Exclusive: ACFX website goes offline with company owing its IBs and customers a fortune – But where is CySec?
ACFX began restricting withdrawals to IBs and retail customers in April this year, and since then the entire management team fled. Now the website is offline with hundreds of thousands owed to customers, but CySec remains quiet the whole time. We detail our entire in depth investigation
On April 7 this year, CySec suspended the CIF license of retail FX brokerage ACFX.
A generic rationale was provided in a public report by the regulator as to why this action was taken.
A litany of complaints surrounding this matter now adorn public forums, indicating that the tardiness with regard to withdrawal requests made by customers of ACFX is no longer limited to Chinese introducing brokers and their clients, but is now widespread across many region in which ACFX conducted its business.
The vast majority of the company’s senior management subsequently left the firm. FinanceFeeds recently interviewed staff, former employees, and clients and introducing brokers with balances ranging from $1,500 to over $250,000 as withdrawals remain outstanding following the mass exodus from the firm by its management.
An investigation by FinanceFeeds at the time concluded that the entire management team had fled the company, and attempts to gain perspective on how the firm was intending to address the outstanding withdrawal requests from its introducing brokers – mainly in Asia – and its retail clients globally.
Today, a further indicator that there will be no recourse for clients has occurred, in that ACFX’s website has now been taken offline, highlighted to FinanceFeeds by customers in Australia and Asia. Inquiries as to who occupies ACFX’s offices on Limassol’s sea front in Cyprus, including a visit to the premises by FinanceFeeds concludes that it is empty and no staff have been there for some time.
Just after CySec suspended ACFX’s license in April, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer was the first senior staff member to leave the company, and Petar Gazivoda, the company’s CEO, made himself unavailable and did not reply to any calls to the company’s office or requests for contact via email contact with the company’s office to staff members that are still with the company.
In asking for comment from ACFX, FinanceFeeds approached Przemyslaw Czerka, the company’s Sales Manager (who also left the firm) replied: “Glad to receive your message. However I won’t be able to comment at this moment as the company is still working with CySEC on this matter. Thank you and keep in touch. Best Regards, Przemyslaw.”
Andreas Michaelides, Head of Investment Research at ACFS (Atlas Captial Financial Services), replied to our investigation ” Thank you for reaching out to me. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to comment. Therefore, dutybound I will pass this message onto the company’s senior management. Kind regards Andreas.” He had also run away from the firm.
Former employees then came forward and explained to FinanceFeeds that there are not many members of staff remaining at the company, and that “The whole management team have now left, not just the Chief Marketing Officer.”
Another former employee explained “The management left a while ago, and regular staff have not been kept in the loop even before the suspension of the license by CySec. It is probably only Petar (CEO) who could say something relevant.”
In the summer of this year, it transpired that LCG (formerly London Capital Group) had hired the former management team of ACFX, and rumors surfaced that ACFX assets were the subject of a potential acquisition by a British company, however whilst it is true that LCG did indeed hire former ACFX executives, the potential acquisition has amounted to nothing.
This week, FinanceFeeds spoke to a large introducing broker in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, whose trading account shows a balance of $246,755 yet all attempts to withdraw this capital have been met with a large brick wall ever since the firm’s CySec license was suspended on April 7 this year.
Corporate and retail clients of the firm in regions across the world, ranging from the Asia Pacific to Eastern Europe have positive balances but are unable to access their funds.
Contacting ACFX CEO Petar Gazivoda this time did provoke a response, however instead of informing FinanceFeeds of the whereabouts of the outstanding withdrawals and what recourse the company’s customers have, Mr. Gazivoda’s response was one of extreme rudeness and sarcasm asking whether us reporters have nothing else to do in our lives other than publish ‘imaginary stuff’ and advising that we do some ‘other research’ rather than this, before wishing me a nice evening.
Considering that we have collated absolute black and white evidence including statements from the trading accounts of IBs and full sets of circumstances from many IBs and customers, plus clearly the website is now offline, these are facts, and are absolutely not imaginary.
Mr. Gazivoda’s response may well have been unhelpful, however CySec, the national regulator for Cyprus, has been even less helpful.
FinanceFeeds has passed its research on to CySec on several occasions with regard to this, and has either received no response at all, or been advised that due to a CySec investigation into the firm’s activities, no action or reply could be given.
This is highly problematic because during the seven months (!!) that it has taken CySec to perform absolutely no action with regard to the safeguarding of ACFX’s customers from losing their capital altogether whilst the management ran away, and the firm disintegrated, very little is now left in the way of being able to conduct any enforcement action on the firm, which is moribund, nor its senior executives who have now all left.
In Australia or the US, assets would have been frozen and the directors would have been subject to a litigation which would prevent them from taking off with client money, however in the case of ACFX, the regulator has acted as a straw man, despite our provision of information to help them with their ‘investigation’.
One particular trader that we spoke to is an experienced trader who holds accounts with several brokerages in various regions, including Australia, Cyprus, UK and Belize and explained to FinanceFeeds that he has never had any issues until now.
“Things got slow with withdrawals when I won large amounts (some hundreds of thousands USD) from another Cyprus broker in August 2015, then again in January 2016. This coincided with China Black Monday and the oil price drop plus commodity currency drops. There were reports of this happening on greater scale with much bigger traders than me” said the trader
“Anyway all along I had an account manager at ACFX, Rasha Gad. It was apparently a surprise to all when on 7th April ACFX’s license got suspended by Cysec. The first thing I know is that all my trades turned “Close Only” on the Metatrader trading platform, as I was trying to roll over some of my positions at that time. I generally rolled over positions every day, but I did not use ACFX account to scalp – with very rare exceptions” he explained.
“My balance, once I had everything closed was almost $84,000, which was a significant proportion of my trading capital (and personal wealth)”
FinanceFeeds conducted some further research and found the withdrawal delays in China were due to so-called instances of ‘riskless arbitrage’ which had started in approximately March. Further research showed delays in withdrawals from time to time in August 2015.
Another trader explained “My account with ACFX had been losing as I needed to to hedge various exposures in Australian Dollars and New Zealand Dollars and Turkish Lira from other investments. I also traded Euro, Swiss Francs, Yen, US Dollar and various crosses between all the mentioned currencies, long and short. I also traded just under a contract of Spot WTI Oil. I was not hedged here, it was an outright long. My account had been designated swap free since early to mid 2015.”
On July 9, FinanceFeeds received further reports from traders, one particular client of ACFX stating “I am client of ACFX, with a large sum in an account with them that I cannot withdraw, as my withdraw request is falling on deaf ears, along with thousands of others I’d say. I have written to Cysec with no response other than they are still investigating the situation.”
This has prevailed, and in August, a client on the Indian Subcontinent explained to FinanceFeeds “I am waiting for a withdrawal of $1379. I have made several requests to withdraw via email and the company did not answer. My initial deposit was made by Webmoney, and therefore in order to withdraw, ACFX stated that I needed to send an email to them to be able to receive funds back to my Webmoney wallet, but nothing has materialized.”
Many other customers, also based in the Indian subcontinent, which appears to be a region in which the company has a number of clients with account balances under $2,000, have approached FinanceFeeds in order to explain that they have been unable to receive withdrawals, many of whom have also supplied their account numbers and balance amounts.
Cyprus has become the number one destination for retail FX brokerages, and has now got a highly positive (and well deserved) reputation for being an all-encompassing center which hosts the entire ecosystem including technology providers, liquidity providers, platform developers and consultancies that establish and operate retail brokerages, and as a result has a very experienced talent base which understands this industry very well indeed.
CySec is unique in the world of financial markets regulators in that the vast majority of the companies over which it presides are retail FX firms, and in order to foster a sustainable environment in which Cyprus’ highly developed FX industry can flourish into the future, the regulator needs to be able to not only step up to the mark but surpass it and uphold a high standard for all – something which would be very welcome by Cyprus’ brokerages.
Currently, with ACFX being able to disappear in this fashion, license suspension, which is the maximum that had been applied to the firm, is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, or an ice cream stand on the North Pole.