Fintelegram, alleged cybercrime watchdog, under fire for accused blackmail and racketeering
Fintelegram is a financial internet blog and self-purported “cybercrime watchdog”. Now the watchdog is coming under scrutiny, as multiple online sources allege the blog is engaged in financial blackmail and racketeering.
Fintelegram is a blog which, according to its own About Us page, “is a financial intelligence service focused on investor protection and the fight against cybercrime”. Fintelegram boasts that it provides “investigative journalism covering financial crime, illegal online schemes, and perpetrators on the ground of a strong whistleblower community”.
Now the financial blog is coming under close scrutiny, as multiple online sources allege Fintelegram itself is engaged in blackmail and racketeering – removing articles portraying persons and companies badly, for a hefty fee. Is Fintelegram the victim of a smear campaign or is there merit to the claims?
The driving force behind Fintelegram
The believed editor-in-chief of Fintelegram is Austrian national Werner Boehm. Boehm is joined by his partner and chartered accountant Elfriede Sixt and fellow Austrian Alfred Dobias of MezzaCap Investments UK Ltd. Israeli and ex-IDF intel officer Ilan Tzorya has also been directly involved in the venture, as a former partner of Werner Boehm and ex-shareholder in the company operating the blog.
Werner Boehm got his BA and MA in business and marketing in Vienna. According to a press release from 2015, Mr. Boehm worked for IBM in their Banking Division for several years. He then joined a bank in Central and Eastern Europe to become Vice President for sales and marketing of digital products.
In 1999, Werner Boehm set up the Internet Service Provider (ISP) Yline Internet Business Services AG, working closely with IBM Europe. Just two years later, in 2001, Yline went bankrupt.
In September 2002, the trustee of the bankruptcy submitted a statement of the facts to the Vienna Public Prosecutor’s Office, in which he stated: “Sales have been artificially generated that were not matched by a corresponding cash flow”. This accusation echoes the criminal actions in the Enron-scandal, which involved highly irregular accounting procedures. In April 2014, the trial began against 12 former members of the management who are accused by the public prosecutor’s office of serious crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, falsification of accounts, grossly negligent impairment of creditors’ interests, fraudulent accounting and insider trading. Ultimately, Werner Boehm got away, only being imposed a meager fine of € 7,000 – which Boehm did not contest.
In December of 2015, he joined BitRush Corporation in Toronto, Canada, as CEO. Little over a year later – upon discovering that Werner Boehm had stolen funds from the company – he was ousted in disgrace by the board of directors. The company even saw it fit to issue an official press release about the scandal.
As reported by german Business Insider, a Canadian court ruled in 2017 that Boehm had in fact illegally transferred $561,373 from the company to accounts controlled by him. Seemingly trying to hide the illegal transactions, Boehm transferred the money over a period of several months, to a smaller company that he owned. His partner, Elfriede Sixt, was responsible for accounting at the time. Upon discovery, repeated requests from the BitRush Corp. to transfer the money back went ignored.
The presiding judge in the case was not lenient on Boehm, and wrote in the verdict in November 2017:
“Böhm’s conduct as set out herein was oppressive, unfairly prejudicial and unfairly disregarded the interests of BitRush’s shareholders.” “Böhm was clearly aware that the dispute with BitRush was a legitimate business dispute caused solely by Boehm’s failure to honor his prior agreements.” “Böhm’s actions in transferring a total of more than 500.000 CAD from BitRush to companies controlled by him and subsequently refusing to account for the transfers or to return the money when requested constitutes further misappropriation of BitRush’s property.” “The money was clearly misappropriated by Böhm.” “… (a shareholder) learned that no shares were ever deposited into escrow in his name.” “Once again the agreement was never reduced to writing.” “Böhm did not advice the board.” “Böhm’ s conduct clearly breached the reasonable expectations of Bitrush and its shareholders.” “Not only Böhm failed to ensure that BitRush was entitled to use the technology from the very inception of Bitrush, he never took any steps to ensure that was done nor did he ever advise the Board that was the case.”
Ultimately, Werner Boehm, Elfriede Sixt and Alfred Dobias of MezzaCap Investments UK Ltd. were all convicted in the Canadian court. In 2018, more than 112 million of their shares in BitRush Corp. was cancelled after a ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. In August 2017, BitRush Corp. also published a press release on their website, warning its shareholders about a new illegitimate investment scheme by Werner Boehm.
Today, the company operating the Fintelegram website is listed as Cyber Intelligence Services LLC – but it is worth noting that this changes frequently.
Accusations of blackmail and racketeering
Online, multiple sources allege that Werner Boehm uses the Fintelegram blog for personal gain and profit. Sources claim that Fintelegram targets high-profile international financial services companies and its people and directors, constructing narratives to portray the companies and individuals in a negative light. Then, sources say, Fintelegram offers a consultancy service, offering to remove negative articles from Fintelegram against payment – in cash or Bitcoin.
Easily tax avoidable and hard to track, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are seen by many as the go-to payment type by financial criminals. Multiple online sources assert that Boehm does in fact offer this service, conveniently removing negative articles from his blog in return for payment.
For companies onboarding with new partners or involved in M&A proceedings, negative press can be extremely damaging. Sources assert Fintelegram knows this – and often targets innocent multinational companies it knows will bend to the financial demands of Boehm and his accomplices.
In an exposé about Werner Boehm, investigative financial crimes website Finleaks.com writes:
“FinTelegram, as has been revealed in our ongoing series of exposés, is by no means the “crowdsourced financial intelligence” outlet claims to be. On the contrary, as has been laid out, the site is owned by a number of notorious financial criminals, led by Ilan Tzorya and Werner Boehm, who use the site for their own devious ends.
One of the most despicable ways the site is being used by its criminal owners is as a mean of applying pressure on their adversaries while trying to manipulate ongoing investigations and obstructing justice. Many of the people often “reported” on by FinTelegram, are in fact former partners of their owners, who have had a falling out with the owners, with some of them making some well-grounded allegations against the criminal owners, which are being investigated by various police agencies around the globe.”
Fintelegram often boasts of its “intelligence community”, assisting them with “whistleblowing information”. However, multiple sources assert that this intelligence community in fact consists of primarily Eastern European-based hacker groups. These groups reside in countries like Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, as well as Israel.
One specific group which was mentioned in relation with Fintelegram is CL0P. CL0P is one of several ransomware cartels that seize a target’s data, demanding a ransom to release it. The group has also increasingly threatened to leak sensitive information online if a target refuses to cooperate, a tactic known as “double extortion”. Recent targets have included oil company Shell and international law firm Jones Day, including leading US universities. The Ukraine National Police is now working closely with Interpol and the US and South Korea to charge members of the group, which may or may not impact Fintelegram’s operations.
What looks to be random victims, could also be part of a wider strategy to destabilize smaller NATO nations and create hostility in candidates. Businesses based in smaller NATO countries are seemingly often targeted, as seen with Fintelegram’s recent, very broad coverage of Lithuania-based financial institutions. One source also suggests that Russian troll factories are involved.
By repeating false news and publishing the claims on multiple identical websites such as Fintelegram.com, Fintelegram.org and Fintelegram.media, Fintelegram may try to influence robot-based compliance tools such as LexisNexis and ComplyAdvantage to flag the businesses and individuals they target with the extortion. In addition, negative keywords may be placed in the articles to trick Google, Yandex and other search engines to associate negative topics with the victims.
The smoking gun
Exposed Crimes, a website dedicated to financial crimes, shares several screenshots, detailing how Mr. Ilan Tzroya of Krypton Publisher Ltd Trust Company seemingly transferred 20.000 EUR to Mr. Alfred Dobias of Fintelegram / MezzaCap Investments UK Ltd in June 2018.
The text on the bank transfer? “Payment according to option and confidentiality agreement”.
Later, in August 2018, Werner Boehm has apparently upset Tzroya, as he writes several emails to an assistant:
“I want to legally act against Werner (the guy from fintelegram). Include blackmailing me/Krypton. (…) I sent you today the link where Fintelegram/Werner breached the contract, which we paid 20.000 EUR. Please coordinate with Uwe’s lawyers to sue this Werner.”
The link that Ilan Tzorya is referring to is a since deleted Fintelegram exposé about Ilan Tzorya’s business empire, where Fintelegram detailed his business practises over multiple blog posts. Then – for whatever reason – Werner Boehm and Fintelegram since deleted the content.
Today, Fintelegram only has praise about Ilan Tzorya live on its self-purported cybercrime blog, even going as far writing:
“For EFRI [Fintelegram] Ilan Tzorya is a good guy because he delivers information that helps EFRI to recover funds from Gal Barak and his schemes. – Elfriede Sixt, EFRI Coordinator”
One has to wonder what Tzorya paid Fintelegram for, why the negative articles about him were removed – and why Fintelegram now seemingly only has positive things to say about him.