By Carolyn Cohn and Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) – Unregulated British firm Financial.org has closed down, according to a notice on its website, and four investors said their accounts had been frozen.
Reuters reported in January 2018 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-investment-financial-org-excl/exclusive-unregulated-british-firm-draws-asian-investors-idUSKBN1EZ1ME that the company, a former sponsor of motor racing team Williams, was managing hundreds of thousands of dollars for Asian investors even though regulators said it was not licensed to engage in such financial services.
“We have stopped operation,” says a notice on Financial.org’s site which went up in early September.
Reuters was unable to contact Financial.org. Its website no longer contains contact details.
Britain’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, declined to comment about the closure notice.
Financial.org previously said on its site that it was an educational platform with 200,000 members and does not handle any investments, transactions or funds.
Financial watchdogs in Britain, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates have placed the company on alert lists of unauthorised investment firms with whom investors should exercise caution.
The company unilaterally converted investors’ dollar accounts into its own FOIN cryptocurrency in June last year and blocked them from withdrawing.
Reuters spoke to four investors from Indonesia, Iran, Japan and Malaysia, via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, who said they had tried unsuccessfully to withdraw their FOIN last month after being redirected from the Financial.org site to another site, which required a log-in to access.
They said they had received notices in their online accounts, seen by Reuters, telling them they would not be able to access their digital coins until November.
Financial.org launched in September 2016 with a party in Singapore, according to a video posted online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2xIL-pl5i4.
A spokeswoman for British Formula One team Williams said a sponsorship deal under which the Financial.org and FOIN logos appeared on its cars had expired at the end of 2018 and had not been renewed.
Reception and facilities staff at the building housing Financial.org’s headquarters in London’s Canary Wharf financial district said the firm moved out of the 26th floor late last year, after renting the space for around two years.
Staff at the building where Financial.org had its Abu Dhabi office also said the firm had moved out.
(Additional reporting by Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi and Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Pravin Char)