If her social media posts were any indication, Paris Hilton was busy attending the Burning Man festival this weekend. But between tweets from the festival grounds, the heiress found time to hype a new investment.
“Looking forward to participating in the new @LydianCoinLtd Token!” Hilton (or a social media manager) tweeted Sunday, above a glamour shot of her wearing a golf ball-sized cocktail ring. “#ThisIsNotAnAd #CryptoCurrency #BitCoin #ETH #BlockChain”
The shiny cocktail ring hid an ugly fact: LydianCoin, the new cryptocurrency Hilton is boosting, is a product of Silicon Valley CEO and admitted domestic abuser Gurbaksh Chahal. Chahal is running the company on borrowed time before an appeal in his second domestic assault case.
In 2013, Chahal pleaded guilty to assault, after a video showed the Silicon Valley exec beating his girlfriend 117 times in 30 minutes and smothering her with a pillow. When the video was disqualified as evidence, Chahal got his 47 felony charges reduced to two misdemeanors, for which he would pay a $500 fine and serve probation. Chahal violated his probation less than a year in, when a different girlfriend called 911 to report Chahal assaulting her. A San Francisco judge sentenced Chahal to one year in prison for the probation violation.
But Chahal has avoided serving time for over a year, pending an appeal in the case. In the meantime, he’s serving as CEO of advertising firm Gravity4, making bank with Hilton’s help and a plan to rake in $100 million on his new cryptocurrency.
Domestic violence experts said Chahal’s light treatment in the legal system has enabled him to continue working in the Valley.
“We think it’s pretty much because he’s a powerful person who is somebody who can still command attention,” Jacquie Marroquin, director of programs at California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “He hasn’t been held accountable in the criminal legal system. Often people will hold that as the bar on whether or not to continue working with someone who commits harm.”
Investors wouldn’t guess Chahal’s dark history from LydianCoin’s promotional materials, which have featured Hilton. On September 1, Chahal uploaded a YouTube video titled “LydianCoin Launch,” which features clips from his life as a rising star in Silicon Valley, before his domestic abuse cases caught up with him. In one picture, he poses with President Barack Obama. In another, he laughs with Oprah Winfrey, while golden numbers flash across the bottom of the screen, charting his net worth as it soared into the hundreds of millions.
The video—three minutes of a male narrator whisper-speaking generic motivational phrases over pictures of Chahal and stock footage of jetpackers flying above the United Arab Emirates—is equally evasive about what LydianCoin actually is. (Voiceover phrases like “live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it” might apply to Chahal, who reportedly paid off a former San Francisco mayor to make his domestic assault case “go away,” but their relevance to LydianCoin is unclear.)
The launch video’s only description of the product comes in its caption: “The First A.I. Big Data Marketing Cloud for BlockChain powered by Gravity4.”
If that tagline reads like something out of a Silicon Valley slogan randomizer, LydianCoin has released a 49-page whitepaper with more—if not particularly compelling—details.
“Gravity4, Inc., an established innovator in the digital marketing industry, will issue the Lydian token (LDN), a utility-token that allows cryptocurrency-enabled purchasing of targeted, A.I.-driven digital marketing and advertising services already offered by the Gravity4 Corporate Family.”
In human-speak, that means LydianCoin is a cryptocurrency for buying advertising programs from Gravity4, the ad-tech company where Chahal is CEO. It’s the stupidest cash-in on minor fame since Hilton trademarked the phrase “That’s Hot,” sued a greeting card company that used the phrase, and walked away with a settlement deal.
But that hasn’t kept Hilton away from the product. Since her first tweet about LydianCoin on September 3, Hilton has hyped the cryptocurrency relentlessly on Twitter. “Super excited for my team @LydianCoinLtd after their event in NYC,” she tweeted Tuesday, above a link to the whitepaper. “Rock it in Singapore & London! #Bitcoin #ETH”
A wave of uncritical LydianCoin press coverage that focused on Hilton might have a negative effect on domestic violence survivors, Marroquin said.
“The dangerous part here is when survivors are seeing this occur,” Marroquin said. “It really forces somebody to think twice or three times before they seek help, because the response might not look like what they want.”
LydianCoin isn’t Hilton’s first cryptocurrency investment—she was an early investor in the currency ethereum—and Chahal isn’t the first man she’s supported despite assault allegations.
In November, Hilton announced that she voted for President Donald Trump, a man who had previously made lewd comments about her, and admitted to having watched her sex tape.
“I've known Paris Hilton from the time she's 12,” Trump said in a 2003 interview with Howard Stern. “Her parents are friends of mine, and the first time I saw her, she walked into a room and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’”When Stern asked if Trump wanted to “bang” the pre-teen Hilton, he replied. “She's a very … Well, at 12, I wasn't interested. I've never been into that. They've sort of always stuck around that 25 category.”
Shortly after Trump’s election, Hilton also defended Trump against the numerous women who accused him of sexual assault.
“I think that they are just trying to get attention and get fame,” Hilton told a Marie Claire reporter of Trump’s accusers. “They want to get money or to get paid to not say anything or get a settlement when nothing really happened. So I don’t believe any of that. And I’m sure that they were trying to be with him, too.”
In August, Hilton apologized for the comments, and said that she didn’t vote at all in the 2016 election.
But as of Tuesday, she was still tweeting in support of Chahal’s company. “#ThisIsNotAnAd,” she noted in her first tweet on LydianCoin. It was an endorsement, in more ways than she knew.