JUICY Fields has already been called the biggest scam in Europe for ‘many, many years’, and its impact on the world of cannabis and cryptocurrency has been such that a number of documentaries are understood to be exploring the case.
As new evidence continues to emerge, and unknown actors continue to pump out information under the guise of Juicy Fields, the potential scope of the criminal enterprise gets larger, stranger and more farcical than anyone had initially suspected.
Suggestions are now being made that the investment scam was in fact a minor part of a multi-billion-euro money laundering scheme, involving not only the Russian mafia, but also a Colombian cartel, prominent cannabis industry leaders, and ‘fixers’ with ties to both the US and Russian intelligence services.
While these allegations may seem outlandish or wholly unbelievable, the 20,000 pages of evidence from which they have been gleaned will soon be made public, as Lars Olofsson, the Swedish lawyer spearheading a class action lawsuit against the company, prepares to file his case in court.
Throughout his months of research, scouring through the documents provided by hundreds of investors he is now representing, Mr Olofsson says he has only been able to identify the existence of around 125,000 Juicy Fields accounts.
This is significantly less than the 500,000 accounts Juicy Fields’ ‘founding team’ quoted to potential investors before and after its collapse.
Although, due to its source, this figure is clearly unreliable, Mr Olofsson believes the organisation may have unknowingly tipped their hand.
“I’m quite sure they didn’t inflate this number. There wasn’t any reason to do so; it didn’t make any difference.”
He suggests that the 375,000 missing accounts did exist but were fake accounts used to launder money through the Juicy Fields ecosystem.
BusinessCann reported in August that this scam bore ‘all the hallmarks of the Russian mafia’, but Mr Olofsson now believes this was a ‘joint venture between the Russian mafia and Colombian drug cartels’, a partnership he says is not uncommon when it comes to ‘cash management’.
In March, the UN-linked International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reported that drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico were increasingly turning to the loosely regulated world of cryptocurrency to launder their money.
Juicy Fields has a number of confirmed links to Colombian businesses, with a large portion of its cultivation partnerships focusing on the region.
Mr Olofsson says that he has evidence that the CEO and Managing Director of subsidiary Juicy Grow, Viktor Bitner, was also ‘very well connected to Colombia’.
Furthermore, Mr Olofsson says he has evidence from a number of sources suggesting that Mr Bitner, described as an ‘international fixer’, also had connections to the Russian and US intelligence communities.
This has, understandably, made him a key point of interest in the ongoing investigations into Juicy Fields.
“He has definitely been involved in some dealings between the Russians and the US intelligence communities. So, what we are doing now is collecting as much information about his background, his connections, his business dealings as possible.”
While BusinessCann has not been given access to any of this evidence, the entirety of Mr Olofsson’s months of research will soon be laid bare in a ‘Wikileaks-style data dump’.
“At the end of the day I need to present my case in court, and it has to be 100%. So I’m not saying anything if I cannot verify it for sure, and my level of verification needs to be of the quality which courts will accept.”
So far, Mr Olofsson says he has encountered two hurdles. The first was gathering enough evidence to present a solid case; this, he says, is now complete.
The second, and perhaps most challenging part of attempting to combat international cybercrime like this, is jurisdiction.
However, he says he has now ‘found a good way where the courts cannot dismiss my lawsuit’.
“That final piece fell in place about a week ago. So, now, it’s just a matter of practicality and putting all the paperwork together, so it shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks.”
He says his case should be filed by the end of the month and, looking at court procedures and timetables, could see the first public proceedings take place in around April/May 2023.
Once the case has been filed, the evidence all these claims are based upon will be made public, and Mr Olofsson is already working to launch a website to ‘dump’ the raw data.
Last week, a group calling themselves the Juicy Fields Anti-Crisis committee invited a number of journalists and media stakeholders to a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal.
Days later, a video of this supposed meeting was posted online, featuring a group of individuals posing as an anonymous-style group, making claims about returning investors’ money and rebuilding the business.
As these suspicious groups continue their attempts to reel investors back in with their increasingly farcical but undeniably elaborate rhetoric, some other real-world progress is being made.
In October, the Spanish National Court issued a European investigation order requesting that two Cypriot bank accounts connected to Juicy Fields be blocked in order to prevent any more money moving in or out.
According to elDiario.es, one of the first publications to break the Juicy Fields story, the courts have also requested all information related to the owners, attorneys-in-fact and beneficiaries of the accounts, and the seizure of any related assets.
In addition, Europol is reportedly working on tracing the cryptocurrencies held by connected Juicy Fields accounts.
BusinessCann also understands that German authorities are building a class-action lawsuit against the company, while progress has been made to bring a similar case to court in France.
We have reached out to a number of lawyers representing these cases internationally, but at the time of writing have received no responses to requests for comment.
Furthermore, an interesting ruling has been made by the Swedish Supreme Court. This states that victims of so-called ‘vishing’ scams are entitled to have their money returned to them by their banks despite the victims’ gross negligence and the disclosure of private information to unauthorised persons.
The Swedish Consumer Agency is now urging other victims to contact their banks. This could have a direct impact on a number of Swedish Juicy Fields victims and is setting a precedent, which could have huge implications for many victims across Europe.
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