Kuetzal’s collapse misery. Suspicious transactions led to the closure of the Estonian business crowdfunding platform. Investors are worried that the Kuetzal’s crowdfunding platform, which has attracted millions of euros, will disappear with their money.
“Unfortunately, we have to announce that Kuetzal is going out of the business, now only processing cash withdrawals, but no longer accepting new project applications or allowing investors to register and make deposits.” Such a letter landed on January 12th to Kuetzal’s investors’ mailbox. Kuetzal based their decision on the fact that platform’s reputation had recently been seriously damaged and that it is therefore not possible to continue operations.
Kuetzal is a crowdfunding platform that helped to invest in European business projects. The companies were able to take out an investor-financed loan there, which they had to repay later at a hefty rate. Kuetzal promised investors a maximum return of 21%.
After the company sent a letter to investors, visitors to the platform’s website only viewed boxes that allow users to tap their username and password to access their account. No one except the registered user can access the page. The day before, there were dozens of projects, both funded and ongoing.
Investors became anxious in December when information began to circulate that the platform had engaged projects from companies that were not likely to operate. The story spread wildly from one blog to another and people rushed to withdraw money.
The money are stuck
Now that the platform has announced the closure of its doors, big question marks are hanging over investors’ money, as it is not known if or how much the company can pay back. “I invested $ 25,000 through Kuetzal and on December 13, I was able to withdraw the interest earned ($ 300,)” said investor David (name changed – TR). ’18th of December I asked for an investment repurchase but have not received a response to my email. The money is still stuck in my Kuetzal’s account. ”
David initially agreed to comment under his name, but rethought before the article came out, citing threats that were allegedly sent to some of the investors who criticized Kuetzal on the Internet. One of the first investors to accuse Kuetzal of fraud in social media said on Twitter that he had received threats of killing and therefore deleted his user account.
David started investing through Kuetzal last summer and even visited the company’s office in Riga, where he met CEO Alberts Cevers, who left the company in the fall with other Latvian employees. In December, he met with Maxim Reutovs, Kuetzal’s new Latvian leader, who said that the company’s bank account was frozen because of an investigation into money laundering. The account is said to have EUR 2.4 million of investors’ money.
To all investors who tried to get in touch with Reutovs in social media, he responded in the same way: “We are trying to unblock our bank account to make transfers. We hope to complete the money laundering investigation procedure in January and make the transfers in the first week of February.
If you look closely at the crowdfunding platform, which has its roots to an apartment in Mustamäe, you will find a lot of interesting things.
Kuetzal OÜ was founded in July 2018 by Viktoria Gortšak. The company is registered in an apartment at 149a Mustamäe tee owned by Andrei Korobeiko. In addition to the crowdfunding platform, Kamelia Compani OÜ, which owns 55 restaurants in downtown Tallinn and in Viimsi, is listed at this address.
Established in 2012, Kamelia Company is owned by Nikolai Kaljakin who is the only member of the board since the beginning of last month.
In early summer 2010, Korobeiko and three men tried to launder more than € 600,000 from a Russian company. They were caught and Korobeiko was sentenced to two years and six months’ imprisonment by the Harju County Court, of which he had to serve two months immediately. At that time, the judgment held that the remainder of the imprisonment would not be enforced unless Korobeiko committed another deliberate crime during his four-year probation.
At Kuetzal were a total of 29 projects (before closing), ranging from € 35,000 to nearly one million. In August last year, investors had the opportunity to invest in a loan of EUR 46,40 for a company established in Estonia five months earlier, in T55 Group OÜ. On August 15, Kuetzal announced on Facebook that the money was raised in less than seven hours.
Why is this special? The company belongs to Korobeiko. What makes it even more interesting is that, according to the explanation, the investment was for the renovation of 55 sushi restaurants on Gonsiori Street in Tokyo. As mentioned earlier, Tokyo 55 restaurants are owned by Kamelia Company, registered at the same address as Kuetzal.
Although, according to Krediidiinfo, it seems that T55 Group did not have any particular economic activity last year, four employees were added to it last quarter. Kamelia Company employed ten people last March when the T55 was founded, but by the end of the year there were six remaining.
The Kuetzal’s platform raised hundreds of thousands of euros for companies, which, to put it mildly, leave a suspicious impression. This raises the question of whether Kuetzal carried out the projects due to extremely poor background checks or deliberately.
The Polish logistics company Marina Code received € 266,000 from investors. The company’s chief executive, Romans Kokins, explained that this money is intended to expand into new markets.
At first glance, the company’s website makes a credible impression. It advertises itself as a secure service provider with 80,000 satisfied customers. The website highlights the people in the company”s management and names along with photos. Everything looks right. However, when you check the pictures and names match, it gets interesting.
The photos of all the drivers have been stolen from the Internet and are different people. For example, CEO Kokins’s photo actually is a lawyer from Russia. The Kuetzal website, on the Marina Code project, uses the same image next to the Kokins name.