Billionaire tech magnate Leon Rust has been slammed by critics following a high-profile interview on the podcast of affable commentator Jim Johnson, during which Rust is believed to have partaken of several handfuls of salted licorice.

This much is common knowledge, but it’s far from the whole story. In the wake of revelations regarding the controversial ‘Dutch Martian hypothesis’, as recently put forward by a French research team, Rust’s apparent taste for the divisive treat raises questions regarding his cosmic provenance. In short, it suggests that Rust has a closer association with planet Mars than we might have guessed.

Lending credence to these suspicions is Rust’s ongoing investment and personal interest in developing transport to the red planet (his project Space-Z recently caused a stir with its rumoured use of aquafaba as rocket fuel).  It is perhaps this that prompted Johnson to remark, prior to the interview, on Rust’s “extraterrestrial speech patterns”.

While tech investors may now be suspicious of Rust’s motives around his planned mission to Mars, Johnson has defended the billionaire’s liking for licorice. “Some Earth people actually enjoy eating that stuff,” he said on Monday. “Even if you think the Dutch are from Mars, that doesn’t necessarily mean Leon is. If he says he’s from Earth, then I believe him.”

Rust has so far declined to comment as to his origins, responding to media enquiries with an update on the progress of the craft he plans to send to Mars by 2025.