Success to Shelton Street

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By Indranie Deolal

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, a private liability entity based in Guyana, and virtually unknown outside, hurriedly paid a negligible fee in pounds sterling and was newly incorporated with Companies House, the United Kingdom’s (UK) registrar, in Cardiff, Wales. The date was Tuesday, May 12, 2020.

Assigned number 12596993 by the executive agency which operates more like a business and handles its own revenues and expenses separately, as opposed to official government funding, the local company submitted the name of RF Secretaries Limited, as its proposed registered office address within the UK, six days later in keeping with the simple requirements for filing. See https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/12596993

Easy to miss

“The company confirms that the corporate body named has consented to act as secretary,” it advised Companies House in electronic correspondence, dating the appointment as May 13, the next day. The registered or principal office address of RF Secretaries Limited was given as 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, England WC2H 9JQ and it was listed as a UK firm under the European Economic Area (EEA), registered 12269067.

Easy to miss, there is an underlined disclaimer at the top of every page of the online public register. In pale blue, small font type, it bluntly warns: “Companies House does not verify the accuracy of the information filed.”

No longer exists

In fact, a quick search of the very register revealed RF Secretaries Limited no longer exists. It was voluntarily dissolved on January 30, 2018, four years after it was incorporated, and two years from when its accounts were last made up with a statement of capital of just £100, as indicated by the outgoing directors, Graeme Charles Donnelly and Steven David Hutton, both from Scotland.

The local, unlicensed entity, Accelerated Capital Firm Incorporated Limited (ACF) is now at the centre of widening fraud investigations into an estimated US$20-US$30 million Ponzi scheme that ensnared thousands of people.

G$ 1 million capital

In its 33-page application to the British Companies Register, detailing its Memorandum of Association, ACF lists its own capital in Guyana dollars at a mere $1 million, or 10,000 allotted shares, with the couple, the Cuban-mastermind, Yuri Garcia Dominguez, born March 1986 and his wife, Ateeka Ishmael, born August 1987, listed as both having Guyanese nationality and as the only two directors also appointed on May 12, 2020.

Their address is recorded as 380 Railway Line, Success, East Coast Demerara, Demerara-Mahaica. Ishmael is identified as corporate secretary, appointed May 13, 2020, in a scant two-page attached piece. The two also claimed in a related “Statement of Compliance” that the requirements of the UK Companies Act 2006 were adhered to.

Stamped certificate

Companies House issued the stamped Certificate of Incorporation on May 12, 2020, to ACF, with a registered office in England and Wales through RF Secretaries. Yet, all the information “communicated by electronic means” was said to be “authenticated by the Registrar of the Companies under section 1115 of the Companies Act 2006.”

According to the Register’s open file history, in their submission, Garcia-Dominguez and Ishmael were each reported, in initial shareholdings to own 5000 ordinary shares with a nominal value of only G$100 per share, with an unpaid amount of an incredible G$100 or about US$0.50 cents. However, the two are named as “individual person(s) with significant control details” with each supposedly owning more than 25 percent but not more than 50 percent of the company, even though the figures are at obvious odds with the said allotted shares. They are the only two subscribers to the Memorandum of Association, dated April 17, 2020.

Articles of association

Apparently lifting the 17 pages detailing the Articles of Association from an online database, the pair did not appear to notice or bother to alter contradictory information such as Clause 30 governing the purchase of new shares, which said, subject to the 2006 Act, “the company may purchase its own shares with cash up to any amount in a financial year not exceeding the lower of: (a) £15 000; or (b) the value of five percent of the Company’s share capital.”

According to the information forwarded by the principals, the ACF’s nature of business constituted three sections “Activities of investment trusts, Administration of financial markets and Fund management activities.” First accounts made up to May 31, 2021 were due by February 12, 2022, while an associated confirmation statement dated May 11, 2021, was due by May 25, 2021.

Over 50 charges

Last week, the pair were slapped with an additional 11 charges of conspiracy to commit a felony in Guyana and were granted bail of G$300,000 (approx. US$1,500) on each charge. They now face a total of over 50 charges for fraud and related offences. On Monday, they appeared before the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, following 10 charges and were granted G$1 million (US$5,000) bail each. Days before, the duo were placed on 19 charges of conspiring with other persons to obtain monies by false pretence.

So far, the police have obtained just 69 statements from bilked investors who reached out to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). These individuals had 77 transactions amounting to G$135 million, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum disclosed. An estimated 17, 000 people participated in the scheme which advertised online and through an army of marketers and agents who roped in friends and family for a commission. The firm claimed to invest in stock markets and to trade foreign currency, rice futures, gold, oil, and in Bitcoin cryptocurrency. ACF boasted on its website that it was certified by the International Financial Market Relations Regulation Center (IFMRRC), a Russian agency.

International watch-list

Back in February 2008, the British daily Times newspaper and the digital tech and information website Computer Weekly broke the story that almost 4,000 of the names on the British Companies House Register of Directors were on international watch-lists of alleged fraudsters, money launderers, terror financiers and corrupt officials.

The shocking results came from Datanomic, a respected UK customer data software provider, later acquired by Oracle, the American multinational technology corporation. Datanomic screened the then 6.8 million names on the Register against a World-Check database of 750,000 high-risk individuals and businesses operating in the UK.

Crimes and near matches

Datanomic uncovered individuals involved in financial crimes, others wanted by Interpol for terrorism, narcotics traffickers, and nearly 1,000 domestic and foreign politically exposed persons. There were a further 27,000 near matches from the initial scan, media reports said. The analysis revealed over 1,500 disqualified company directors were allowed to run other British firms as Companies House was not checking names against its register of disqualified persons. Many of these directors were even operating firms from prison.

It seems nothing much has changed with Companies House, as we contemplate the still-detained pair who suddenly sought British certification, from the back lanes of Success to Shelton Street in London. On social media, blurry images purporting to be over US$14 million in balances held by ACF in an online site Primetrust.com have emerged, creating a frenzy among hard-core supporters and speculators who still believe they will get their promised riches and all outstanding monies back. As one man commented, “Wow. A name and some numbers with a dollar sign in front. Must be true.

*ID does not need an Oracle to know a pyramid or Ponzi scheme when she hears of guaranteed 40 percent monthly returns on investments and the generous need to spread wealth among paupers, pundits, punters and plumbers.

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