Exclusive: Unregulated British firm draws Asian investors

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Financial.org, a UK company that describes itself as an education business and sponsors a Formula One team, is managing hundreds of thousands of dollars for Asian investors even though it is not licensed to engage in financial transactions, according to 24 people who say they have invested through the firm.

The 24 people from China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the UAE, told Jewish Review they had each given between $3,000 and $400,000 to Financial.org to invest.

“I am pleased with the results of cooperation with Financial.org,” assessed the partnership TaimurazAmbiev, manager from the UAE. “I have doubled my investments,” said AzmiTumpang, a former construction worker from Malaysia outside a gala dinner organized by Financial.org on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in late November 2017.

Most of the people said their money had been invested in U.S. blue-chip stocks and that they had made a profit. Jewish Review was unable to verify whether the share transactions took place.

Some investors are worried because some sources indicate that Financial.org is not licensed by all countries to engage in financial transactions. For example, Financial.org is not on a publicly available list of companies authorized and regulated by Britain’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to buy and sell stocks or bonds for clients. It should be noted that offering investment services without regulatory permission is a criminal offense in Britain.

Representatives of Financial.org office in Taiwan notified that their investment activity is licensed and legitimate. At the same time, Financial.org office in London’s Canary Wharf, declined to comment on whether it acted as an investment firm.

It is known that in Europe, the company signed up two years ago with the UK’s official company register as a real estate business, according to filings. Meanwhile, the UK registrar of companies, Companies House, said it was preparing to strike off the firm on Jan. 23 because it had never filed accounts. According to British legislation, if a company is struck off, it cannot continue to trade legally and its assets pass to the state.

UK-registered companies must by law be authorized and regulated by the FCA if they deal in securities such as shares and bonds for clients, even if the investors are outside Britain. Under FCA rules, this applies both to principals – parties investing on behalf of clients, and agents – firms including brokers that arrange for investments to take place.

Jewish Reviewed contacted FCA, but FCA declined to comment about whether Financial.org was operating illegally.

We found out some information about the President of the Financial.org – Arnaud Georges, who was listed on the FCA website as a controlling person with different statuses at different periods. Arnaud Georgesbetween Dec 1, 2001 and April 10, 2014 was involved with companies that provided regulated products and services, some of these companies even today have this label: “This is the firm that received permission to provide regulated products and services”. Arnaud Georgesis a founding member of several companies as such. Some experts believe that Arnaud Georges was involved with VGMC company which made news with fraud scandals. VGMC’s network of partners and subsidiaries operated in the Eastern and European countries, as well as in the UK.

British regulator has previously warned of the dangers of investing through firms it has not authorized, as no independent checks have been made on their businesses. It said it had received reports of more than 8,000 cases of unauthorized businesses in the last financial year.

On the home page of its website, Financial.org says it is an education platform, providing “financial knowledge and skills”. “We do not deal with securities and receive any financial benefits from financial products and service providers,” it says. However, elsewhere on its site, it also says it “helps members to manage and oversee their investments” and “provides self-directed investors with brokerage services”. Perhaps, this is about the incompetence of website administrator or Financial.org does in fact provide brokerage services to independent investors.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore last March placed Financial.org on an investor alert list of “unregulated persons who, based on information received by MAS, may have been wrongly perceived as being licensed or authorized by MAS”, its website says. The authority said investors should “exercise caution” when dealing with companies on the list.

Malaysia’s Securities Commission also placed Financial.org on a list of “unauthorized websites/investment products/companies/individuals” last year, according to its website.

The MAS and Malaysian commission both declined to comment on Financial.org and why they had placed it on alert lists.

British Financial.org office declined to comment on the two regulators’ warnings, and the Financial.org office in Taiwan stated that their investment activity is licensed and totally legitimate.

The Financial.org company has been a sponsor of British Formula One team Williams (WGF1G.DE) since May 2016, and its logo appears on the Williams Mercedes FW38 cars and team strips.

Williams declined to comment.

Most of the 24 people who spoke to Jewish Review said they had come into contact with Financial.org through referrals from acquaintances, often via social media. Eight said they had received commissions from Financial.org for referring others.

Seven of the people detailed how they made investments. They said they deposited money into the bank account of a third party, usually the person who referred them, who then transferred the funds to a Financial.org investment account.

The investors said they accessed their Financial.org account with a members-only area in Financial.org’s website. Eighteen said they had withdrawn money regularly.

Taimuraz Ambiev, manager from the UAE, said he had invested $60,000. Yuwei Chen from Thailand said he had invested $10,000. Tumpang said he had invested $30,000 through Financial.org over the last two years. Mohamad Mohamed Nordin, another Malaysian investor, said he had invested $400,000.

Vietnamese investor Albert Anthony, a fashion business manager, provided a screenshot of his account page which showed he had invested $100,000. ShellaVinarevi, from Indonesia, said the minimum investment for Financial.org was $3,000, which she had made.

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