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Juicy Fields: Former SA CEO Willem v d Merwe Speaks Out

Juicy Fields: Former SA CEO Willem v d Merwe Speaks Out

“I Don’t Think it was a Ponzi Scheme; it Was a Good Business Concept Managed By Inexperienced People” says van der Merwe who has called for Juicy Fields investors to be patient and the owners to be transparent

Willem van der Merwe

3 August 2022 at 22:00:00

I might be off the mark, but I don’t think this was an intended Ponzi Scheme. 

I believe this was purely a case where a good business concept was mismanaged by inexperienced people, which are more equipped to develop IT solutions, not run businesses in a productive and transparent manner.

There is a distinct difference between designing a race car, and eventually racing with it. This business took off way beyond anyone’s expectations, including those of the Juicy Fields founders. When they realised the size of the fish they caught, they tied to get help, but unfortunately seems to have recruited both good and a few wrong people to assist them.

I was informed by a reliable source that the owners/founding members indeed decided to suspend the Juicy platform deliberately, once they became aware of one or two rogue people that lead them down the wrong path.

For these owners/founding members to restart up the platform will not be inconceivable or event too farfetched, but they will need to have a good and plausible explanation for/to the market for their initial actions taken, and going forward, to give the platform half a chance, will need not only a new platform offering that deals with issues such as proper KYC but be compliant with regulators.

In addition, any new offering will require a new, revitalised marketing strategy to build up trust again. The issue is not the business offering itself, it became the way in which the business was promoted, perceived and disclosed to its members.

Personally, my first thoughts were that the brand is most certainly tarnished. Having had some time to think about it, I think the best way forward for owners/founding members of the platform is to almost “relaunch” it, with the proviso already mentioned.

If they don’t at least try, a stigma will not only follow these owners/founding members but also the business of crowd growers in general.

Following the news release that was released by the owners/founding members on 27 July, it is apparent that Juicy Fields was duped into believing the BaFin regulatory issues should be dealt with by registering new Juicy Fields companies outside of Germany, where this all started. This, of course, is not correct, as the BaFin situation to my understanding, was simply a case of filing the requisite prospectus as required by German financial regulators, to clarify the grey area that Juicy Fields was operating in.

A person by the name of Von Luxburg presented himself as an attorney that could help the owners/founding members with the BaFin requirements, including writing a prospectus for the group as was suggested and required by BaFin at the time.

It appears now from what we have all learned, that he clearly did not have the best interest at heart of the owners/ founding members of the Juicy Fields platform. When these inexperienced owners/ founding members realised this, they did what any person in their shoes probably would have done, and that was to shut down or suspend operations, to prevent losing all the investors’ funds.

Their fears were actually credible, as I further understand that Von Luxburg had indeed sent people to at least one of the Juicy Fields banks, to try and take over signature control of this account.

According to news that started flowing into the markets via social media since mid-July when the platform was suspended, both Von Luxburg and the owners/founding members started blaming each other publicly, another tragedy in this saga, and again in my opinion showing some inexperience by the owners’/ founding members in dealing with such situations.

They really should have simply obtained legal court orders, but I reckon they were overwhelmed by the mess that was created. Again, these are my observations from the outside.

My message to investors will be to be patient. Logic tells me that nobody can steal this type of money and get away with it. Rather, engage with the company or its lawyers and see if a refund can be arranged. I’m sure the owners/ founding members will be eager to deal with the threats and accusations accordingly.

To the owners, I would say be transparent and in constant communication with the eGrower clients. Also, do your best to get everything operational again, but in a way that will increase security for all involved, and with the future blessing of the authorities such as BaFin.

This situation will not be resolved overnight as the financial institutions have apparently frozen all the Juicy Fields accounts. Not because the authorities requested it, but because the owners/founding members did. The financial institutions are highly regulated and I’m almost certain they, in turn, would have to have reported these events to their local Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).

Regarding my earlier comments that I doubt that this was a Ponzi scheme or money laundering – there is simply too much at stake for any bank, never mind the owners/founding members to even try and engage in this type of business.

The current status and situation of the Juicy Fields business, unless amicably resolved in the very near future, will most certainly be investigated by the regulatory bodies to determine the reasons for any such account activities nor part of a bigger investigation. The owners/ founding members can either decide to wrap up the business, refund whoever is owed money and wind down the business or refund everyone and then start fresh with a new approach to market.

May logic and good sense ultimately prevail and the investors be made whole again, and the cause of this whole situation be dealt with properly and adequately.

Willem van der Merwe
Former Juicy Fields CEO

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