Amer Abdulaziz Salman, the Dubai-based founder and CEO of the high-flying Phoenix Fund Investments that has spent tens of millions of dollars at bloodstock auctions and in private sales globally since its 2017 launch, was named in a criminal case in New York as “one of the main money launderers” affiliated with a multi-billion-dollar cryptocurrency pyramid scheme.
The allegations against Abdulaziz were made by Konstantin Ignatov, co-founder of Bulgaria-based OneCoin and a cooperating witness for the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York in the money-laundering trial of attorney Mark Scott. A former partner in Locke Lord, Scott on Nov. 21 was found guilty of one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Abdulaziz, a native of Bahrain, has neither been charged with a crime or named as an unindicted co-conspirator. On Monday, Phoenix Thoroughbreds posted on Twitter the following statement on behalf of the Phoenix Fund Investments LLC, denying all allegations against the company and Abdulaziz.
“Phoenix Fund Investments LLC categorically denies all allegations made against it, and its owner, Mr. Amer Abdulaziz, in legal proceedings against OneCoin and its conspirators in the US.
“Phoenix Fund Investments LLC believes that the firm and Mr. Amer Abdulaziz have acted according to the law at all times, and will vigorously contest all allegations of wrongdoing. Phoenix Fund Investments LLC will fully cooperate with relevant authorities should they require any assistance.
“Phoenix Fund Investments LLC is currently seeking legal advice and will take appropriate action against those involved in the publication of false and defamatory statements.”
The U.S. attorney's office called OneCoin a “multi-level marketing network through which members receive commissions for recruiting others to purchase cryptocurrency packages. OneCoin Ltd. has claimed to have over three million members worldwide, including victims living in the Southern District of New York. Records obtained in the course of the investigation show that, between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the third quarter of 2016 alone, OneCoin Ltd. generated 3.353 billion euros in sales revenue and earned “profits” of 2.232 billion euros.”
OneCoin was operated by Konstanin Ignatov and co-founded by his sister, Ruja Ignatova, whose current whereabouts are unknown.
Scott, interviewed by the FBI at the time of his arrest in 2018, said some of the funds from OneCoin were transferred to a fund in Dubai named Phoenix Investments, run by a person he identified as “Amar something.”
When Konstanin Ignatov was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport earlier this year and charged with wire fraud, the federal complaint stated that “the Investigative Team has traced approximately 185 million (euros) in funds derived from the OneCoin scheme laundered through a series of bank accounts to an investment fund account in the United Arab Emirates. Specifically, between in or about February 2017 and in or about April 2017, a purported investment fund with an account at a bank in Ireland sent approximately 11 wire transfers totaling 185 million euros to the UAE Investment Fund.”
That same charging document, referring to a June 2018 message exchange between Ignatov and a OneCoin employee in Dubai, states that Ignatov sent a photograph of the Dubai fund manager, presumed to be Abdulaziz, celebrating a victory at the Royal Ascot race meeting. “This fffff is in Ascot having fun with our $,” the message reads.
The complaint then states: “Based on my training, experience and participation in this investigation, it appears that Dubai OneCoin employee is referring to the fact that the money that the UAE Fund Manager was helping to launder was OneCoin proceeds (“our $”) that had been laundered through the Ireland Fund.
Inner City Press, an investigative journalism website run by Matthew Russell Lee, covered the Mark Scott trial and published this exchange between the assistant U.S. attorney and Ignatov, a cooperating witness in the case who has pleaded guilty to several charges, including money laundering and fraud.
“Assistant U.S. attorney: 'Who did Gilbert Armenta (founder of a Florida-based asset management company) work with on money laundering?'
“Ignatov: 'Mark Scott, Amer Abdulaziz.'
“After a sidebar discussion, the assistant U.S. attorney said: 'We'll come back to Mr. Aziz, who stole at least 100 million euros from OneCoin.'
“Assistant U.S. attorney: 'Who was this Mr. Aziz?'
“Ignatov: 'One of the main money launderers for Ruja.'
“Assistant U.S. attorney: 'Did you ever report to the police any of these theft?'
“Ignatov: 'No. The money came from a criminal activity.'
“So in this U.S. federal trial,” Lee wrote in Inner City Press, “under oath and not contradicted by any of the cross-examination, Amer Abdulaziz was named as a launderer of money from criminal activity, who went beyond that and stole $100 million euro from OneCoin and Ruja (Ignatova).”
Phoenix Thoroughbreds, thought to be something similar to a mutual fund for Thoroughbreds, began its spending spree in March 2017, one month after the U.S. government alleges the wire transfers began with the investment fund in the UAE and the bank in Ireland. According to the Phoenix Thoroughbreds website, the operation has “has grown into an emerging force on the global racing stage with over 300 horses worldwide. … We have massive ambition, we do not deny that; we want to compete with the very best at the very top, both in terms of racing and breeding. That is all part of our vision; to breed top class horses to race for our investors and trade as necessary to secure a profit, as well as a lot of fun along the way!”
On Monday, Phoenix Thoroughbreds issued the following statement via Twitter on behalf of Phoenix Fund:
Phoenix Fund response to recent allegations:
“Phoenix Fund Investments LLC categorically denies all allegations made against it, and its owner, Mr. Amer Abdulaziz, in legal proceedings against OneCoin and its conspirators in the US…” pic.twitter.com/V5JitYJ74J
— Phoenix Thoroughbred (@PhoenixThoroug1) November 25, 2019
UPDATE: This article and headline were updated to include a statement made on behalf of Phoenix Fund Investments LLC.
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