The artwork was put up for auction by Nifty Gateway in May last year. Mr Soleymani, a property magnate with a taste for collecting, lodged his bid worth $650,000 (£550,288.05) using his online moniker “mondoir”.
Mr Soleymani, however, lost out to a $1.2 million winning bid by a cryptocurrency tycoon, who claimed the prized artwork.
That, according to Mr Soleymani, should have been that. Except that Nifty Gateway’s auction was unusual, in that the remaining 99 highest bidders were each expected to pay for another edition of the work. Mr Soleymani had come third and Nifty gateway demanded his $650,000 to pay for a third edition.
Mr Soleymani insists he had no idea that the auction had been set up that way and refused to pay up. In response, Nifty Gateway froze his online account, blocking access to his assets of around a further 100 NFTs until it got its money.
Mr Soleymani said: “Imagine bidding to win an item, ending up in second place and getting almost the same thing the third bidder gets but with a significant difference in bid amount.
“This method of auction maximises revenue for the platform and artists but is damaging to collectors.”
‘I just want to get my money back’
Under Nifty Gateway’s terms and conditions, the company said Mr Soleymani’s only recourse was to go to arbitration in New York.
Mr Soleymani refused to be bowed and last October lodged a legal claim in the High Court in London, insisting that as a UK bidder he has a right of redress under English consumer law.
Now, in a first round victory against American technology giants, the Court of Appeal in London has ruled that Mr Soleymani has the right to challenge the fairness of Nifty Gateway’s terms and conditions.
The likely result is a High Court trial in London next year to determine if Mr Soleymani has to pay up. His legal team is confident of success.
The case is of such significance that the UK’s Competition and Market Authority is backing Mr Soleymani’s legal claim. Nifty Gateway has 100,000 registered UK accounts – about a 10th of all its accounts – in a case that has repercussions for other US-based online platforms.
“I just want to get my money back,” said Mr Soleymani, 47, a father-of-two.
His family had been supporters of Iran’s shah and had been persecuted following the Islamic revolution. Mr Soleymani had been detained in an Iranian jail, tortured and interrogated, before fleeing to the UK in 2010 – becoming a British citizen last year. Having stood up to the Iranian regime, the Winklevoss twins may be less daunting.