In a year in which bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general experience a sharp price correction, thousands of clients of the MSK Invest crypto trading platform claim to have lost their invested money due to broken promises.
According to reports heard by Sheetcustomers invested up to BRL 600,000, attracted by the offer of hefty gains from trading cryptocurrencies, usually on the recommendation of a family member or close friend who had already deposited some amount and was receiving what had been agreed.
Investigations conducted by the Civil Police of São Paulo point to the suspicion that the operation may be a financial pyramid scheme and money laundering, which would have attracted about 4,000 customers and moved approximately R$ 700 million.
When contacted, MSK did not respond to requests for an interview.
According to people who made investments with MSK, throughout 2019 and 2020, and also during much of 2021, the company paid the interest established in the contract on the agreed dates.
In December 2021, however, MSK released a first statement on its social networks, saying that it would have to discontinue the product offered to customers, according to itself, due to crypto market regulations under discussion in Congress that would make operations and the possibility of obtaining gains with cryptocurrencies.
On the occasion, the company presented a dissolution, in which it committed to return the amounts initially contributed by the customers, without the incidence of the promised interest, in ten equal installments, as of January 2022.
On January 13, MSK closed an agreement with Procon-SP, in which it reinforced the commitment to return the money to customers, but postponing the beginning of payments to March.
About two weeks after making the promise with the consumer protection body, however, the company came up with a new argument, that MSK’s main crypto trader would have diverted the bitcoins that were supposed to be in its possession, making it unfeasible, thus, the return of values to the customers.
In an interview with Sheet, the operator accused by MSK denies the allegations. Saulo Gonçalves Roque says that he only had a contract with the company to provide advice on trends in the crypto market, but that he was not authorized to access the alleged cryptocurrencies held by MSK.
“I made myself available to the authorities, my statements were crucial for the investigations and I did not appropriate any MSK cryptocurrency,” says Roque. “MSK is nothing but a scam,” he says.
A lawyer at the Fernando Martins Advogados Associados office who works in the defense of about 50 clients injured by MSK, Paulo Vianna says that one of the company’s partners, Glaidson Tadeu Rosa, already knew Saulo even before MSK began its activities, in mid-2016 .
According to Vianna, they would have met when Saulo was working with investments in cryptocurrencies at the company STM, and, at the time, the MSK partner would have already faced problems receiving the amounts contributed in the business. And even then, he hired him to provide services to the company years later, according to the lawyer.
“In the lawsuit that MSK’s partners, Glaidson Rosa and Carlos Eduardo de Lucas, filed against Saulo, they accuse him of being the manager of the company’s crypto wallets and that they were stolen, disclaiming guilt, but they do not speak of the previous relationship that already existed between them, which is completely contradictory”, says the lawyer.
According to lawyer Elaine Keller, from the Keller Sociedade Advocacia office, which serves around 200 clients who have invested money in MSK, the arguments used by the company’s partners to postpone payments were made only to buy time and manage to divert most of the amounts detained by customers.
She says that, in April, MSK even filed a request for judicial recovery, but the new attempt to delay the process that seeks to restore customers was rejected by the Justice.
“It is impossible to guarantee a fixed and monthly return on investment in the contract, and at the level they pointed out, even more so when dealing with a volatile asset such as cryptocurrencies”, says the expert. “The whole scenario involving the company indicated the characteristics of a fraudulent and financial pyramid operation”, she adds.
Investors sold car and convinced relatives
Iza Sconza, a 64-year-old resident of São Paulo, says she was unemployed during the pandemic and gathered the savings she had saved with her husband, which until then had been in savings. She was looking for a higher income to face the day-to-day bills that began to accumulate.
At the suggestion of a niece who had already invested in MSK, Sconza invested around R$ 150 thousand in the company, in mid-April 2021. Iza says that she ended up convincing her youngest son to also invest his financial reserves in the business, with a additional amount of R$ 40 thousand.
After receiving interest for the first six months of the contract and having renewed the agreement, she says that, in mid-November of last year, payments began to be delayed, until, in December, she stopped receiving any amount from the from MSK.
According to her, her son, who suffers from heart problems, had a serious arrhythmia when he became aware of the company’s claims that he would no longer have the values and developed in recent months a picture of depression.
“Due to this situation with my son, I contacted the company and begged them to return his R$40,000. He said that they didn’t even need to return my money, but that my son’s health was at stake, but no one paid the slightest attention.”
An insurance broker in Rio de Janeiro, who prefers not to be identified, says that she was convinced about the investment after receiving a referral from a colleague with whom she had worked in the insurance area.
According to her, her colleague’s very convincing speech about the seriousness of the business led her to believe that it was a reputable company.
The brokerage says that the inauguration of a headquarters considered to be of high standard by MSK in the region of Barra da Tijuca, in Rio de Janeiro, helped to form a positive image. There was also a head office in the region of Avenida Engenheiro Luiz Carlos Berrini, where a large number of companies in São Paulo are concentrated.
She says she invested around R$200,000 in August last year, sold the car to supplement the value, and even convinced her father, now retired, to invest another R$50,000 in the business.
From then on, the reports of the series of customers heard by the report are repeated, with the payment of interest agreed in the first months after the contract, the interruption of payments at the end of last year and the lack of any assistance from the company after the allegations of diversion of cryptocurrencies by one of its employees.
Beware of Non-standard Profit Promises
According to delegate José Mariano de Araújo Filho, of the DPPC (Department of Police for the Protection of Citizenship), which is conducting the investigation involving MSK, the police obtained judicial authorization to break the bank and tax secrecy of the company and the main partners, and now seeks to trace the money that would have been diverted through other companies of the group and possible oranges, in an attempt to recover the values and, in this way, to reimburse the damaged customers.
“The company appears to be a financial pyramid, but only the economic and financial analysis of the evidence will prove it”, says the delegate, who also raises the suspicion of the crime of money laundering.
Executive Director of Procon-SP, Guilherme Farid says that consumers should double their attention when faced with a promise of return outside the market standards, as was the case with MSK.
“In particular, when the business involves cryptocurrencies, a type of asset known not only for its high volatility, but also for not distributing any kind of dividend that could eventually be passed on to the client,” says Farid. For him, another point of attention is the fact that the crypto market still does not have robust regulation in the country.
The director says that, after entering into the agreement with MSK and noticing that customer complaints continued to mount, he sent a letter to the DPPC in February, requesting the investigation of the complaints. The inspection area of Procon-SP conducts an investigation into the case, which could result in a fine of up to R$ 13 million against the company.
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