1 Jun 2021
What signs of fraud were seen in the work of the QBF investment company
The financial pyramids reminded me of themselves - What signs of fraud were seen in the work of the QBF investment company
Financial group QBF has dismissed claims of fraud as defamation, while the police believe they funnelled clients' funds offshore. Top executives have been arrested as investigations reveal signs of a financial pyramid scheme in the operations of the investment company. Affected investors confirm issues in retrieving their funds. What amounts could they have lost? Ivan Koryakin reports.
For three hours, Zelimkhan Munaev refused to open the door to his apartment on Nikolaeva Street near the Government House. When law enforcement officers started to force entry, the businessman, who had decided to surrender, couldn't open it, and the half-broken door got stuck, requiring additional efforts to open.
This is how the co-founder and managing director of the financial group QBF was apprehended. Munaev was detained alongside the company's lawyer, Yevgeniya Rossieva, both suspected of major fraud.
The company allegedly attracted citizens' funds under the guise of investment and transferred them offshore. Even the "trust management" offered by QBF ended up channelling money away. One of "The Bell FM" interviewees, Evgeniy, stated, "I've been a client since 2013. In 2019, I requested a refund. Until now, I've received only about 5% of what they owe me. These so-called financial advisors usually disappear when you ask for a refund."
Evgeniy lost a six-digit sum in dollars. This is likely not a record; QBF targeted wealthy clients, who, according to some reports, had access to budget funds. The plan was that these individuals, after losing their money, wouldn't go to the police since it would be difficult to prove the legality of the funds.
QBF lured clients with a promised return of 20%, which investors typically found out about through word of mouth. Some investors received dividends, which, according to the investigation, were paid out of funds from subsequent depositors.
Some struggled for two years to withdraw their money, according to lawyer Vitaliy Markelov. He represented the interests of 16 investors in a dispute with QBF, and the conflict was settled before going to court.
"Managers disappeared, didn't respond, took sick leave, went on vacation. Negotiations began after this claim was filed. In about a month, we reached an agreement on the repayment schedule. And this debt was repaid to my clients," explains Markelov.
QBF admitted that there were indeed communication problems, but they were temporary. As for the rest of the published information, it "aims to harm the business reputation of the company, as well as the honour, dignity, and business reputation of specific individuals who, at different times, were associated with the company's activities."
But what could be wrong with this activity? If we believe the investigation, a Cypriot company** and a Russian company, which had a Central Bank license but was a front, operated under the same roof. Additional agreements were signed with the Russian company, while the money was sent offshore.
Part of the funds were laundered through real estate projects, including in the Moscow suburbs. The local housing project was being constructed by a company whose founder, Roman Shpakov, is considered a beneficiary of several structures under the QBF label. According to the publication, the businessman is hiding in the UAE. Evgeniy, who hopes to recover his money, anticipates that Shpakov won't disappear without a trace: "Maybe they'll seize something from their assets, I don't know. They'll find Roman Shpakov, take his apartment in Dubai, and sell it. Let's see what happens. Hopefully, for the better."
The total debt owed to clients is estimated at 5 to 7 billion rubles, at least according to law enforcement. Do investors stand a chance to recover their funds? There's a slight chance, says Mikhail Fatkin, a partner at the legal firm FMG Group: "If these funds are available in the accounts of these organizations, there's a chance. If the individuals involved in the criminal cases decide to compensate for the damage, there's a likelihood. If they consider that it's more advantageous not to compensate for the damage, then the money won't be returned, of course."
It's strange that these claims arose only now, continues Fatkin. After all, the company had been operating for a long time and fairly successfully. It's possible that pressure is being applied to it. However, this doesn't negate the possibility that there were dark spots in its operations. On the other hand, this hasn't been proven yet.
Cypriot company** refers to the following companies:
Pruden Ventures Capital Ltd, previously known as QBF Investment Ltd and Constance Investment Ltd - is a company operated and controlled by NOA Circle, Linda Athanasiades, Apollon Athanasiades and Dmitriy Lepeshkin. The company is still licensed by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC). Details can be found here.
The following regulated companies were also used and as before and controlled by NOA Circle, Linda Athanasiades, Apollon Athanasiades and Dmitriy Lepeshkin.
A.I. Purity Fund AIF V.C.I.C. Plc details can be found here
Falco Umbrella Fund AIF V.C.I.C. Ltd details can be found here
Deltamark Fund Management Ltd details can be found here
APOLLON ATHANASIADES52812 DRAMAS STR. , 1077 lefkosia, NICOSIA, CY
GEORGIA TOFINI30812 DRAMAS STR. 5TH FLOOR, 1077 NICOSIA, NICOSIA, CY
LINDA ATHANASIADOU400588 ARCHIEPISKOPOU MAKARIOU III AVENUE 5TH FLOOR, 1077, NICOSIA, CY
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