaka and NFL player Tom Brady are being sued for their role in promoting the doomed crypto exchange FTX, which went bust in November 2022.
Millions of people remain locked out of their savings, with a court convicting FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried of using customer deposits to make risky bets without their knowledge last month.
The one-time billionaire faces up to 110 years behind bars when he is sentenced next March.