They promised stratospheric profits by buying bitcoins in platforms at cheap prices and reselling them more expensive. The arbitration of cryptocurrencies it was the business of the Arbistar platform, based in Tenerife. They thus managed to attract thousands of customers, who in turn attracted others on the network.
But on September 12, the firm alleged a computer failure in its software in charge of operations, which led to “a 28% mismatch” in the accounts, which means that the money cannot be returned to customers immediately and offered refund options. Now user accounts are frozen. Hundreds of those affected prepare a collective complaint for fraud and the Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation.
Some 30,000 users cannot recover their savings, valued at around 100 million euros
The exact number of those affected is not known (there is talk of 120,000, but it could be about 30,000) or the amount of money of this alleged scam. Initially the Tulip Research research platform (which maintains that we are facing a classic Ponzi-style fraudulent pyramid scheme) spoke of billions of euros, but the amount would finally be around 100 million. Tulip Reseach revealed several Arbistar bitcoin transactions targeting 18 accounts linked to Hydra Market, the most famous Russian black market on the Darknet.
At the command of Arbistar is Santiago Fuentes, who was prosecuted for the scam of the so-called Spanish Madoff, Germán Cardona Soler, but who was acquitted in 2017. “I met them at a fair that presented their products. I trade cryptocurrencies, but when I saw the spread that they claimed to achieve with their arbitrage, I realized that it was implausible. They were ridiculous, ”says AS, a Barcelona-based saver.
Arbistar claims in its defense some liability limitation clauses signed by customers, according to which “the company does not guarantee that the service will be uninterrupted, secure or free of errors” and that it will not be responsible “for any delay or breach of its obligations if the delay or non-compliance is due to a case of force majeure or events beyond the reasonable scope ”.
Carlos Aránguez, the lawyer handling one of the complaints, refutes that “we are not facing a risky investment, but a pyramid fraud because there is no asset at all.” The lawyer maintains that the money, which was fed by the contributions of clients who recommended others, has been hidden and that it is “floating” in the universe of cryptocurrencies (whose trace is difficult to detect) and has been reinvested in real estate and luxury goods.
“They sold us a guaranteed 10% monthly profit. And I invested capital. I never collected the returns and now I am left with nothing, ”says Marcos Peralta, one of those affected in Barcelona. “It is an international scam that also extends to Latin American countries,” he adds. “There were people who mortgaged their houses and now there are even those who threaten to commit suicide.”