Edgars Lasmanis, the former CEO and owner of FCA-regulated Connectum Limited, has taken up the position of supervisory board chairman at regulated Lithuanian e-money institution, Walletto UAB. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has been in this role since October 2017. Lasmanis resigned from his director and CEO positions at Connectum in January 2021, as per records from UK Companies House. Notably, Connectum has been implicated in the money laundering activities of Binex Group LP, which was connected to the E&G Bulgaria cybercrime organization led by Gal Barak, Gery Shalon, and Vladislav Smirnov.
Connectum and Binex Group
Connectum Limited (www.connectum.eu) is a UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)-registered payment institution that has been granted e-money status with reference number 624117. The company was founded in March 2014 by Edgars Lasmanis and Ivan Leonidovo, a British national. Initially, Lasmanis held all the company’s shares and was the sole shareholder until March 2015. Later in May, Juri Paal, also known as Juri Zitin, was appointed as a director and acquired 50% of the shares from Lasmanis. However, Paal’s tenure as a shareholder and director was short-lived as he was removed from his position by Connectum in July 2015. It is worth noting that Paal had a questionable background.
According to Radio Free Asia, Estonian newspaper Post Timees linked Zitin to what was described as the most significant money laundering case in Estonia in April 2013. The purported scheme involved the transfer of approximately $75 million worth of Russian rubles to bank accounts in Estonia. The funds were then purportedly converted into euros or dollars and transported back across the border to Russia.
Binex Group LP was dissolved in November 2020.
Walletto (www.walletto.eu) is an e-Money Institution (EMI) established in 2017 and is based in Lithuania. The company is headed by Romans Baranovs, a Latvian national, and is regulated by the Bank of Lithuania with the authorization code LB000452. While Walletto is a Latvian venture, most of its employees are based there, as per their LinkedIn profile. The company is a VISA Principal Member Issuer and Acquirer, offering payment cards and a white-label payment card program.
Cybercrime & money-laundering trials
Our investigation has revealed that Vladislav “Vlad” Smirnov, a Russian payment expert and cybercrime activist, is connected to Binex Group. Smirnov is also the beneficial owner of the Russian payment processor NetPay (www.netpay.ru) and has partnered with Israeli cybercrime activists Gery “Gabi” Shalon and Gal Barak. Shalon is facing charges in the U.S. for the biggest financial hack in history, while Barak has been sentenced to four years in prison in Vienna in September 2020 for investment fraud and money laundering. Together, they have played leading roles in the Bulgarian-Israeli cybercrime organization E&G Bulgaria.
Prosecutors in Germany and Austria have extensively documented the involvement of Smirnov’s Binex Group LP in illicit activities. The company was implicated in facilitating unlawful payment transactions for E&G Bulgaria’s fraudulent broker schemes. By registering as a merchant with Connectum, Binex Group LP gained entry to credit card networks.
Money-laundering via Connectum
Between 2017 and 2019, Connectum was involved in laundering several million dollars in illicit funds obtained from E&G Bulgaria’s fraudulent schemes. The cybercriminal organization’s offshore companies, such as Rockarage Ltd and Dynamic Solutions Ltd, which were registered in the Marshall Islands, had their bank accounts with Bulgarian Investbank. Connectum transferred these illegal funds to these offshore accounts on behalf of Binex Group LP.
Connectum facilitated the transfer of millions of dollars to offshore companies like Rockarage Ltd and Dynamic Solutions Ltd, which were found to be running fraudulent schemes, including SafeMarkets. These two entities alone received substantial amounts from Connectum. In addition to Bulgarian Investbank, Connectum also used its accounts at Deutsche Handelsbank and Latvian JSC Rietumu Banka to carry out these transfers.
Departing Edgars Lasmanis
During the relevant period, Connectum was primarily owned and controlled by Edgars Lasmanis. However, he relinquished control of the company in October 2020. According to information from UK Companies House, more than 75% of the company’s shares were then acquired by Sokha Heng, a politically exposed person (PEP) who is the wife of Ing Bun Hoaw, a former secretary of state at the Transport Ministry in Cambodia. More information on Heng Sokha’s background can be found on Radio Free Asia. Lasmanis continued as a director of Connectum until January 2021, after which he completely divested from the company. At this time, the specific details of this transaction remain unknown.
Based on information from Companies House and Lasmanis’s LinkedIn profile, it appears that he is a Latvian citizen who resides in Cyprus. In addition to his involvement with Connectum, he also runs a company called Securita SAS (www.securita.eu) in Cyprus. This IT firm specializes in anti-fraud solutions for the payment industry.
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