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Cyprus police involved in nine e-cannabis arrests

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Cyprus participated in an international police operation that led to the arrest of nine people involved in the Juicyfields Ponzi scheme, police announced on Tuesday.

The scheme attempted to gather investments through social networks for growing medical cannabis.

“A joint investigation conducted by several European law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol and Eurojust, has culminated in the arrest of nine suspects following the notorious JuicyFields investment fraud case,” Europol said.

On April 11 over 400 law enforcement officers in 11 countries executed nine arrest warrants and conducted 38 house searches.

During the investigation, €4.7 million in bank accounts, €1.515 million in cryptocurrencies, €106,000 in cash and €2.6 million in real estate assets were seized or frozen.

Law enforcement also seized several luxury vehicles, works of art, cash and various luxury items, as well as large numbers of electronic devices and documents.

According to judicial estimates, the total damages resulting from fake investments in the advertised cannabis cultivation crowdsourcing platform amount to a staggering €645 million, but actual and unreported damages could be significantly higher, Europol said.

In total, an estimated 550,000 participants worldwide, most of them European citizens, were registered as online investors.

Using bank transfers or cryptocurrencies, around 186,000 participants transferred funds into the elaborate Ponzi scheme active from early 2020 to July 2022.

The suspects, of mainly Russian but also Dutch, German, Italian, Latvian, Maltese, Polish, Jordanian, United States and Venezuelan nationality, used advertisements on social networks to lure victims to their websites.

These platforms offered promising crowdsourcing investment opportunities in the cultivation, harvesting and distribution of cannabis plants to be used for medicinal purposes.

With a minimum initial investment of at least €50 in this so-called ‘e-growing’ opportunity, investors were promised to be linked with producers of medical cannabis.

Upon the purchase of a cannabis plant, the platform assured investors – also referred to as e-growers – they could soon collect high profits from the sale of marijuana to authorised buyers. While the company pledged annual returns of 100 per cent or more, they did not reveal exactly how they would accomplish this, let alone be able to guarantee it.

JuicyFields and related investment platforms were followed by the establishment of a joint investigation team at Eurojust, led by German and Spanish Police, French Gendarmerie and supported by Europol, the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom and other law enforcement from numerous member states.

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