Mercuryo´s SLAPP against EFRI
As of 24 April 2023 the mercuryo group initiated a SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – against EFRI and its board members for defamation reasons. The Austrian lawyer BINDER GRÖSSWANG represented them in court.
As of 9 June 2023, the Austrian court refused to grant the preliminary injunction stating that according to the information about the activities of the mercuryo group we provided to them, our claim that the mercuryo group is supporting scams is substantiated. BINDER & GRÖSSWANG filed an appeal, and the legal case is still pending.
A deep dive into the on-and off-ramp services in the crypto industry!
There is only a few discussion about the tendency for the big crypto exchanges to outsource their on- and off-ramp services to third-party crypto payment service providers like ADVCash, Mercuryo, Payoneer, and Moonpay. These discussions neglect that, like in the old-fashioned scammers world, the most popular payment method for retail investors buying cryptos are card payments followed by e-wallets by a wide margin.
The intransparent world of the card payments and the e-money PSPs
Mastercard and VISA process more than 80% of the payments in the online world and or/VISA and its partners (acquirers and issuers). So we guess that also about 70 – 80% of the total volume of fiat money transferred by retail investors to the big crypto exchanges is done by card payments. This is nothing new, for example, the bulk amounts of small payments that went to Barak´s and Lenhoff´s fraudulent websites were done by card payments via high-risk acquirers like Payvision/an ING subsidiary (Payvision is out of business by now).
On purpose, the money flow in the card systems is kept opaque and intransparent. Being onboarded by an acquirer is like being in heaven for the crypto exchanges like it was for the scammers with Payvision. Bank accounts for shell companies tend to be closed within months if not weeks after victims report them, or the banks get nervous due to regulatory pressure. With the merchant acquirers opening and running the bank accounts, the issue with the bank accounts for the crypto exchanges goes away. The comparable situation with Payvision serving criminal organizations from 2013 up to the end of January 2019 without any issues at all for the scammers. With the acquirers or EMIs and the virtual service providers in charge, the fiat money inflow and outflow now longer is an issue, and crypto exchanges like Bybit and Binance can concentrate on their core business.
By researching this area, we recognized some of the EMIs and acquirers as they formerly served the binary online/FOREX, CFD scammers industry. Nowadays, these high-risk PSPs onboard virtual asset service providers (Crypto exchanges) that, in turn, serve the big crypto ventures.
But we identified a massive difference. We learned that Russian ventures dominate the on-ramp and off-ramp business. Even reputable crypto ventures like MetaMask (Consensys venture) turn to them to support the fiat money influx. We found that some of these Russian players act downright unscrupulous and more or less make a joke out of all rules and regulations applicable to them resp. their services.
More details about the crypto PSPS (Part I: the background of Mercuryo group)
Mercuryo offers crypto exchange services via mercuryo.io and mercuryo.ru. In detail, Mercuryo accepts fiat money in the form of credit/debit card payments as well as bank payments in exchange for virtual currencies of all kinds.
As of May 1, 2023, Mercuryo offers the purchasing, exchanging, and selling of digital assets (BTC, ETH, USDT, DAI, TRX , BAT, ALGO, OKB, BCH). The crypto trading platform’s offering includes both coins and tokens.
In addition, Mercuryo offers on-ramp and off-ramp services for big crypto ventures like Bitget, Bybit, and Binance, KuCoin, and so on.
.Mercuryo is marketing its services in cooperation with big crypto exchanges like Bitget, Binance, and Bybit. They offer on- and off-ramp services as a third-party service provider.
MoneySwap OÜ, Tallinn, Estonia
The company MoneySwap OÜ was founded 02 April 2018 by Petr Kozyakov (Russian citizen). In 2019, MRCR HOLDINGS LTD, Cyprus, was registered as the parent company.
On the occasion of the review of the beneficial ownership of MoneySwap OU (registered under 14461101 in the Estonian Companies Register) at the end of 2022 by the Estonian Money Laundering Inspectorate (FIU), it was found that in addition to the direct beneficial owners Petr Kozyakov (Russian citizen) and Aleksandr Vasilev (Russian citizen), there are also indirect shareholdings in the company by Greg Waisman (Russian citizen) and Aleksandr Vasilev (Russian citizen).
NVB - a pump and dump scheme was the start!
According to a credible publication dated 23 January 2023 and various other web sources, Petr Kozyakov (most probable the CEO of the group) is known in the crypto industry as the co-founder of the Russian ICO (Initial Coin Offering) project “NATIVE VIDEO BOX “. After the successful completion of the ICO was announced in April 2018 with a USD 6.6 million intake (be aware that the announced amounts often did not reconcile to the actual amount of money collected), both the project’s website and the social channels went offline.
Sanctioned oligarchs as coowners!
The private equity fund Target Global was set up in Moscow in 2012 by Alexander (Alex) Frolov (Russian citizen) and Mikhail (Mike) Lobanov (Russian citizen).
The first € 300 million fund was financed by Moscow-registered Invest AG, a company owned by Alexander Frolov Sr (father of Alex Frolov Jr) and Alexander Abramov. These Russian oligarchs have been on the US/UK and EU sanctions lists since 2 November 2022.
Soon in November 2022, Alex Frolov stepped down from his management role at the private equity fund Target Global. According to the company’s website, as of today, the fund only has operating locations in Berlin, London and Tel Aviv. According to LinkedIn profiles, the fund’s employees are mainly based in Cyprus and London.
Note: When assessing the quality of the information on the websites of Russian companies operating in the West, it should be noted that in general a “cleansing” of the websites and residences of the actors was carried out after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The current managing director of the company is Karen Gevorkjan, a Lithuanian, who is also the managing director of the Mercuryo company in Lithuania (MoneyAmber UAB Vilnius, Lithuania). Karen Gevorkjan has appeared several times in Estonian-registered shell companies used as payment service providers for fraud platforms (for example, PRADEXX OÜ (authorisation to provide virtual currency services suspended on 23 November 2022 in the course of an examination procedure by the Estonian FIU)) and NYMERIA OÜ (authorisation to provide virtual currency services was suspended on 27 May 2021 in the course of an examination procedure by the Estonian FIU)). According to various reports, PRADEXX OÜ, acted as a payment provider for six fraud platforms that regulators in Germany, Italy, Portugal and the UK had warned consumers about. NYMERIA OÜ is a company also owned by Russian entrepreneurs that has served FOREX websites as a payment service provider.
According to the company’s data filed with the tax authorities, MoneySwap OÜ had between 1 – 2 employees during the last three years and had a turnover of € 66,490.02 in the first quarter of 2023.
A telephone number in Moscow is given as the contact telephone number.
Withdrawal of authorisation to provide virtual currency services in Estonia
By Decision No. 6-1/331-1 of 16 December 2022, the Estonian FIU withdrew MoneySwap OÜ, Tallinn, from its authorization to provide virtual currency services (FVT000118 providing virtual currency services) in Estonia, due to the company’s failure to comply with money laundering prevention requirements.
According to the decision of the administrative authority, the following findings in particular led to the revocation of the license:
- Failure to properly disclose the beneficial owners of the company.
- No plausible presentation of the corporate structure of the mercuryo group of companies, no disclosure of the management and organizational structure. No disclosure of the cooperation partners with which the company provides virtual currency services.
- Negative result of an internet search (many complaints)
- Multiple involvement in fraud cases as reported on Fintelegram
- Nor does a requested business plan from the complainant reveal the organizational structure of the company or a description of the management structure or other persons with whom the company provides virtual currency services in cooperation.
- No presentation of the financial statements for 2021 until March 2023
 It should be noted that this registration was only valid for offering these services on Estonian soil.
Continued operation poses a risk for retail investors
Mercuryo appealed and asked for approval to continue its operations until the final decision.
By decision of 21 February 2023 of the Tallinn District Court (appellate authority), the revocation of the licence of 16 December 2022 was reconfirmed and it was found that continued operation of the business (until final decision about the appeal) would pose a risk to Estonian citizens as the requirements for compliance with money laundering prevention were not met.
Nethereless MoneySwap OU continued to provide crypto services
A crypto purchase done by EFRI on May 1, 2023 showed that Mercuryo just ignored the Estonian FIU decision s as MoneySwap OU still showed up as the processor of this crypto transaction (we will tell more details about this test transaction soon).
Moneytea Ltd, London, UK
The UK company was incorporated on 21 August 2019 as Moneyrain LTD. According to UK company registration records, the shares are 100% owned by Cypriot company MRCR HOLDINGS LTD (registered office: Limassol, Cyprus; incorporated on 6 May 2019). The company’s Managing Director at incorporation was Anatoly Golubev (Russian national) with address AP.3, 3 Leinina Str. Lermontov, Stavropolcky Kray Russia 357348 (same as MoneySwap OÜ).
Petr Kozyakov (Russian national) was registered as a beneficial beneficiary of MRCR HOLDINGS Ltd on 21 August 2019 with his address at BLD, 21/2, Ap. 57, Zemlyanoy VAL Moscow, Russia on the UK Companies Register.
On 11 March 2022, the new Managing Director, Aleksandr Vasilev was registered as a Russian citizen with Russian residence in the British company register.
On 11 March 2022, Petr Kozyakov’s domicile was changed to London, with the address for service indicated as identical to the office address.
On 20 October 2022, the Company Register was informed that the office address now also served as the address for service for Aleksandr Vasilev.
Doing business via CAURI Ltd in UK
Moneytea LTD has been registered with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority: UK supervisory authority) as an agent for the FCA-supervised e-money institution CAURI LTD, London, UK (Company No: 09507138) since 29 January 2020. The responsibility for the proper conduct of business (prevention of money laundering, etc.) of Moneytea LTD in providing payment services lies with CAURI LTD.
CAURI LTD is also obviously a Russian-owned and Russian-managed company. Thus, in the annual financial statement of the company as of 31 December 2021, submitted on 22 October 2022 under item 13, it is mentioned that CAURI LLC (Russian Federation) provides the software development of the company in outsourcing for CAURI LTD and that this company is part of the CAURI LTD group of companies. The registered owner is E.D.M.S Limited, a Cypriot company with its registered office in Limassol, Cyprus. The beneficial owner of the company is Aleksandr Stepanovs.
Since 20 June 2021, Moneytea LTD has also been an FCA-registered agent in the liability association of Monetley LTD, another FCA-registered e-money institution.
We send someone to check the company’s office facilities and look for employees of the company in the registered office. No results at all.
It should be noted that neither Monetley LTD nor CAURI LTD can provide payment services in the EEA, as both companies are not registered in the register of payment service providers licensed in Europe, maintained by the EBA (European Banking Association).
CAURI´s sanction issues
With an FCA announcement as of 11 January 2023, CAURI LTD (and thus also Moneytea LTD) was explicitly prohibited from providing services to Russian citizens due to corresponding incidents. The company was ordered to explicitly confirm compliance with the UK-Russian sanctions in connection with the provision of crypto transactions with Russian citizens and the separate proof that such transactions will not be carried out.
Money Amber UAB, Vilnius
The company was set up in late 2021. No information about employees, websites, or other public info is available.
The company’s managing director is Karen Gevorjkan, analogous to the Estonian company (cf. the comments on Karen Gevorjkan under MoneySwap OÜ, Tallinn, Estonia).
As of February 2023, MoneyAmber UAB has registered with the Lithuanian FNTT as a service provider for virtual services. Four other such service providers are registered at the same address :
MoneyMaple Tech Ltd, New Westminster, Canada
The Company was incorporated on 18 May 2021, with its registered office at 205-810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster V3M 6B9. The company, for which no data regarding directors and shareholders is publicly available, is registered with FINTRAC in Canada as an MSB (Money Service Provider) under M21565803. Nothing can be found regarding this company’s actual existence at the stated registration place.
Actual place of management of the mercuryo group?
The information about where the headquarters of the mercuryo group of companies is located is contradictory. The company describes itself as a European company, but there is no information about employees in Great Britain, Vilnius, and Tallinn.
On the other hand, numerous indications indicate that the company’s actual headquarters are still in Moscow, Russia.
°Support line in Moscow?
Various websites provide different information on the telephone number under which the customer support of the mercuryo group of companies can be reached:
According to the information on the international website of mercuryo.io, customer support can be reached here (not available):
°opening of luxurious group headquarters in Moscow in April 2021
stay tuned, as we are still working on this case, new info is coming soon.