Print Article

How Britain can help you get away with stealing millions: a five-step guide (posted by Comsure in 6 postings 5/6)


Dirty money needs laundering if it’s to be of any use – and the UK is the best place in the world to do it.  = part 5

  • To read part 1 of this article please click here
  • To read part 2 of this article please click here
  • To read part 3 of this article please click here
  • To read part 4 of this article please click here

Step 4: Lie – but do so cleverly

Most of the daft examples earlier (Mmmmmmm, Mmmmmm, Mmm, MMM) would not be useful for committing fraud, since anyone looking at them can tell they’re not serious. Cumberland Capital Ltd, however, was a different matter. It looked completely legitimate.

It controlled a company called Tropical Trade, which, in October 2016, cold-called a 63-year-old retired postal worker in Wisconsin identified in court filings as “MJ”. On the phone, a salesman offered her an investment product, which – he said – would make returns of 81%. He chatted about his wife and family and came across as “kind and trustworthy”, MJ later told police. “During two weeks in November of 2016, she allowed Tropical Trade to charge $34,500 on her Mastercard and Visa credit cards,” the filing states. When she tried to get her money back, her emails and calls were ignored, and she never saw it again.

She had fallen victim to the global epidemic of binary-options fraud. Binary options are a form of betting on the stock market that are now banned in many countries – including Israel, where much of the industry was based – since fraudsters used the idea to fix odds, keep winnings and target the vulnerable. According to the FBI, taken as a whole, these fraudsters may have been fleecing their marks of up to $10bn a year.

When US police came looking for the people behind Cumberland Capital Ltd, they searched the Companies House website and found that its director was an Australian citizen called Manford Martin Mponda. Anyone researching binary-options fraud might quickly conclude that Mponda was a kingpin. He was a serial company director, with some 80 directorships in UK-registered companies to his name, and features in dozens of complaints.

It already looked like a major scandal that British regulation was so lax that Mponda could have been allowed to conduct a global fraud epidemic behind the screen of UK-registered companies, but the reality was even more remarkable: Mponda had nothing to do with it. He was a victim, too.

Police officers suspect that, after Mponda submitted his details to join a binary-options website, his identity was stolen so it could be used to register him as a director of dozens of UK companies. The scheme was only exposed after complaints to consumer protection bodies were passed onto the City of London police, who then asked their Australian colleagues to investigate.

Companies House has since deleted Mponda’s name from documents related to dozens of other companies, but it was too late for “MJ” and thousands of other victims. A small number of the binary-options masterminds have been caught, but the money they stole has vanished into the labyrinth of interlocking shell companies, and the individuals behind Cumberland Capital have not been identified.

“Most of the binary-options firms claimed to be in the UK. People are more likely to deal with a UK company than a company in Israel, as it has a better reputation when it comes to finances,” said DS Alex Eristavi of the City of London Police’s investment fraud team. “Companies House records are provided in good faith. There’s not so much scrutiny as goes on in, say, Italy or Spain, where you have to go through the lawyers and do it properly. Here the information is submitted voluntarily. People don’t realise that, they take it as being carved in stone.”

So here is step four:

don’t just lie, lie cleverly. British companies look legitimate, so look legitimate yourself. Steal a real person’s name, and put that on the company documents. Don’t put your own address on the documents, rent a serviced office to take your post: Paul Manafort used one in Finchley, the binary options fraudsters went to Liverpool, and Lantana Trade was based in the London suburb of Harrow.

The financial documents you file look better if they’ve been audited by an accountant, so file genuine-looking accounts, and claim they’ve been audited by a proper accountancy firm. That isn’t checked either, so just find an accountant online and claim you’ve employed them. Accountants quite regularly find themselves contacted about accounts they have never seen before, and make the unwelcome discovery they have been personally named as having approved them.

Read the whole article here