Register a so-called investment firm in Canada, domicile it in a building in downtown Montreal and disappear into the haze with millions ripped off on YouTube. This is what a group of fraudsters has just done to the beard of Canadian authorities and at the expense of investors from North Africa and France.
Impero Solutions presents itself as a “leading global investment company managing a multitude of asset classes”. She registers in Canada in September 2020 to provide “opportunities” online.
On its site, an address. Suite 2200 at 1250 René-Lévesque Ouest, a 47-storey skyscraper in the heart of Montreal. The building is owned by Sun Life, but Regus, a subsidiary of Swiss workspace operator IWG, manages the address.
Archive photo, Pierre-Paul Poulin
The building in downtown Montreal where these premises are located.
Regus Montreal does not call back or respond to emails. Over the phone, a customer service agent from Texas confirms that Impero did indeed sign an agreement for the 2200 suite, but that she never set foot there. Unable to get dates.
Impero Solutions has been on the blacklist of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) since October 2020. Last week, the AMF also warned Quebecers “with regard to [de ses] fraudulent representations ”.
The newspaper wanted to know why, despite the red flag raised by the AMF less than a month after its birth, Impero was able to retain – to this day – the status of a federal corporation.
“No one is available for an interview,” replies at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
In a response written by spokesperson Sonia Noreau-Pérodeau, it is specified that an application for the incorporation of a business corporation online costs $ 200 and that, even if Corporations Canada “remains vigilant and concerned about fraud”, the agency “does not have the authority to regulate or investigate the business activities of active companies”.
However, Impero’s victims number in the thousands in Europe and Africa. In France alone, there are at least 5,000. In Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon, they are even more numerous.
On impero.solutions, six investment “plans” are proposed. The return promises range from 11 to 230%. With “standard 1”, we invest $ 499 at 11% interest. The “standard 4” is 80 to 90% for $ 24,999.
The case is mounted almost entirely on YouTube. In France, Angelo Rago’s “MLM with passive income” channel is the first to promote Impero.
Rago offers to sponsor investors. In a video still online, he boasts of having recruited more than 2,000, including Benjamin Larsonneur, who manages the “Profits sur le Net” channel.
Larsonneur in turn sponsors at least 1,000 French people. Mickaël Bertrand, from Clermont-Ferrand, is one of them. “He was presenting Impero documents like the Canadian state corporation certificate. It was very serious ”, tells the Journal this youtuber who put more than $ 33,000 into the adventure.
Overnight, on May 21, Impero closes its site for “server change” reasons and the owner of the Crypto Zen channel loses $ 25,000 “which will never come back”. That he is sure of.
The other $ 8000, Mickaël collects them with the daily returns. Since the end of April, he has had doubts about the scheme. Critical videos about Impero have caught his eye.
“I could take out $ 1,000 per working day. When a lot of customers started to do like me, they closed the site, ”believes the one who said he woke up“ a little too late ”.
Impero Solutions has not yet made any victims in Quebec, according to Sylvain Théberge, spokesperson for the AMF.
Photo from Twitter
It is quite the opposite in Africa, where The newspaper spoke to about 50 victims. On average, they lost $ 10,000 to $ 15,000.
In Côte d’Ivoire, Isaac Siriki thinks that “the real problem is the authorization of the Canadian government”. “It gave us confidence in Impero,” he says often about the company’s federal status as a corporation.
This Abidjan man, barely 30 years old, has invested $ 2,000, “all [ses] savings of the past two years ”, in Impero. He speaks of this “Canadian authorization” as “the most powerful weapon of fraudsters” and wonders “why the authorities in Canada refuse to [lui] reply”.
Impero Solutions operated under other names: Mirollex and Onward Capital.
All three websites were identical and all ceased to function on May 21. They were registered with NameCheap, a domain name registrar located in Arizona, United States, and hosted by OVHCloud, a French company. Other sites could exist.
Otherwise, the fraudsters have left few traces, notes Alexis Dorais-Joncas, of the firm ESET, but the police “could try to obtain warrants at NameCheap and OVH”.
We would target contact details, payment information and the IP address used to make the transactions.
Other crumbs that “might contain developer information” can be found at Google, thanks to apps offered on the Play Store by Impero, Mirollex and Onward.
“Here again, the police will need a warrant to go further,” said ESET’s intelligence and security team leader.
One thing is clear for the Autorité des marchés financiers du Québec: the millions of dollars invested by thousands of Europeans and Africans in Impero Solutions will be “extremely difficult to recover”.
This is why the organization’s spokesperson, Sylvain Théberge, encourages people, wherever they are, to contact the AMF information center before investing. “What could be better than picking up the phone and asking ourselves what is going on with this or that company? He says.
If Impero’s victims had done so, they would have realized that the company had been blacklisted from websites and companies illegally soliciting AMF investors since October 2020.
This list has been in existence since September 2017 and, “to our dismay”, says Mr. Théberge, it gets better and bigger “as the need arises”. If at the beginning it only had a few addresses and web platforms, today there are more than 70 names.
Whether through its cybersurveillance work, through whistleblowing or through other regulators, the AMF adds any company that solicits or intends to solicit people illegally, that is to say say any company that is not accredited with the regulator.
However, it is far from being exhaustive, otherwise “we would issue warnings every day”, assures the spokesperson.
Once on the blacklist, a business will be subject to a warning “very specific sent to all of Quebec” only “if it has a significant attachment to Quebec, either by denouncing individuals or, worse, if Quebecers say they have invested ”.
For Impero, the AMF felt the need to issue a formal warning on May 18, because “individuals contacted us to tell us that they had heard about it from acquaintances in Africa and Africa. Europe ”.