LAST month a new iteration of Juicy Fields, dubbed Juicy Fields DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation), contacted BusinessCann directly to inform us of a supposed new refund initiative, which it says has seen €367,014 reimbursed to 56 investors.
This new entity claims to be a ‘splinter group’ of volunteers and supporters who have banded together with the ‘sole mission to restore the platform’s operations, honour and investment’.
The so-called ‘Emergency Refund Group’ provided a number of email screenshots as evidence that these refunds had indeed taken place, which are also published on the company’s website.
Investors urged to remain cautious
BusinessCann has so far been unable to corroborate any of this evidence and has been unable to find anyone who can confirm the receipt of any funds from the company.
When asked if he was aware of any victims that had received a refund in his class action lawsuit, now understood to include around nearly 1,000 victims, Swedish lawyer Lars Olofsson told BusinessCann: “One of my clients has said that he has received money back. I’ve asked him if he could show me, and he has then refused. So, I’m not totally convinced.”
The Asociación Afectados Inversiones CBD, an organisation representing 1,050 victims in a class action lawsuit in Spain, told BusinessCann that its advice to investors considering signing up to the refund scheme is ‘never believe the scammers’.
“Taking into account our experience in this kind of case, the scammers are never going to send the money back to the affected people. Because we are talking about money that can be tracked by the authorities, they won’t give any clue to the courts.
“Never send personal information to the scammers, because they are just trying to gain time and, if they can, get more money and information from the JF investors to sell.”
For the first time since BusinessCann began investigating the Juicy Fields case in July 2022, the group has responded to our questions regarding its recent claims.
The 56 refunds that the group claims to have issued were reportedly selected based on how vulnerable the victim is and whether they are able to provide ‘relevant documents confirming the fact’.
Asked where the money for these refunds has been sourced from, the group said: “Part of the operating capital balance is in cryptocurrency. As the platform’s user base and fund turnover increased, the platform has always maintained a pool of funds in three cryptocurrencies to ensure minimal delay in withdrawals (a reserve fund).”
However, this reserve fund is reportedly being used to ‘pay for emergencies’ only, while Juicy Fields’ central funds ‘are frozen in bank accounts’ since the company officially entered insolvency.
On November 4, 2022, Juicy Holdings BV, part of the wider business registered in the Netherlands in 2021, was declared bankrupt by the Amsterdam District Court.
The administrators, CMS Law, say that ‘conducting an investigation into the causes of the bankruptcy’ is one of its primary tasks, one that it says ‘will take a long time given the complexity of the bankruptcy’.
Crucially, this means that not only are there no longer any funds available for the supposed refund team to dish out, but any creditor claims against Juicy Fields will now have to go via the Dutch courts.
According to the notice to creditors: “Until now, a substantial amount of investors have contacted us and stated that they have a claim against Juicy Holdings. We cannot yet make any assessment whether creditors (including investors) will receive any (partial) payment at the termination of the bankruptcy of Juicy Holdings in due time. This depends on the amount that can be collected and the amount of debts.”
Weeks later, it is understood that Juicy Grow GmbH, which Mr Olofsson describes as the ‘parent company, and the first company in the Juicy Fields organisation’, also fell into bankruptcy.
On December 19, 2022, insolvency proceedings were opened against Juicy Grow GmbH and its director Viktor Bitner by the district court of Charlottenburg in Berlin.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said similarly that the investigations are ongoing and likely to continue for months.
Around €10m are understood to have been confiscated from four different companies in relation to the Juicy Fields case so far, though this is expected to be a drop in the ocean compared with what has collectively been lost by investors.
Mr Olofsson suggests that according to a source with intimate knowledge of the company, this new initiative is being perpetrated by Juicy Fields’ former head of IT, and that ‘there is no’ new group of philanthropic rogues aiming to rebuild the company and return lost investments.
Furthermore, the assets seized so far by administrators across various countries are thought to be set aside for ‘government claims’, with little chance of investors being able to retrieve any funds as part of the official process.
This is why investors are increasingly banking on class action suits such as the Asociación Afectados Inversiones CBD and Mr Olofsson’s case, the latter of which is aiming to retrieve funds from entities other than the Juicy Fields ecosystem.
New funds for re-funds
According to the group, this is also exactly why it is pushing to ‘relaunch the project in the proper manner’, in order to ‘generate funds’ so it can continue to make refund pay-outs.
“To further clarify, the seed team has initiated funding for a new crowdgrowing cycle with a private partner, to rebuild the movement, reputation of the brand and refund community,” it said.
Of course, the key barrier to rebuilding Juicy Fields is convincing anyone to invest their money in a business facing numerous major legal battles and which has already lost investors millions.
Asked how they expect anyone to put their trust in them or the business given the events of 2022, the group said: “The business model can be profitable and reach a whole new level, with responsible performers. A lot of mistakes on the part of subcontractors also played a role and delayed the recovery. We still have warehouses with dried flowers with no buyer. This part should have been done by partners, inclusive of the Graf team, as the gateway to the German market.
“We are not discouraging users / community members from going to court, but have assisted the process by adding all available documents about Juicy Holdings and the Graf team to the website to serve facts. On the other hand, it’s worth being a realist and not expecting a bankruptcy administration team or lawsuits to help recover funds.”
Asked whether they believe their efforts to remain anonymous, including the release of a video featuring the group in anonymous masks and black hoodies, was conducive to their efforts to build trust, the group claimed they were aiming to protect themselves from legal ramifications.
“The video with the masks states the reason. Given the countless lawsuits, private investigators, and other attributes, this is a minimal element of security. The message is ‘important’ – not so much the video.
“The answer is more simple than many think. If trust is all about seeing the face, try to look closely at Sam Bankman-Fried or Do Kwon. We don’t follow standards or patterns. All in due time. Step by step. There will be no haste in implementation, as all that proved deficient in past models causing known outcomes will be addressed to avoid any possibility of recurrence.”