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R4I – Connectum, Walletto, and the money laundering connections to Russian Binex Group

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The former CEO and beneficial owner of FCA-regulated Connectum Limited, Latvian Edgars Lasmanis has joined Walletto UAB, a regulated Lithuanian e-money institution, as chairman of the supervisory board. He has held this role since October 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. Lasmanis resigned as director and CEO of Connectum in January 2021, according to UK Companies House. Connectum, in turn, has had a central role in the money laundering of Binex Group LP around the E&G Bulgaria cybercrime organization of Gal Barak, Gery Shalon, and Vladislav Smirnov.

Connectum and Binex Group

The Russian laundromant with Hokkaido Invest and the Deutsche Bank

Connectum Limited (http://www.connectum.eu) is a payment institution with e-money status registered with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with reference number 624117. Edgars Lasmanis founded the company in March 2014 together with the British Ivan Leonidovo. Lasmanis subscribed to all shares and was the sole shareholder until March 2015. In May, Estonian Juri Paal (a/k/a Juri Zitin) was appointed as a director and took over 50% of the shares from Lasmanis for a couple of months. In July 2015, the Connectum announced that Juri Paal would no longer be a shareholder and director. Well, this guy had an interesting past.

In April 2013, the Estonian daily newspaper Post Timees tied Zitin to “the largest money laundering case in Estonia.” The scheme allegedly involved some $75M worth of Russian rubles being transferred to bank accounts in Estonia, where the money would be converted into either euros or dollars and driven back across the border to Russia (Source: Radio Free Asia).

From 2017 to 2019, Birmingham-registered Binex Group LP was one of the payment processor’s clients and/or merchants. The partners of Binex Group were the notorious money-laundering entities Hokkaido Invest S.A. and Okinawa Holdings S.A., which were also involved in the gigantic Russian money-laundering scandal of Deutsche Bank. Please read this article by Graham Barrow to learn more about the Russian Laundromat around Hokkaido Invest and Okinawa Holdings.

In November 2020, Binex Group LP has been dissolved.

The Lithuanian Walletto (www.walletto.eu), established in 2017, is an e-Money Institution (EMI) headed by the Latvian Romans Baranovs (LinkedIn) and regulated by the Bank of Lithuania with the authorization code LB000452. From LinkedIn, it’s evident that Walletto is a Latvian venture with most of the people working there. Walletto is a VISA Principal Member Issuer and Acquirer, issues payment cards, and offers a white-label payment card program.

Cybercrime & money-laundering trials

We have uncovered that the Russian payment expert and cybercrime activist Vladislav “Vlad” Smirnov with Binex Group. Smirnov is also the beneficial owner of the Russian payment processor NetPay (www.netpay.ru) and the partner of Israeli cybercrime activists Gery “Gabi” Shalon and Gal Barak. Shalon has been charged in the U.S. with the largest financial hack in history to date, and Barak was sentenced in Vienna in September 2020 to four years in prison for investment fraud and money laundering. Together, they have been the principals of the Bulgarian-Israeli cybercrime organization E&G Bulgaria.

Smirnov’s Binex Group LP appears very prominently in the files of prosecutors in Germany and Austria. The company acted as an illegal payment processor for the broker scams of E&G Bulgaria. Binex Group LP was registered as a merchant with Connectum and thus had access to credit card networks.

Read more about the Binex Group and its network of people here in our report.

Money-laundering via Connectum

Connectum doing money laundering for Binex Group via Deutsche Handelsbank

From 2017 to 2019, Connectum laundered millions of illegal proceeds of the scams of E&G Bulgaria and transferred them to the bank accounts of offshore companies of the cybercrime organization on behalf of Binex Group LP. For example, Rockarage Ltd or Dynamic Solutions Ltd, registered in the Marshall Islands, had bank accounts with the Bulgarian Investbank.

Connectum transferred millions to these two entities alone. These and other offshore companies were the operators of various scams such as SafeMarkets. Connectum also used its bank accounts at Deutsche Handelsbank and Latvian JSC Rietumu Banka for these transfers (see screenshot left).

Departing Edgars Lasmanis

In the relevant period, Edgars Lasmanis was the controlling owner of Connectum. He ceased to be the controlling person in October 2020. Then the politically exposed person (PEP) Cambodian Sokha Heng, wife of former Transport Ministry secretary of state Ing Bun Hoaw, apparently took over more than 75% of the company’s shares, UK Companies House says. Read more on the background of Heng Sokha here on Radio Free Asia. Lasmanis then continued as a director until January 2021 before exiting Connectum completely. We do not know the details of this transaction at this time.

According to the Companies House data and LinkedIn profile, the Lavian citizen Lasmanis is a Cyprus resident. In Cyprus he also runs the IT company Securita SAS (www.securita.eu), specializing in anti-fraud in the payment sector.

We would like to know more about Connectum, Walletto, or Edgars Lasmanis. If you have any information on this, we would be grateful if you could share it with us.

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