For Part, I of the interview with the EFRI founder Elfriede Sixt go here.
Q 6. How did BitRush develop into the Lenhoff cybercrime case?
Although knowing about the money laundering claims, Joachim Kalcher, the then technical chief operator of Bitrush Corp, teamed up with Uwe Lenhoff. He continued to pursue his idea of using the crypto payment system of Bitrush to launder the illicit proceeds of Uwe Lenhoff. However, they could not use BitRush Corp for their shabby business. As BitRush Corp was unable to file its financial statement in time, the Toronto Stock Exchange stopped trading in the company’s shares. Kalcher signed a contract with Lenhoff’s Veltyco and moved to Bulgaria, where Lenhoff operated Winslet Holdings EOOD. They established a joint venture, and Kalcher dedicated himself to developing dark web crypto payment solutions. Because of this, Joachim Kalcher was a suspect in the criminal proceedings of Uwe Lenhoff and others.
In summary, at that time, I prevented Uwe Lenhoff from running his dirty business by using BitRush Corp’s cryptocurrency solution. I guess that means that the extent of the damage he did (according to the German prosecutor Uwe Lenhoffs schemes show more than 200.000 victims with 100 Mio € stolen money) would even have been much more significant.
I am proud to have prevented that, so I even have to smile every time I read this “accusation”. BitRush Corp (the company has been inactive since 2016), in addition, still owes me quite a chunk of money for my accounting services back then.
Nevertheless, the BitRush story seems superficially well-suited for smear campaigns for the scammers and their facilitators (also, BOOKER loves this story about EFRI :)).
Q 7: Would you please tell us about the kill order against you?
Yes, that’s right. Lenhoff ordered his Serbian business partners to kill the FinTelegram publisher Werner Boehm and me. We received written threats at that time and filed charges. The Serbian businessman has since filed a written confession about this killing order received from Uwe Lenhoff with the police. According to this Serbian businessman, BARAK also gave a kill order – we all know how this played out. Therefore, we have received police protection for several weeks in 2018.
Q 8: How does EFRI work?
EFRI is a non-profit organization registered in Vienna. I am aggregating victims’ claims, analyzing the cases, and arranging the filing of lawsuits and criminal cases through our attorneys against the scammers or the enablers and facilitators of these fraud schemes.
However, EFRI is more than just fund recovery; EFRI stands for the systematic fight against cybercrime, scams, and money laundering in the interest of (potential) victims and investor protection. We do our best to decipher cybercrime and scams.
We mainly but not exclusively act against the facilitators of the scammers such as payment processors or banks, who at least grossly negligently, if not intentionally, neglect their professional duties and thus enable this immense extent of online fraud in Europe in the first place. We are also working on the issue of social media contributors. The arrogance with which Facebook, Google, Telegram, etc., are making money, earning vast sums through paid FAKE ADS, and denying any responsibility and liability is impressive. By writing to the EU authorities such as EU Commission and EBA, we also try to make the authorities aware of the issues in law enforcement and damage recovery in cybercrime.
We ask for a membership fee of €75 per victim, and for the victims of Gal Barak and Uwe Lenhoff, we did not ask for a membership fee. In addition, we work with litigation funders who finance our daily expenses and ask for a portion of a future success fee (10% for out-of-court agreements and probably more if we must make more significant efforts). For this, we do all the forensic analysis, analyze criminal files, communicate with law enforcement and regulators, and follow the trace of money (see chart below with the money network of Marina Barak).
Q 9: How do you deal with these slanders and threats?
I am not a person who is easily intimidated, and in addition, I already have proven to be a brutal fighter during my long-lasting business life:
Being an auditor in charge of IFRS and corporate finance and startup advisor always brings challenging situations. So I even was once indicted for being the EY partner in charge for a New Economy company (YLine – a venture of Werner Böhm) together with the directors and supervisory board of the listed company. After one and a half years of court proceedings, all indicted people were acquitted.
I hate injustice, dumbness, and arrogance.
But I understand why the activities of EFRI and Fintelegram arouse massive hatred among cybercriminals, but in particular, of course, Gal Barak and Marina Barak and their accomplices, such as Vladimir Smirnov and Gery Shalon. Barak and his accomplices blame Werner Boehm for their arrest and problems.
For the first time since the dawn of cybercrime, scammers are scared of the consequences of their fraudulent actions against European consumers. European law enforcement agencies have not been seriously fighting against scammers for years. The cybercriminals victimized thousands of European consumers without any efforts from the side of the European law enforcement agencies.
With the Gal Barak and Uwe Lenhoff case, the Austrian law enforcement agents mainly identified and arrested the perpetrators. It was a breakthrough! Due to meticulous criminal files, documents show how these cybercrime organizations work and where the weak points are. Especially Fintelegram and its people and their whistleblowers enabled law enforcement to establish a “real case.” The former partner of Barak and Lenhoff, Ilan Tzroya, teamed up with FinTelegram and provided vital information to have Barak and Lenhoff arrested.
Regarding the defamation websites, I have even already obtained a preliminary injunction. However, I am experiencing for the first time that social media operators like Facebook accept court decisions only hesitantly and under massive pressure.
Q 10: A final statement then?
I am sincerely glad that in the meantime, the German prosecutors and here, especially the cybercrime unit in Bamberg, Germany, is speeding up the fight against the scammers.
I hope that the other European countries will follow suit, form special units for cybercrime and establish well-functioning international cooperation of these particular units across national borders as soon as possible.
We must ensure that the attractiveness of working in the many call centres in Bulgaria, Serbia, etc., is massively reduced by the possibility of arrest by the authorities at any time (You never know who is knocking on the doors!).
We must further achieve that the banks, payment service providers, and crypto exchanges finally adhere to their professional legal duties. In case of misconduct, the management is held accountable as enablers alongside the scammers.
And most importantly, social media must be held accountable for providing a platform for paid fake aids.
If all of this is done, we will cause serious trouble for cybercriminals.
Regarding the defamation campaigns, I assume that once Gal Barak and Marina Barak and their accomplices are finally behind bars, the current defamation websites will go offline. But I believe as long as I am active in this field – cybercrime – I will have to deal with such defamation campaigns. The web is the playground of cybercriminals, so it is not surprising that they use the weapons of the internet.
However, I will continue to devote myself, unimpressed, to processing the fraud cases coordinating the filing of criminal charges and civil lawsuits against the fraudsters or their accomplices.
In the beginning fight against cybercrime in Europe, EFRI and FINTELEGRAM have contributed. I am proud of it.