Payvision as Part of ING May Be the Latest Wirecard Case Supporting Fraud and Large-Scale Money Laundering

  • Security , Fraud Detection , AML and KYC
  • 03.11.2020 01:34 pm

Payvision as part of ING may be the latest Wirecard case. The company supported fraud and large-scale money laundering. Payvision is a payment service provider founded by Rudolf Booker and partners in 2002. The company was established to provide payment services for online shops. In 2018, ING took shares in Payvision. Risk & Compliance Platform Europe has the exclusive story.

PSD license granted

Payvision has been granted a license as a payment institution under the Payment Services Directive (PSD) for the Dutch Central Bank. The PSD is a European regulation to support the industry in facilitating transactions across Europe more efficiently and with more transparency. The PSD license is only awarded to organizations that comply with a wide set of rules and obligations. This is done so to ensure quality and stability of the international payment sector.

Payvision enables online shops to accept credit card payments and acts as an acquiring partner for the operating companies – merchants – of the websites. The financial flows go through specific vehicles, such as Stichting Trusted Third Party Payvision and Stichting Trusted Third Party or Acapture*.

ING Bank as sole beneficial owner of Payvision

Rudolf Booker was the CEO of the company until April 2020. Now, the sole beneficial owner of Payvision is ING Bank. As part of the implementation of its fintech-strategy, ING acquired 75% of the shares in Payvision in the spring of 2018 at a valuation of 360 million euro. This was primarily based on the highly positive business development of the company. 

Dead in the cell 

In January 2019, the Austrian and German law enforcement agencies arrested Uwe Lenhoff and charged him with fraud for being the beneficial owner of the boiler room scams Option888, ZoomTraderGlobal, Tradovest and Lottopalace, which ripped off thousands of unsuspecting European consumers. The criminal proceedings against him were opened in Vienna, Austria and afterwards handed over to Saarbrücken, Germany. On 5th July 2020, Uwe Lenhoff was found dead in his cell in Saarbrücken.

Stolen money processed by Payvision

Gal Barak was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria – where he operated boiler rooms and the investment scams XtraderFx and OptionStarsGlobal. He was found guilty on 1th September 2020 for fraud and money laundering and sentenced to four years in jail in Vienna, Austria. Based on the statements of the accused – Uwe Lenhoff and Gal Barak in the criminal case in Vienna, as well as based on the statements of Rudolph Booker, who can also be found in the criminal file – it has been proven that the stolen money from the following boiler room scams were processed via Payvision from 2015 onwards:

  • Option888, ZoomTraderGlobal, Tradovest, Lottopalace (2015 – 2018)
  • XTraderFX, OptionStarsGlobal, Safemarkets, Goldenmarkets (2016 – 2019)
  • EasyTrade, Binary Options (beneficial owners are not yet known and the extent of the payments are unknown)
  • AlgoTechs/BEALGO (beneficial owners are not yet known and the extent of the payments are unknown)
  • GetFinancial (extent of payments are unknown)

In September 2018, ING Bank settled with the Public Prosecution Service in the investigation of money laundering practices for 775 million euro. In December 2018, Payvision terminated the contracts due to negative public reporting on the fraud systems on the Fintelegram website. The accusations against Payvision were ‘support fraud and massive money laundering’.

Communication and agreements directly with the Ultimate Beneficial Owners

The operating companies (merchants) of those online fraud trading scams have been shell companies, mostly British, with nominee directors and nominee shareholders. Although the majority of contracts between Payvision and the companies operating the scams were signed by these straw men, according to the statements made in interrogations of these people, there were neither any communications nor meetings between them and Payvision. The communication was done by and the agreements were made directly with the Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBO) behind the scams. Uwe Lenhoff and Gal Barak discussed all the scam details amongst themselves. On the side of Payvision, communication at the board level was either done by Rudolf Booker or by Gijs op de Weegh.

Personal relationships

Rudolf Booker and Uwe Lenhoff had a private and close relationship. For example, they went on joint skiing holidays, which can also be concluded from the tapped telephone logs between Rudolf Booker and Uwe Lenhoff. Although the acquiring contracts between Payvision and the fraudulent brands were terminated in December 2018, business phone calls between Rudolf Booker and Uwe Lenhoff took place until the end of January 2019. The last call took place two days before Uwe Lenhoff was arrested.

Total amount of money stolen

The companies attributed to Uwe Lenhoff and platforms generated a total turnover of €55,646,534.79 – stolen – with Payvision. The companies and platforms attributed to Gal Barak show a total turnover of €75,610,779.87 with Payvison. Chargebacks are a repayment process which is initiated by the credit card holder.

Rudolf Booker stated that although the chargeback rate was high, Gal Barak achieved around 65% and Uwe Lenhoff around 40% of repayments. Payvision’s own fees were charged for these chargebacks. Later a ‘single rate’ was introduced, which included the commission and chargeback fees. In short, Rudolf Booker was aware of all the chargebacks by the distressed victims. He just didn’t seem to care.

The amounts stated only cover the schemes from Uwe Lenhoff and Gal Barak, not all the other scams which have been and probably are still processed by Payvision. Plus, which are being processed as a subsidiary of ING.

Warnings from European supervisory authorities

There had already been warnings published by various financial market supervisory authorities against the fraud schemes from Uwe Lenhoff and Gal Barak, from 2016 onwards. However, Payvision ignored all of them.

Reward for the founders and board of Payvision 

In September 2019, ING bought the remaining 25% share in Payvision, even though ING must have known about the kind of business Payvision was involved in. ING ‘rewarded’ Rudolf Booker and his partners with even more money. At the same time, hundreds and thousands of unsuspecting European consumers have suffered from having been ripped off and having lost their lifetime savings to scammers with the support of Payvision.

“The European Funds Recovery Initiative (EFRI) is based in Vienna. EFRI is an investors protection initiative to fight for the right of victims of investments scams. Payvision is Netherland´s Wirecard, thus a company helping scammers in big style fraud. We filed a money laundering complaint against Payvision already in the summer of 2019. With the additional information that we have now, as well as the detailed information on the total volume, we are about to send an updated version to the Dutch Central Bank in charge for Payvision. We are requesting the restitution of the payments to the victims from Gal Barak and Uwe Lenhoff as enclosed from Payvision. So far, there is no response from them. We are taking legal steps against Payvision,” says Elfriede Sixt, auditor, tax advisor and founder of EFRI.

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