On February 28, a sham company called Telegram Open Network Limited was registered in Britain with Pavel Durov, Telegram founder, named as the company’s sole shareholder, director and secretary. Telegram Open Network claimed to have raised $1.7 billion in funding for its token sale to date.
According to the British companies register, Companies House, a man, listed both as the company’s secretary and director of the firm, officially declared himself a British citizen with a correspondence address in London.
However, Telegram denied that Durov was somehow associated with the official entry and called it a fake.
It’s not difficult to incorporate a company with fraudulent details In the British companies register, as the registration process at Companies House relies on self-certification by the applicant, and even can be completed online for £12. This allows sham companies to be easily set up to create the illusion of an enterprise in a good financial standing with intention to dupe customers, investors, or suppliers.
“Companies House carries out numerous checks on all filings, including incorporation. Companies are responsible for ensuring they file accurate information, and are required to sign a statement of compliance on incorporation to confirm that they have complied with Companies Act requirements. It is an offence to knowingly or recklessly file false or misleading information with the Registrar of Companies,” the register said.
In fact, setting up Telegram Open Network could arose suspicion for several reasons. Firstly, Durov’s citizenship was listed as British one and registered office was also stated to be UK-based. But in reality, he is a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Secondly, the firm declared capital of some £800 million pounds, made up of some 100,000 shares. One crypto investor said that putting this much capital into a British entity would immediately invite a hefty tax bill. “It’s a scam of some sort,” the investor said.
But Durov’s reliance on offshore investment entities with British links provided an element of authenticity to the sham company. Telegram Messenger LLP, registered in the UK, claims to have two partners that are both offshore companies: a British Virgin Islands entity called Dogged Labs, and a Belize firm called Telegraph Inc.
For those not in the know, Telegram is a chat app that boasts 200 million monthly active users. Its founder, Pavel Durov, is facing mounting pressure in Russia after Telegram was fined more than $13,000 for failing to hand over data on suspects linked to a 2017 bombing in the St. Petersburg metro, as, according to Russian legislature, the security services should have access to users’ messages and data if required for an investigation.
However, in recent months, Telegram attracted lots of crypto investors. It’s raising money to develop a number of services (such as file storage) by selling crypto tokens, providing a potentially large userbase for them. The company managed to raise $850 million last week. telling earlier that it had been planning to raise as much as $2 billion from private investors.
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