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Alligator Blood: a poor man's Scarface

By Tim Napper - posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Alligator Blood, the true story of Australian entrepreneur, Daniel Tzvetkoff, should have been a compelling read. It has all the ingredients: greed, hubris, extravagant wealth, a dizzying rise followed by a precipitous fall; the noir underbelly of the online porn and gambling worlds and a cast of colourful characters. It should have been a page turner.

It isn't.

Rather, the author, James Leighton, manages to wring the life out of the liveliest of incidents, driving the reader into a turgid miasma of strangled sentences. And not only are the essential questions of morality, character and greed are not answered: they are never even asked. It's the sort of book that ought to make any self-respecting editor at the publisher, Simon and Schuster, give themselves an uppercut and question how it all came to this.


But first, the story: Daniel Tzvetkoff made a lot of money helping businesses with dubious sources of revenue – pornography, gambling, and short-term high-interest loans – process credit card transactions.

While there are serious questions over how profitable his business actually was, he spent like it was making hundreds of millions. He splashed out on Ferraris, on some of the most expensive properties in Australia, a Super-8 racing team, yachts, corporate boxes and sponsorships, private jets, and anything else that took his fancy. His sudden wealth propelled him onto the front pages of newspapers and onto the list of Australia's richest.

And then it all fell apart. His activities were illegal under US law. He was arrested during a visit to Vegas and threatened with 75 years in jail. He turned snitch in the blink of an eye, and in so doing, brought down the multi-billion dollar online poker industry in the United States.

This is the broad-brush story. The book promises to delve deeper, uncovering the extent of Daniel's guilt and casting doubt on the claim he was responsible for the shutdown of online poker.

It doesn't.

There's no 'depth' to this telling of the story. It's like that old Keating description of Peter Costello: all tip and no iceberg.


The book has two major problems: the author, whose wide-eyed enthusiasm for Vegas and the crooks of the payment processing industry verges adoration; and the subject of the book, Daniel Tzvetkoff, who comes across as greedy and vacuous, with little business sense.

Tzvetkoff is described throughout as a 'whiz-kid.' The book provides little or no evidence for the claim, and indeed produces ample evidence to the contrary. He's a mediocre student at school, has no discernable people skills, and has the vocabulary of a ball of navel lint.

According to Alligator Blood, Daniel's idols are not Gates, or Jobs, but online pornographers. He drives a Ferrari with the numberplate 'BALLR'. He names his payday loan company (which charges 700 per cent interest on short-term loans to the desperate) 'Hugo,' apparently after his first-born son.

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About the Author

Tim Napper is a freelance writer and stay-at-home father. He lives in Vietnam after working for a decade as an aid worker in South East Asia. He has had numerous articles published at The Guardian, Australian Broadcasting Corporation's The Drum, New Matilda, and others. He also writes regularly for a number of sporting and poker publications. Follow him on Twitter @DarklingEarth.

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