The Sydney Morning Herald today reported that the Australian Securities and Exchange Commission (ASIC) has expanded its ongoing investigation into Belize-based binary options broker TitanTrade to include new business associates.
ASIC is currently investigating the persons and entities associated with the international boiler room, including the Australian marketing agency Allianz Metro Pty Ltd., which was reasonable for promoting TitanTrade in the country. Accusations from the Australian watchdog state that Allianz Metro has received around $4.16 million from TitanTrade’s victims who were depositing funds into the business bank account for trading purposes.
According to SMH, the Federal Court issued orders restricting the owner of Allianz Metro, Tony Senese, from operating the website Tradettn.com, as well as freezing his assets and bank accounts.
ASIC has already begun a worldwide chase for the money of potentially hundreds of investors, including Australians, and is currently cooperating with the Italian watchdog, the Guardia di Finanza, to prepare interviews with Tony Senese and his family where they are on an extended holiday.
Like a chameleon
TitanTrade, which operates through SpotOption platform, offers related trading services, but doesn’t hold the appropriate licenses or authorization to do so in Australia. Any entity that deals in, or provides advice about, binary options to Australian investors must hold an Australian financial services (AFS) licence, or be authorised by an AFS licensee.
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A brief review of the broker’s website reveals that Titantrade lists its head-office address in Belize, and in the ‘Contact Us’ section it makes reference to other global contacts including the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, South Africa and Spain.
While ASIC didn’t formally make any allegations, the court documents included references to companies associated with TitanTrade’s website, Titan Trade Capital Limited and Dom Technology Services Ltd.
Further investigation reveals that it has also changed its payment service provider from MHGG Tech Solutions Limited Business Centre (ASIC advised that this company could be involved in a scam when it was operating as NRGBinary) to the current Titan Trade Solutions Ltd. Moreover, the company changed its address from the Seychelles to Belize. What is more, such important information isn’t displayed in a text format but through images instead, so that it can be changed later without being tracked with hidden cache versions of the website.
This is not the first time that TitanTrade has sparked regulatory concerns. Earlier in April, Italian financial watchdog CONSOB red-flagged the binary options broker. Moreover, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) issued a warning that TitanTrade is not authorised in March 2015, and the same action was taken by France’s financial market regulator (AMF) in September 2015 when it included TitanTrade in its periodically updated list of unregulated binary options providers. In the same month, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) included TitanTrade in its RED List.
With complaints from clients still pouring in, ASIC decided back in July to take legal action against TitanTrade in the Federal Court to restrain its operators from carrying on a financial services business whilst unlicensed. The Court made orders prohibiting the operators of the website and other associated persons and entities from issuing financial products, including binary options trading, advertising or promoting its products, and operating the website in Australia.