Juicy Fields: Lawyers Now After Australian Finance High Flier Who Enabled the Scam
Class lawsuits by fleeced Juicy Fields investors are mounting and the latest legal target is exiled Austrialian fintech high-flier John Karantzis who’s IXS Pay was used in the scam.
Juicy Fields investors were directed to deposit funds at two banks – IXS Pay and a Lithuanian institution Via Payments UAB.
ISX Pay, operated by ISX Financial EU Plc, is a spin-off of controversial Australian fintech iSignthis that was suspended from the Australian Securities Exchange in October 2019. Its Australian entity, since renamed Southern Cross Payments, remains subject to an ongoing lawsuit launched by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, while the company itself is suing the ASX over its suspension, which came amid concern about iSignthis’ alleged accounting irregularities.
Karantzis relocated from Melbourne to Cyprus late last year, after a travel ban was lifted on the executive stemming from an Australian Taxation Office lawsuit that alleged a A$10 million unpaid tax bill. There he re-established most of iSignthis operations.
The potential involvement of ISX Pay became apparent on July 15 when the company’s Twitter account, ISX Financial, sent out a scam alert telling customers not to trust details published to a website which alleged ISX Pay transfer accounts were linked to the Juicy Fields scam. “ISX is mentioned on this URL but is not involved,” the tweet said.
In July, the company abruptly froze cash withdrawals, its purported executives disappeared and wiped their social media profiles and shut down its online infrastructure, leaving tens of thousands out of pocket. That collapse came shortly after warnings about Juicy Fields issued by Spanish and German authorities.
Now, class actions lawyers are circling the wreckage and examining the merits of potential litigation to recover funds from financial institutions that processed payments on behalf of JuicyFields.
He maintains his innocence, telling the Australian Financial Review that he was actually one of the first to alert authorities to the fact that Juicy Fields was a scam. “ISX has been instrumental in alerting authorities regarding JuicyFields activities” he said.
“ISX was the first institution to freeze JuicyFields accounts and notify law enforcement. ISX freezing of accounts may have led to the exposing of the scheme, as funds became restricted.”
The rest of this article is republished from the Argidar Group’s online publication:
Documents of an unknown origin, circulated on online forums in recent weeks, also detail a July 13 meeting between two directors of a company called Juicy Fields AG and Mr Karantzis’ in Cyprus. The documents claim to represent part of an investigation into a previously unknown bank account, held in the name of the Juicy Holdings NV entity.
“We also note that the JuicyFields attendees terminated the meeting immediately following our suggestion of involving law enforcement to assist with queries ISX had already identified,” Mr Karantzis said in a response to questions.
The documents claimed Mr Karantzis told them payments of €500 million had occurred since the account was set up. Mr Karantzis said the suggestion €500 million was sent through its systems is “wildly over exaggerated”.
Further, documents purportedly presented by lawyers at that meeting showed that a bank account was set up by ISX on behalf of the Netherlands domiciled entity called Juicy Holdings on January 14, 2022. On July 15, Mr Karantzis notified the entity that the account had been closed.
Although he confirmed the meeting took place, Mr Karantzis said: “We have good reasons and evidence to doubt any of the documents published online are genuine, and they appear to be part of a smokescreen to confuse the public, and clearly, some media thus sheep.”
Juicy Fields AG, which claims no involvement in the scam, was initially called Luxor, and was a client of Probanx, a company acquired by iSignthis.
Mr Karantzis said: “Any such agreement predates the ownership of Probanx by ISX Group, which agreement was terminated as part of the purchase of Probanx in September 2018. ISX notes that Probanx now supplies software to banks and financial institutions for core banking account ledger and transaction processing.”
Swedish lawyer and businessman Lars Olofsson said he plans to launch a claim against financial institutions that allegedly enabled investments in JuicyFields.
Due to its sophistication, Olofsson believes the Juicy Fields operation is linked to Russian organized criminals and has resulted in losses of more than a billion dollars.
He argues that banks and other financial institutions should have been better at preventing the scam by completing due diligence on its customers.
Mr Karantzis said there was no fraudulent use of ISX’s systems. “ISX complied with EU regulatory requirements for customer due diligence at all times. ISX met with the directors in person and verified all corporate documents and licenses via official registries, sanctions screening, negative news checks and third-party certifications,” he said.
He said ISX has been engaged with law enforcement agencies “for some time, at our own instigation”.
Mr Olofsson said ISX was “absolutely an important part of JuicyFields” and said investors in the scheme deposited funds into the ISX Pay account.
He says he has a list of more than 60 institutions that he claims should have flagged transactions as suspicious and prevented them.
“There is the sending bank, the transfer bank and the receiving banks and all three need to have this compliance system to monitor and detect suspicious activities.”
So far, 350 alleged victims have approached Mr Olofsson including 13 Australians and five New Zealanders who have signed up for his intended class action to recover funds from financial institutions that processed payments on behalf of JuicyFields.
“I’ve never come across a scam this size,” Mr Olofsson told The Australian Financial Review from his home in Malmo, Sweden.
Olofsson says his largest client has lost €600,000, although most investors were smaller, out of pocket to the tune of around €25,000. All up, around 120,000 victims are believed to have been caught up in the scam, covering punters from India, Vietnam, Mexico, Argentina.
Several law firms in Spain are also organizing class actions, with one lawyer Emilia Zaballos telling Spanish newspaper El País she had been contacted by “nearly 6000 people”.