It would be remiss of me to not inform readers of the current situation with few of the Crowdlending Platforms, specifically Envestio and Kuetzal. Unfortunately, both of the platforms look to be in some trouble and are unresponsive for comments.
So whats happened?
Investors started digging around the projects on Kuetzal, only to find that some of these didn’t exist. This caused an inspection of all of the projects on the platform, and then on Envestio as well. After seeing the results, many people requested their money back, causing a “bank-run” forcing the platforms to shut down. The platforms now have both vanished from the internet, and both Kuetzal and Envestio are now under investigation for fraud.
How it Started
Following on from the report about Alborg Petrol released by Explore P2P (see here), many investors looked further into the projects issued by Kuetzal. Jørgen from Financially Free did some research and found 8 concerning issues (his report here). This then sent Facebook into a frenzy, and many people contacted every company with any connection with Kuetzal (i.e. borrowers, banks, management, past management). Additionally, the CEO left near the end of 2019 and took some of the staff as well. Following on from the allogations and requests for information, Kuetzal issued a letter to investors saying that the company is going to wind down.
Unfortunately, all investors that have put money into Kuetzal, received a letter announcing a wind-down of processes.
Dear Kuetzal investor,
Our team wants to apologize for delays in payments and replies to e-mails received.
Unfortunately we have to inform that Kuetzal is announcing wind-down, furthermore the company will only process withdrawals of the funds, the company is no longer accepting new project applications, investors registrations and deposits. Company’s reputation was harmed sufficiently for the past weeks, and Kuetzal management does not see a way to recover investor’s activity, therefore we may not return to usual working process. The mission of the company may not be reached anymore.
Due to high number of reports, claims and negative messages SEB Bank and PAPAYA (the only two banks that Kuetzal used) initiated the AML check and has temporarily blocked Kuetzal’s bank accounts. Kuetzal is currently unable to perform any operations for undefined period. Kuetzal management is aiming to reestablish the activity of both operational bank accounts and perform buy-backs and withdrawals in shortest terms respectively.
Kuetzal will keep the investors informed.
We have not been able to make Kuetzal a successful player on crowdfunding market. We will however aim to exit the market quietly with minimum repercussion to our customers and the whole crowdfunding market. The website functions furthermore will be limited, only the user area will be kept. All the user area functions will continue working as before.
In case of technical issues with withdrawals or other question we kindly ask to use our contact mail instead of social networks or cellphone to receive the fastest service.
This is disappointing and also worrying news for current investors who have placed thousands of euros in their care. What will happen to the funds? No-one knows at this point yet, however it’s looking more and more like a scam each day. The letter did specify that buy-backs and withdrawals will be performed when possible, but other people have suggested that these may not happen at all as the money never existed. For the moment we will have to wait and see as to how management responds.
Following on from the many reports that the police have recieved, it is noted that a criminal investigation has been launched against Kuetzal by the General Prosecutors office.
An interesting review between Roasted Peer Duck and Explore P2P discusses the possibilities of what will happen next. The interview can be found here.
Envestio was the next to fall. The following statements were released:
Then nothing. Blank empty space. The website went down, social profiles were removed and all of the mangers have gone into hiding. Now a lot of money has vanished and people are asking lots of questions.
Since then there has only been one message of contact from an unverified “freelancer” that claims to have no connections to the management.
Investors were quick to submit reports to the Police, with the Police now launching an investigation into Envestio.
The next steps
There have been many groups on Facebook being created, aiming to consolodate findings and bring a legal case against Envestio and Kuetzal.
The European Crowdfunding Network (which Kuetzal and Envestio were apart of) has reported both platforms to the National Conduct Authority.
Additionally, it has been suggested that individual investors assess their situation, and if you feel necessary, submit a claim with the Estonian Police and Border Guard here.
For Kuetzal, there is a telegram group here.
According to the Estonian Police article: Were Envestio and Kuetzal a fraud? investors that are affected have a few options for where to turn. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
What should I do if I lost money with either Envestio or Kuetzal?
If you placed your money with Envestio, download and fill in the crime report form and email it to us at [email protected] You will receive an automatic reply and we will ask you to fill out the form attached and enclose any documents in your possession relating to Envestio SI OÜ, proving that you have suffered damage. You can ignore the automated e-mail if you have already complied with the requirements set out in the letter.
If you placed your money with Kuetzal, e-mail us at [email protected] If we need any additional information, we will contact you.Estonian Police and Boarder Guard
Will I get my money back?Estonian Police and Boarder Guard
Usually, in case of international fraud money is quickly shifted between accounts in different countries until it is withdrawn through an ATM. Due to this the chance to recover the money is small.
These types of things are what make these platforms “high-risk”. Unfortunately, many investors (including myself) have been sucked into the high-interest rates and favorable terms that the companies were offering.
It is a shame that these things happen, but also a necessity for new and reliable projects to be built. Following on from the abundance of reports of Kuetzal and Envestio, the Ministry of Finance will empower the Financial Supervision Authority to start overseeing co-financing platforms, commencing regulation in the sector.
It is currently a free-for-all with investors, bloggers, and other interested parties all having something to say, and someone else to blame.
In the end, if we spent all of this time finding out if the projects and platforms were legitimate, they would have been shut down a long time ago.