The UK regulator FCA made a big mistake back in summer 2017 when it withdrew its warning against the crypto scam OneCoin. Back then FCA’s withdrawal was used by the OneCoin salespeople to advertise the scheme even more aggressively to naive consumers. FCA actually facilitated the scam. Unwillingly, admitted but nevertheless it did. This is what BBC journalist Jamie Bartlett uncovered in episode 9 of the BBC’s The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast. Jamie reveals that OneCoin had the warning removed by threatening the FCA with legal action via its “famously combative” law firm Carter-Ruck.
Moreover, the notorious relationship and reputation management company Chelgate was retained by OneCoin to go against FCA. Chelgate has a reputation for aggressively lobbying for famous clients. It did so for the former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat when he came under fire for his association with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The FCA gave in to OneCoin and shouldn’t do so with Moorwand.
The gigantic fraud scheme
Back in 2018, the U.S. government estimated OneCoin’s take at $4 billion, Bartlett’s sources claim the worldwide take was as much as $15.8 billion as of early 2018 – and OneCoin is still operating. It seems entirely plausible that the crypto scam will have stolen more than the $19.4 billion lost by Bernie Madoff’s victims. This would make it the largest financial scam ever.
The Bulgarian OneCoin scam of Cryptoqueen Ruja Ignatova started its financial fraud in the EU, wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of EU consumers, and caused billions of losses. The EU regulators like BaFIN or FCA, however, have failed badly to stop the scam. It was the U.S. authorities that took action in 2018, charged the scam and its leader, and arrested Konstantin Ignatov, the cryptoqueen’s younger brother.
The Wirecard Déjà vu
By taking down the investor warning the FCA for sure failed to do its job as BaFin did with Wirecard. And it seems that FCA continues to fail in the OneCoin environment.
The OneCoin court documents being publicly available establish that some of the individuals involved in the OneCoin fraud, still are closely connected to companies supervised by the FCA. Take Maximilian von Arnim, known as Max (read here about his activities in OneCoin) who is still approved by the FCA. This guy was one of Scott’s co-conspirators in the OneCoin money-laundering scheme, the U.S. court documents suggest (see LinkedIn profile). Von Armin worked for RavenR, a group of companies established by Ruja Ignatova for money-laundering purposes.
But much more surprising is that FCA evidently is still not undertaking steps against Fintech Guru Robert Courtneidge. He used to be director and CEO of the FCA-regulated entities Moorwand Ltd and ePayments Systems Ltd (d/b/a ePayments). He is part of the network around payments veteran Alain Bazille and the notorious entrepreneur Wael Almaree.
Courtneidge was the colleague of US attorney Mark S. Scott at the UK branch of law firm Locke Lord. This law firm advised Ruja Ignatova and OneCoin on the establishment of a worldwide money laundering network. Both Scott and Courtneidge are on corresponding emails as addressees. These emails also dealt with the transport of money as in the following one:
Scott explicitly stated in his testimony before the U.S. court that his colleague Courtneidge was also involved in the OneCoin case. Scott was found guilty of bank fraud and money laundering by a U.S. jury in November 2019.
Perpetrator becoming FCA advisor
Nowadays Robert Courtneidge even acts as an advisor to the FCA on who gets a license and who is denied a license. It gets really ridiculous.
The clients of ePayments are still waiting for reimbursement of its deposits after the FCA suspended the entity’s license, halted the operation, and froze some GBP 100 million in early 2020 due to irregularities. Robert Courtneidge was ePayments‘ director and CEO at this time. As he was with Moorwand Ltd back then. He also acted as head of the board for UPC Consulting Ltd, a company closely associated with Moorwand and its founder Alain Bazille. UPC Consulting was part of Moorwand’s money laundering scheme and facilitated the transfer of illicit funds for numerous scams for years.
The European Funds Recovery Initiative (EFRI) described the activities of Moorwand (did business as UPayCard), UPC Consulting Ltd, and Robert Courtneige in a detailed letter to FCA already in summer 2019. Since then a lot of additional questionable activities have been exposed in this context:
- PAP Onpoint Services Ltd, Cyprus, took over the UPayCard brand from Moorwand showed up – read here and
- Robert Courtneidge resigned as Moorwand director and former Wirecard manager Luc Gueriane was appointed (read here).
- KBH Andelskasse (Kobenhavn Andelskasse) – money laundering charges were raised against this danish banks for offering accounts to Moorwand and other scammers.
The FCA has not yet answered our letter and/or acted in any recognizable way! Sure, Moorwand is not a DAX-listed public company like Wirecard but for sure the extent of its engagement in global money laundering schemes for international scammers is not very much smaller as done by Wirecard. It has only not yet been exposed.
Considering what has happened with OneCoin and Wirecard, we think FCA should act on Moorwand, suspend its license, call the law enforcement agencies, and finally act against such people like Robert Courtneidge. We can not always wait for the FBI or for some of the big auditing companies (KPMG) doing finally the job for the European supervisory authorities.