Dozens of Belgians may have been trapped by crypto fraudsters

Dozens of Belgians may have been trapped by crypto fraudsters
Dozens of Belgians may have been trapped by crypto fraudsters
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Sky-high returns, with peaks of up to 20 percent per month. With that promise, the founders of Crypto4winners lured investors over the past five years who wanted to reinvest crypto coins – especially bitcoin, ethereum and tether – on their online investment platform. They not only advertised this via the internet, but also gave presentations at meetings of crypto investors throughout Europe.

And so in April 2022, a conference room on Avenue Louise in Brussels was full of enthusiasts for a lecture by Adrien Castellani, the CEO of Crypto4winners. In presence of The standard he gave a presentation in which he also fenced with high returns. “We can help anyone who wants to earn more money. We have already earned $20 million for our clients. Ideal for that apartment in Dubai,” Castellani told the packed room. He presented his platform as an investment fund that was monitored by a fifteen-person team of analysts and fund managers. “There are many scammers active in the crypto world, but you have come to the right place,” assured Castellani.

The public prosecutor’s office of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg appears to think differently about this. In mid-March, it arrested two suspects in an investigation into Crypto4winners. The two are suspected of fraud and money laundering, according to a press release. A public prosecutor’s office spokesperson confirms The standard that the duo was arrested by the investigating judge and is still in custody. Victims were asked to report.

The Luxembourg public prosecutor’s office does not want to name the suspects, but according to local media and sources The standard these are Adrien Castellani himself and his business partner Luc Schiltz, both Luxembourgish. Shortly after the arrests, all of Castellani’s social media accounts were taken offline, as was the Crypto4winners website. Castellani’s mobile phone had been switched off in recent days and he also did not answer WhatsApp messages and emails.

Convicted before

Crypto4winners users started feeling the pinch in early March. Refunds to customers have not been issued since. On March 8, the social media platform Telegram announced that the company had launched an internal investigation into “technical irregularities”. A day later, the company reported “possible fraud by an employee.” Since then it has been quiet.

According to the Luxembourg news site Virgule Castellani himself filed a complaint against business partner Schiltz on March 10, alleging fraud. Schiltz was sentenced to six years in prison by a Luxembourg court in 2017 for fraud with investment funds. Crypto4winners always kept Schiltz’s involvement hidden as best as possible. The parent holding company C4Wave Capital was registered in Sweden, where it was reprimanded by the financial authorities in October 2023 for not publishing annual reports. Investors’ crypto coins were systematically channeled to two companies in Dubai, in the names of Castellani and Schiltz.

“At the beginning of March I wanted some of my crypto coins back. Despite repeated promises, Crypto4winners did not agree,” says a victim from Kontich, who only wishes to respond anonymously. “I then asked for my entire bitcoin portfolio back. I was supposed to get it at the end of March, which never happened. Including the promised returns, we are talking about more than 100,000 euros, although I do not believe that those returns were ever actually realized. I have been working on crypto coins for ten years, but this now appears to have been too good to be true.”

Amnesia

It is not clear exactly how many victims there are. Crypto4winners always claimed it had around 4,000 customers, but it may actually have only half as many. Liège-based lawyer Florian Ernotte has collected complaints from about a hundred victims in recent days, including about twenty Belgians. He’s working on a class action lawsuit. The Belgian stock exchange regulator FSMA is also aware of the file and has already received at least one complaint.

“Dozens of new victims report to us every day,” says Ernotte. “These are enormous amounts of money. Our analysis of Crypto4winners’ public logs shows that there may have been more than 100 million euros worth of crypto coins in their accounts. As far as we can see, all elements point to pyramid fraud.” Striking detail: Schiltz was involved in a car accident on March 4. According to Ernotte, he stated that he has since suffered from memory loss and therefore no longer has access to the crypto coins.

Cryptosquare, the Brussels organization that invited Castellani several times, regrets the situation. “That is precisely why we insist on regulation. Moreover, we never tell people where to put their money. We only inform about the possibilities, everyone has to do their own research,” says co-founder Edouard Estour. “By the way, investors have also lost a lot of money with traditional investments.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Dozens Belgians trapped crypto fraudsters

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