JuicyFields’ South African Shockwaves: Canna Yeza ‘Bought to Its Knees’ by False Promises
The sudden and dramatic demise of International crowd-funding platform JuicyFields – accused of being a deliberate Ponzi scheme to fleece investors – has sent shockwaves through the South African cannabis industry, with e-Grower Canna Yeza being one of the hardest hit.
5 August 2022, 14:00:00
Several companies and individuals have felt the shockwaves of JuicyFields’ (JF) collapse, which may not only be the biggest scam in cannabis history, but in all of Europe as well. It is not known how many South Africans had invested in JF, which actively punted its crowd-funding platform at the recent Gauteng and Cape Town Cannabis Expos, but according to Businesscann there were a significant number of investors “from Africa”. All in all, and the costs are still geing counted, it would appear that over 500 million Euros may have been stolen, and that worldwide over 300 000 JF investors were fleeced of their investments.
Canna Yeza funded equipment purchase that JF promised to refund
From a business perspective, licensed Gauteng cannabis cultivator Canna Yeza a
ppears to have taken the most severe financial knock in South Africa. Canna Yeza’s Nicholas Behr told Tred Magill, writing for Fin24 , that the “business was bought to its knees” after promised funding didn’t arrive.
Behr told Fin24 that JF’s Alan Glanse, one of the six JF founders who has subsequently vanished wanted to bring Lanseria-based Canna Yeza into the JF platform as an “e-grower”. Glanse, who has been fingered as one of the mastermind’s behind the scheme, persuaded Canna Yeza to buy cultivation equipment on the promise it would be refunded.
"They were going to invest money in us. They wanted to bring us on as a e-grower for the cultivation side of things, because we have a licence. They made us buy R3.8 million worth of equipment.
"They made us put up cameras and all of that and they never paid us. So, we're sitting in a predicament where we're out of pocket for a couple of million because of them. They literally put our business down on our knees. We have nothing left," he said.
JF pulled out of July’s Durban Cannabis Expo sponsorship at the 11th hour
And according to Cannabis Expo organizer Silas Howarth, JF pulled out of its sponsorship of the Durban Cannabis Expo just days before it was due to take place on 21 July 2022. He told Fin24 the Expo made contingencies and went ahead without JF. The crowd-funder had previously sponsored (without a financial hitch) the recent Cape Town and Gauteng Expos, as well as one organized by the South African Cannabis Expo team in Mexico City last year.
Cannatrade Africa was more fortunate. CEO Myron Krost confirmed to Fin24 that JF purchased one of 14 investment units of a seed-fund, worth R157 000, and had paid up.
The Cannabis Expo, The Green Side brand of Cannatrade Africa and Canna Yeza all feature as "partners" on the Juicy Fields website, while Krost and Behr both deny any partnership.
"We've asked them numerous times to take our branding off their website. Even last year we've asked them ... before all of this has happened," said Behr.
Not just a van der Merwe joke
Former JF CEO, Willem van der Merwe, who resigned less than 50 days on the job before he resigned on 14 July 2022, wrote an open letter to stakeholders on 2 August 2022, saying he did not think JF was an intentional scam, but rather a “good business concept managed by inexperienced people”.
In an email to Fin24 he said: "The whole purpose of my appointment was to assist the owners to make the company(s) in Europe compliant with … regulations and guidelines. I asked several questions from them when I joined. I asked them where the suppliers of the plants are they were selling. I asked them where the investment money was. I asked them who is handling the investment money. I asked them if I could have access to the database of investors or e-growers as they referred to the investors.
"All of these questions were never answered properly or ignored. Since they could not or refused to disclose the information I required, I resigned."
Van der Merwe told Fin24 that "to the best of my knowledge, this whole business had nothing to do with a so-called Ponzi scheme, or the Russian mafia".
Who is the real JuicyFields?
One of the problems in tracking what has been taken from where is the complicated network of JF companies and affiliates set up around the world. The JuicyFields AG, says it is a legitimate concern that is taking the heat for the JuicyFields.io platform.
The JuicyFields AG site now features a message which reads: "We found out that the owners and operators of the juicyfields.io platform (Paul Bergolts, Robert Laibach, Alex Vaimer, Vasily Kandinski, Alan Glanse, Erika Misela) sent your money to the following two banks." ... and names ISX Pay in Cyprus and VIA PAYMENTS UAB in Lithuania.
Juicy Fields AG claim via their website to have concluded an investigation and allege that bank accounts fraudulently set up in the name of the company with the forged signature and details of a Dr Robert Müller, a director of Juicy Fields AG; and used to transfer some 500 million euros (around R8.5 billion).
Juicy Fields AG say they were informed by ISX Pay on 15 July 2022 that the accounts had been frozen.
On 18 July 2022, Birgit Neumann – chief financial officer of Juicy Fields AG - posted a YouTube video on the company website, in which she alleges to have uncovered the owners and operators of the JF investment platform, which include two Russian nationals and two banks, implicated in alleged money laundering.
"The investors scammed by the 'crowd-funding network juicyfields.io' are outraged and should not try to retrieve their investments from Juicy Field AG, but they held Juicy Fields AG liable, which is indeed not the case," reads Juicy Fields AG’s "counter-statement"
Neumann says Juicy Fields AG plans to file criminal charges.
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