Investigation Archives • Page 7 of 7 • SynQ

Category: Investigation

January 2020 Recap

January Recap

January 2020 has proven to be an interesting start to the new decade. Within a short period of a few weeks, the world experienced multiple crises in quick succession.


On January 3rd, 2020, the Trump administration authorized an airstrike which took the life of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The strike was justified by the administration as an act of self-defense, citing “imminent” threats to U.S personnel and assets. This event was the catalyst for widespread concern.

But regardless of the reason, rising tensions between the two nations has understandably caused worldwide civil unrest, as further conflicts will deescalate into further violence in the Middle East. If war is declared, forces of both countries and their allies will undoubtedly also be involved.

Q: Global relations aren’t the greatest right now, but what do you do when life gives you lemons that taste like imminent war?

A: You invest in the military complex and commodities such as precious metals, oil and in recent times – cryptocurrency.


The tension between Iran and the United States show clear correlations with global economics. The value of the traditional market and commodities reacted timely with the events as they happened, and in expectations of financial traders. 

Military Contractors

The military-industrial complex stocks had a field day, unsurprisingly.


It can be seen across multiple commodity markets that during times of global economic uncertainty, these markets react quickly as a “safe haven” from traditional stocks. This has been seen multiple times with precious metals and oil but now seems to be a common theme with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. An impending war triggered these markets once the news of the US airstrike began to spread as it seemed as if the US was on the brink of “boots on the ground” in Iran. Though the current situation has de-escalated for now, we can assume that as soon as tensions rise. Embassies are under attack and missiles are being launched, we can expect to see the same type of trends to play out again.   


Precious Metals


For now, military tensions between both parties have eased, and they have chosen to remain amicable with each other. The Trump administration has chosen to refrain from military retaliation and has opted to enforce additional sanctions on the country of Iran.



Just as festivities begin to ramp up on the Eastern side of the globe in anticipation of Lunar New Years, Mother Nature has one last surprise for humanity. On December 31st, 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of mysterious infectious pneumonia in Wuhan, China.


Thought to have originated from the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the establishment was quickly shut down on January 1st, 2020. However, it had proved to be too late and the number of infected individuals quickly exceeded 40.


It took a week, but officials were able to identify the new virus as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS, MERS, and the common cold. In fact, it is ~79.5% genetically identical to SARS.  Designated as nCoV-2019, the virus will be temporarily named Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, or NCP. 


The fatality rates are yet to be determined. It is currently estimated to range from 1.4 –  2.1%, based on official figures. One recent research published in The Lancet suggests it could potentially even be as high as 11%. One month into the SARS outbreak, there were 5 victims. The new coronavirus claimed at least 213 in the same amount of time. The death toll from 2019-nCoV has already surpassed that of SARS on February 8, 2020.

The quickly rising numbers of infected patients could be due to the extremely contagious nature of 2019-nCoV. The virus has a symptom-free incubation period of up to 21 days, and can survive in the atmosphere outside a host body for more than two days. Chinese researchers in Hong Kong estimated that one infected individual can pass the contagion along to 3 – 5 others, using a factor called the virus’ R0 value. The World Health Organization believes that the coronavirus’s R0 value is lower at 1.4 – 2.5 people.


Even as nations are desperately contributing to the efforts of disease prevention, the numbers of victims continue to quickly rise. There are currently 43,101 confirmed cases in 28 countries, with 1,018 deaths so far as of February 11, 2020.


The potential for a global crisis has not been overlooked and taken lightly, as national officials around the world quickly started to enforce travel restrictions and quarantines. China, especially, has been busy. So far, 16 cities in China have been placed under restrictions, which affects about 46 million people, and is the largest quarantine in human history. 


Multiple major corporations such as Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Tesla and Google with operating offices, retail stores, and manufacturing factories have temporarily shut down all facilities across China. The nation extended the Lunar New Year holidays and was expected to reopen their factories on February 3rd. That date was eventually extended until February 10th due to the circumstances of the viral outbreak. Even after, manufacturers will remain closed pending approval from the central and provincial governments.


A poll by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai found that 87% of participants believe that the coronavirus will directly impact 2020 revenues, with 24% expecting revenues to decrease by >16%. China’s 2020 projected GDP growth has also been readjusted to be 1% lower than expected in Q4 2019. According to the Federal Reserve, the disruptions this virus is causing in China will be felt throughout global economies. Understandably so, when China is the manufacturing center of the world.


So let’s do a quick comparison of the differences between traditional markets and cryptocurrencies, and how this virus outbreak has affected both.

Stock Indexes

There’s no real time GDP tracker so the next best thing are stock indexes.

Traditional Stocks

Companies with facilities affected by China’s quarantine

[BONUS] Apple iPhones

Three companies that together make Apple iPhones


However, the current pandemic of surrounding the novel coronavirus is an ongoing event. The full effect of the virus is likely yet to be felt. More as the situation develops in February.



Global Crypto Adoption

Cryptocurrencies have grown from a niche underground market to become a diverse financial industry with many applications in daily life and in economics.

The cryptocurrencies in circulation are versatile, and can be utilized as a store-of-value, investment, and /or as a currency to facilitate the exchange of goods and services.

Growth has been a steady progression on multiple fronts for the market. Adoption has been growing at a faster rate than before since 2017, due to an increase in mainstream awareness. 

As of now, Bitcoin alone has completed and recorded more than 400 million transactions. The daily transactions of BTC is currently an average of 350k transactions per day or 15k/hr. That’s about 4 transactions per second for Bitcoin.

Bitcoin dominance is currently 66.6% in a market of 2957 cryptocurrencies. Due to sheer influence, it is no surprise that BTC’s metrics are often used to gauge the momentum and overall health of the industry.

For BTC, and cryptocurrencies in general, one of the largest issues holding back user adoption interests early on was the lack of convenient access. That has changed since the installation of the first Bitcoin ATM (BTM) in 2013. Six years since that number has grown to be close to 6k BTMs worldwide. 

Whilst the market of cryptocurrencies remains unpredictable, BTM growth remains steady. In fact, the number of BTMs have been doubling per annum in recent years.

Not only do these BTM serves as points of access and exchange for BTC, but support for other alternative cryptocurrencies as well; benefiting the entire crypto sphere and easing user adoption.


Approximately 70.6% of BTMs support alternate cryptocurrencies. 68.5% support Litecoin, 59.7% supports Ether, and 40.2% supports BCH. Each averaging +10% growth compared to last month.

Despite progress, in contrast to mainstream and traditional financial platforms, the volume of cryptocurrencies is still very insignificant.

According to the Global Findex database, 69% of adults in the world currently have access to and are using financial institutions or mobile money services.

In comparison, only about ~1% of the global population is using cryptocurrencies.

In America alone, traditional financial institutions still reign supreme. The same rate of adoption among U.S consumers can be assumed of countries with similar economies.

From 2017 – 2018, there was a noticeable decline in consumers’ use of cash and check. Meanwhile, although the shares of digital and mobile payments both increased after 2015, the minimal growth of these transactions from 2017 to 2018, reflects that consumer behavior is generally slow to change. 

Since 2008, use of paper payment methods such as cash and checks has been on a decline. By mode, card payments are the preferred payment method. In a typical month, 60% of an average consumer’s transactions are done using a credit, debit, or pre-paid card.

According to the Census Bureau, there were 189 million adults with credit card accounts in the United States, compared to a University of Cambridge estimates of 2.9 to 5.8 million cryptocurrency users in 2017. In the same year, The Boston Federal Reserve determined that 75.7% of consumers have at least one credit card. 

Out of four major card networks, VISA is the most widely used with a 53.1% dominance in terms of Network Purchase Volume. 49.7% of cards in circulation is a VISA card, and 48.4% of credit cards’ Outstanding Balance belongs to the company as well.

Currently, VISA claims to handle an average of 150 million transactions-per-day (tps). That is roughly 1,700 tps, in comparison to Bitcoin’s 3.8 tps, and Ethereum’s 8.1 tps. The total Purchase Volume of credit cards amounted to $3684 billion, in contrast to the $250 billion market cap of crypto in 2018.

However, even though the majority of market shares is dominated by traditional institutions, there is room for the user base of cryptocurrencies to grow. According to the Global Index database, about 1.7 billion adults remains unbanked in 2017.

With 225 million people, China claims the world’s largest unbanked population, followed by India with 190 million, Pakistan at 100 million, and Indonesia with 95 million. These four economies, together with Nigeria, Mexico and Bangladesh, make up nearly half the world’s unbanked population.


Generally, account ownership is nearly universal (94%) in high-income economies, compared to (63%) in developing economies classified as low or middle income. There is a wide variation in account ownership across multiple economies, which can vary from about 20% in Cambodia, Mauritania, and Pakistan to as high as 93% in Mongolia.

Whilst they are not the majority, the unbanked still represents a large number of the global population. And it is within these communities that interest in cryptocurrencies is being fostered.

Countries with less privileged economies may not be able to afford to drive adoption progress on a global scale, but the individuals of such economies are ones the cryptocurrency industry can benefit.

For example, access to electricity and hardware is still a luxury in many places in Africa, making it infeasible to run BTC nodes on the continent. Yet, 3 of the top 5 countries on Google Trends for Bitcoin interests are from Africa, including Nigeria – which has a <0.01% BTC adoption rate.

In countries where their economies’ fiat has failed, the populace has also turned to cryptocurrencies. After the Venezuelan Bolivar’s hyperinflation, cryptocurrencies’ volume in the countries soared. Interestingly, countries that have restricted the use of cryptocurrencies, such as China and Iceland, are usually the leaders in mining. 

Whereas, most of SE Asia are more engaged in remittance. Japan and the Netherlands are taking the initiative in accepting crypto for goods and services, whilst the BTM focus in the U.S and Switzerland places more emphasis on building crypto-based businesses.

Crypto adoption can be measured with more than nodes distributions, BTMs placements, market shares dominance. It also involves aspects such as infrastructure support, mining, remittance and acceptance as payments. Compared to just over 8,000 venues accepting cryptocurrencies in 2017, there are now currently about 15,541 venues taking cryptocurrencies worldwide.

According to a Marketing Manager at CoinGate and Coinmap’s database, the numbers of new vendors are growing at an average of 20-30 per day. Within the past six years, the number of crypto-accepting merchants has exploded by more than 700%. A significant surge has also been noted in the growing variety of business from new regions and unexpected industries.


Crypto friendly businesses typically provide digital services and products, and/or are related to the digital field in various aspects.

As of 2019, over 13 mainstream companies have started to accept cryptocurrencies in exchange for their services. Microsoft has been accepting BTC in it’s Xbox Store since 2014. Newegg, a company well known for computer hardware, also views Bitcoin as a valid payment method. Overstock accepts multiple cryptocurrencies as well.


CEO of Crypto Capital Arrested – Allegedly A Member of International Cartel

According to the prosecution, Ivan Manuel Molina Lee is a member of the international drug cartel.

author: Fratria


Original (Polish) News Source:


Didn’t we say this was going to happen? Yes…

Corruption, Crypto and Cartels, Part I

Corruption, Crypto and Cartels, Part II

Corruption, Crypto and Cartels, Part III

Corruption, Crypto and Cartels Part IV

Corruption, Crypto and Cartels Part IV

For the finale, let us show you where the Part I – III have been leading.  Though this is not the end of the “rabbit holes” we have been following, it is the point where we felt comfortable to really form a solid hypothesis of what is going on based on all of the data we have found.  

Bank frauds

As of April 30th, 2019, two individuals were charged with bank fraud in connections to cryptocurrency exchanges. Court documents released by the Justice Department reported that the alleged money services businesses operated between February and October 2018. It is interesting to note that this is within the same time frame as when Bitfinex saw $850mil disappear. Prosecutors say during this time, the two “opened and used numerous bank accounts at financial institutions that were insured by the [FDIC]”. [1]

Two of the bank accounts named in the court document are allegedly held under the name Global Trading Solutions LLC, one apiece from HSBC Bank USA and HSBC Securities USA/Pershing LLC.

Global Trading Solutions LLC is tied to licensed financial institution Global Trade Solutions AG. Global Trade Solutions is the parent company of CryptoCapital, and is cited as parent company on CryptoCapital’s website.

The two individuals are Reginald (Reggie) Fowler, former co-owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, and Ravid Yosef, from Tel Aviv, Israel. Both have been charged by the Southern District of New York (SDNY) with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Fowler is also accused of running an unlicensed money transmission business and conspiracy related to its operations.

Global Trading Solutions LLC, owned by Fowler, was directly connected to CryptoCapital. As written in the indictment, Fowler and Yosef obtained bank accounts after “falsely representing to those banks that the accounts would be primarily used for real estate investment transactions even though Fowler, Yosef, and others used them to transmit funds on behalf of an unlicensed money transmitting business related to the operation of cryptocurrency exchanges.”

The others in that quote includes CryptoCapital, or rather the Swiss-based Global Trade Solutions AG that runs its operations. Both bank accounts, including the one at HSBC, was used by CryptoCapital to process fiat deposits for Bitfinex. Global Trading Solutions LLC also had multiple bank accounts at Citibank, Enterprise Bank & Trust and Wells Fargo; all used by CryptoCapital. 

Fowler additionally co-owns two Portuguese companies through which, CryptoCapital also used to processed fiat withdrawals for Bitfinex. 

As the indictment clarifies, Fowler and Yosef opened numerous bank U.S. accounts under false pretenses. The indictment further presents a list of bank accounts at HSBC, either in the name of Global Trading Solutions LLC or directly in Fowler’s name, from which the funds were seized by the U.S. Government.

This seems to confirm the statements that the $850mil Bitfinex funds were not lost, but were in fact held by the authorities.

The multitude of bank accounts in the name of Global Trading Solutions LLC, and used by CryptoCapital, provides insights and understanding into how Fowler attempted to obfuscate his association with Global Trading Solutions LLC.

For further affirmation, the address of the known HSBC accounts matches the address in Chandler, Ariz. where Global Trading Solutions LLC is registered. Yet the property at that address, a sports complex, is officially owned by another company that is related to Fowler.

As the cryptocurrency publication The Block elaborates more into the story, another bank account at Wells Fargo is listed with an address in Tampa, Fla. That address lists a different company called NLE Consulting, whose registry documents includes Fowler as an officer. CryptoCapital has used the account for its own customers, but there is no indication that it was used to process any Bitfinex fiat deposits or withdrawals. Fowler also used an address in Huntington Beach, Calif. to obtain an account at Citibank. However, no other company is registered at the listed address.

Due to the result of certain AML and financial crimes investigations by the United States’ FBI and cooperative international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies, according to a letter Ivan Molina published in December of 2018, Global Trade Solutions and related entities have been denied banking services in the U.S, EU and other international locations.

In the same letter, Ivan confirms the account seizures at HSBC in London, as well as bank accounts in the U.S being frozen and blocked, and banking services and access terminated. He also referenced the article by The Block, reporting the use of Global Trading Solutions LLC’s services for depositing funds to Bitfinex.

At this point, it’s not too much of a stretch to assume the same shady approach was used for most, if not all, of CryptoCapital’s affiliated companies to operate under similar questionable structures. (, QuadrigaCX, other dead/sketchy companies).

When there is this much evidence and association, it can no longer be brushed off as coincidence.

Additional Sources

Two Charged With Running ‘Shadow Banking’ Service for Crypto Exchanges

Indictment reveals new clues in the Crypto Capital situation

Corruption, Crypto and Cartels, Part III

This is where the pieces come together. Have you noticed how often Bitfinex has been referenced in this story? It doesn’t feel like a coincidence.  

Tether (USDT)

Aside from the multiple incidences of hacks and lost funds, Bitfinex also still have to answer for their sister company’s controversies, Tether. It is no secret that Bitfinex and Tether have received subpoenas from U.S regulators. [1]

Speculations that Bitfinex has been “operating a fractional reserve and is covering over its reserve deficit in complicity with Bitfinex” has existed since early 2017. These allegations are nothing new. [2]

And remember when Bitfinex and CryptoCapital supposedly severed official relations? Not even a few months later, Bitfinex is still associated with CryptoCapital, and the relationship has not improved for the better. 

According to statements in April 26, 2018, Bitfinex sent $850 million of customer and corporate funds to CryptoCapital Corp., and along the way it was “lost”. Representatives of Bitfinex and Tether reported to the NY Attorney General’s office that CryptoCapital claims the funds were seized by Portugese, Polish, and American government officials.

An official confirmation submitted by Bitfinex stated that their respondents did not believe CryptoCapital’s representations that the funds have been seized.

Meanwhile, the $850 million loss severely impaired Bitfinex’s ability to process funds and withdrawal requests as “CryptoCapital, which held all or almost all of Bitfinex’s funds, refused to process customer withdrawal requests and refused or was unable to return any funds to Bitfinex.”

This clearly caused Bitfinex major difficulties and processing delays, despite official denials from the company’s representatives.

Allegedly, funds from Tether’s reserve were then used to make up the shortfall, but neither the loss nor Tether’s fund movements were disclosed to customers and investors. If true, this would very much validate the speculations of 2017. [3]

It is also a testament to the fact that CryptoCapital has never had a good public reputation. CryptoCapital never had the performance track record of being the most reliable financial processor either. Complaints regarding speed and reliability has been a common occurrence and regularly affects related exchanges. It is very questionable how they earned the reputability needed to associate with such a wide network of exchanges. [4]

It would also explain Bitfinex’s history of hostility towards critics, especially ones who would question the secrecy of their banking processes, unsurprisingly. The company is known to respond defensively to negative comments by threatening accusers with legal litigation, instead of transparency. [5]

But not just Bitfinex, remember that CryptoCapital’s very well connected network. Their website names among its customers the now-defunct QuadrigaCX and Coinapult, among others. And according to the Wayback Machine, past customers also included exchanges like Kraken, BTCC and Bitt.

Yet it seems as time progresses, the number of CryptoCapital’s allies dwindle.

Most have met their ends under questionable circumstances. Not just exchanges such as QuadrigaCX and Coinapult (whose office was reportedly across the hall from CryptoCapital), but internal members as well in more recent times.

Next week, we will conclude and discuss the implications of the entire picture.












Corruption, Crypto and Cartels, Part II

Laundering money is one of the hardest things for cartels to do…so we are told.  As Part 2 unfolds,  we dig into the “potential” cartel involvement and start to paint the larger picture of how this is all intertwined together.  

Cartel association

On April 7th of 2018, reports originating from Poland sources informed readers that Polish prosecutors seized €400 mil from two companies, referred to as company M and company C, involving a long link of individuals and eventually leading to Bitfinex; and potential association to cartel involvements.

[1] The story began when the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in the process of building a new embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Company M, owned by a Canadian of Panamanian descent, impersonated the building contractor and intercepted the $400mil payment. Through an investigation with Interpol, it was revealed that company M was associated with company C, owned by a Colombian with Panamanian citizenship, who was in turn associated with a large online exchange of cryptocurrencies.

Polish authorities reported that the two companies specialize in money laundering. “The scale of financial operations indicates that these bills were to hide money from smuggling cocaine to Europe. The companies were also used for large scale scams. Criminals have hidden their operations, also exchanging money for cryptocurrencies, obliterating traces.”

The funds from the two companies were deposited at a branch of one of the banks in the accounts of the two companies registered in Poland, which is coincidentally the Banku Spółdzielczym w Skierniewicach – the bank where Bitfinex is registered. Surprise!

A forum user admitted to being a interrogated witness in the case, and that the company has paid them used a Bitfinex account, further strengthening the allegations. [2]

Now why would Bitfinex need to pay a witness? And what does that have to do with CryptoCapital? [4]

Members of CryptoCapital Management

Well, when Bitfinex opened its Polish bank account in Nov 2017 with the reported intention of trading euro pairs, the company name under the account was registered as Crypto SP, and as located in Panama. This company, Crypto SP, is owned by Crypto Capital Corp, the director of which is the very same Ivan Manuel Molina Lee.

But according to them? Nothing! CryptoCapital has since denied affiliations to the scandals and associated materials, contents, and media related to Bitfinex has subsequently been removed. This was not the first incidence of CryptoCapital removing bad publicity either. [3]

So the reality is we have two companies known for money laundering putting their cash into the same bank as Bitfinex.  Furthermore, one of the owners of these companies is affiliated with a large online exchange and also has Panamanian citizenship, where CryptoCapital is based out of.

If you think the picture can’t be clearer, wait for Part 3…






Corruption, Crypto and Cartels, Part I

For the next few weeks we will be releasing the first investigative piece from SynQ I/O. We will be detailing this story with all of what we know in multiple releases with public sources included.  Given the nature of this story, we will be adding our own opinions, conjecture, and potential implications along the way in separate releases so we can keep the facts and opinions clearly separated.

Part I

Nobody would be surprised if cryptocurrencies has been used for nefarious means, the same could be said for any measure of currency that exists. But what if you found out the industry has been systematically exploited to blatantly launder cartel cocaine money right underneath our noses (pun intended)?

After all, the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the populace he doesn’t exist.

CryptoCapital – A Shady History

Mathias Grønnebæk, an early ETH developer, was one of the earliest people who noticed that a number of crypto companies are connected to a remote company. CryptoCapital, a fiat banking platform, is responsible as the banking/payment processor for a number of platforms, namely Decentralized Capital, Bitfinex, QuadrigaCX,, etc.

Yet they are relatively anonymous, with only a few known details of significance; such as the fact that they are a Switzerland-based company and headquartered out of Panama.

Anonymity is not a crime, but for a company with smudgy associations, it’s a huge red flag, especially when a number of associated companies shares similar sketchy traits. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire. [1]

CryptoCapital’s conception can be traced back to Reddit user /u/Bitfan2013, who has divulged a few key details throughout his post history. It is known that the user is from a family of bankers, and were involved with the Panamanian acquisition of Havelock 5 years ago as well.

Havelock Investments, was the investment platform used to IPO Crypto Financial, the original name of CryptoCapital. Once a popular choice for users to invest in crypto projects, it has since gained a reputation for associations to security fraudulent projects. It is rather curious that a company has to circle around and buy out it’s originating platform, perhaps as an attempt to control sensitive information.

[2] The trail goes further, as CryptoCapital is also linked to a Polish company, Crypto Sp. Z.O.O. This company secured and provided a banking account for both Bitfinex and with a Polish bank, Bank Spółdzielczy w Skierniewicach, which translates to Cooperative Bank in Skierniewice.

For scale reference, this smaller sized bank only had assets of around $13 million in 2011, making estimated profits of ~$5 million. Coincidentally, it’s also the equivalent of what Bitfinex handles in around one hour.

Crypto Sp. Z.O.O’s ownership can be traced back to CryptoCapital , and the director of both Crypto Sp. Z.O.O and CryptoCapital is one Ivan Manuel Molina Lee, who is thought to be an accountant, or a consultant. This individual is thought to be a “shell” CEO for hire, a scapegoat for those who would want to mask their identity.

While the working the history of the company goes further, details are surfacing as evidence of money laundering and nefarious activities have been coordinated by the individuals behind CryptoCapital.

Some of our questions

  • Why would a Swiss based company be headquarter in Panama?,
  • Why the need for multiple ‘shell’ corporations
  • Why so anonymous?

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be publishing our findings when looking into the answers of these questions, and what we’ve found.