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Global Providence principals charged with fraud

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THE global principals behind the collapsed Providence Investment operation have been charged with multiple counts of fraud in the United States.

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Antonio Buzaneli, 56, chief executive officer, who once appeared at a Guernsey Finance event in London promoting the island as a funds jurisdiction, and chief operating officer Jose Ordonez Jr, 46, have been federally indicted for their roles in a '$150m. fraud scheme'.

A third man, Julio Rivera, 61, has pleaded guilty to his role in the 'business', where total losses for investors have been estimated at more than $100m. The operation collapsed in the summer of 2016, with liquidation of the Guernsey entities forced by the Guernsey Financial Services Commission within a few weeks.

Buzaneli and Ordonez were taken into custody earlier this month and appeared in the US District Court in Miami on 17 November.

All three men have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and Buzaneli and Ordonez with 12 further counts of mail fraud, a US crime defined as any fraudulent scheme to intentionally deprive another of property or honest services via mail or wire communication.

According to the indictment and court documents, the business raised some $150m. from investors worldwide between 2010 and 2016 for an investment proposition based on 'factoring' in Brazil, buying debt in the form of post-dated cheques from Brazilian retailers at a discount.

They went on to establish a branch of the business in Guernsey in 2012 – and also in the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong among others – and ultimately raised £37m. through the island, most of which never went into the Brazilian factoring business it was supposed to. Instead it was alleged to have been spread across a web of companies controlled by Buzaneli and associates.

The court documents allege that the duo were involved in an import/export company, a travel business, a credit restoration service, a catering company, and a food truck operated by Buzaneli's wife.

Last autumn in Guernsey's Royal Court, liquidator Deloitte said it had found no material assets in group companies in the island or in the UK.

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The liquidators have issued a statement since the beginning of US court proceedings.

'We would note that the indictment referenced constitutes an accusation only, and that no case has been tried, nor verdict rendered in this matter. For the avoidance of doubt, even if the defendants are eventually found guilty, this would not, in and of itself, increase the likelihood of success of any actions we may pursue... in an attempt to recover monies invested,' said Alex Adam, Guernsey-based director of Deloitte.

Guernsey Police have been investigating the local case through the joint police and Border Agency's Economic Crime Division. Four men were arrested locally in connection with the case in May and bailed.

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