American man extradited to S’pore admits running fraudulent trading scheme involving over S$18mil


An Interpol red notice and a warrant of arrest were issued against Michael Atkins following his arrest and release on bail in July 2014. - FRANKLIN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

SINGAPORE: An American man was a director at Singapore-based firm Aureus Capital when he became the main person running a fraudulent forex trading scheme linked to it.

The scheme involved more than S$18 million from over 1,300 clients.

On Monday (April 15), Michael Philip Atkins, 51, pleaded guilty in a Singapore district court to carrying on a business for a fraudulent purpose. This came 10 years after he was first arrested here, jumped bail, and was extradited from the United States to Singapore in March 2023.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi told the court that Atkins, who was a majority shareholder at the firm, had full control of the scheme which used only a fraction of the clients’ monies for forex trading.

The prosecutor added: “Instead, the scheme was run in the style of a classic ‘Ponzi’, where the purported returns to clients were paid using the funds from other clients... Such a business model was clearly unsustainable, and... the company finally imploded.”

In the end, the clients received around $12.7 million in total from Aureus Capital and they suffered nearly $6 million in losses.

DPP Hon urged the court to sentence Atkins to up to three years and eight months’ jail, adding: “In effect, the scheme was his, and all losses caused to the clients of Aureus must be directly attributable to him only.”

Between April 2013 and July 2014, Aureus Capital offered members of the public leveraged foreign exchange trading services and schemes.

Clients entered into agreements for Aureus Capital to engage in forex trading on their behalf.

Under these agreements, the company would be entitled to 40 to 50 per cent of the profits generated from the trading, while the losses from trading would be fully borne by the clients.

At the time of the offence, Aureus Capital maintained two trading accounts with Oanda Asia Pacific, a separate company which offers foreign exchange trading.

“It was... represented to the clients that Aureus Capital would be managing the funds of these clients by trading forex on Oanda,” said DPP Hon.

The bank account later received more than $18 million to total from clients between April 2, 2013, and July 15, 2014.

Instead of using the amount for forex trading, more than $14.7 million was used for other purposes, such as paying Aureus Capital’s directors, including Atkins.

Only around $1.7 million of the more than $18 million was deposited into Oanda, the court heard.

Weekly statements sent to clients concealed the fact that only a small portion of clients’ funds was used for forex trading.

The weekly statements also reported profits which were not reflective of the Aureus Capital’s actual trading results. In fact, it was making losses on its Oanda trading accounts.

According to the clients, they were later told on June 13, 2014, that Aureus Capital needed to cease trading as it was acquiring a banking licence.

The clients did not receive any money when they asked for their investments to be withdrawn.

Subsequent e-mails from the company claimed that it was being rebranded, and that all clients’ monies would be refunded by July 28, 2014.

Clients alerted the police when the company and its directors became uncontactable soon after.

Singapore authorities arrested Atkins in 2014 but he later jumped bail and an Interpol red notice was issued against him.

Such a notice requests law enforcement units worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or other legal actions.

He was traced in the United States in 2017, and an extradition request was sent to the authorities there three years later.

He was successfully extradited to Singapore and re-arrested here on March 18, 2023.

Atkins will be sentenced on April 25. - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , fraud , Aureus Capital , forex , trading , Atkins

   

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