Tony Hetherington is the chief investigator of the Financial Mail on Sunday, fighting the corners of readers, uncovering the truth behind closed doors and defeating those left out of pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Tax Research: Wise CEO Krista Kaarmann from Estonia
DP writes: I opened an account with GMGroup.pro in February and deposited £200. My investment grew at an astonishing rate, reaching £524. This made me suspicious so I tried to withdraw the money and was told that I would need to open an account with the payment transfer company Wise.
I opened a Wise account in May with a £20 deposit and instructed GMGroup.pro to transfer £300 to it. A few weeks later they transferred £200 even though my GMGroup.pro account showed a withdrawal of £300.
I took £200 from Wise but now Wise says my account is closed and if I want the £20 left I have to appeal.
Tony Hetherington answers: Let’s look at a simple bit first. The Financial Conduct Authority warns that GMGroup.pro is a scam. This a real investment firm called Global Markets Group, the regulator says, but the firm you’re dealing with is a clone. It poses as an investment business, trading currency and commodities, but is not authorized. When I looked further, I found that GMGroup. pro is registered in Dominica at an address I have seen before in scams.
The company running it is called Infinium Solutions Limited, which was also behind another Future Currency Trading scam targeted by the FCA.
A serious red flag is that the GMGroup.pro website is registered to an address in Iceland used by people who want to hide their true identity and location.
And the website fees were only paid for one year, which is usually a sign that the business has no plans to stick around.
So you’re lucky to get your original £200 back. But I was more concerned about what you told me about Wise. It is not a proper bank, but is licensed by the FCA to operate as a payment transfer company.
Originally known as Transferwise, it was seen as a successful financial high-tech business and its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
I asked Wise why he decided to close your account without warning. Her sudden decision is similar to the decisions I have seen in money laundering cases, so I asked Wise if he suspects you of this crime and if he is reporting you to the National Crime Agency.
Wise refused to say. This reminded me that reporting a money laundering suspect is also an offense in itself.
But Wise added that there could be other reasons for closing a customer’s account, including “simply engaging in a scam,” even as a victim.
A spokesperson explained: “We do this to keep customers safe and prevent them from further losing money if we believe they may be at risk.”
With all due respect to Wise, this makes as much sense as Transport for London’s decision that if someone is mugged on the Tube, they should be banned from all its trains to ensure safety. However, Wise says you don’t need to file an appeal to get your account balance back. The remaining £20 is on its way.
However, I do wonder how strictly Wise decides which clients it wants and which it would like to reject. Its executive director is Krista Kaarman from Estonia.
He is currently under investigation by the FCA after the Inland Revenue fined him £365,651 for failing to pay more than £720,000 in tax. But I would argue that Wise does not.
The delay invalidates my license
ML writes: My driver’s license was due to expire in March. As I have a medical condition, I had to renew by post rather than online, so I sent the necessary forms to the DVLA in Swansea by registered post in January.
Just over a week later I received the same extension form from Swansea but was advised to ignore it as I had already applied. I called several times but was always told the staff was too busy.
I have continued to drive but have now received a letter from the DVLA saying my license is no longer valid. We live in a rural area and I have to take my wife to the hospital regularly.
Brought to distraction: ML has received a letter from the DVLA stating that his license is no longer valid
Tony Hetherington answers: The letter from Swansea thanks you for your “recent correspondence” which can only relate to the renewal application you made last January.
But the nasty sting in the tail is that you’ve been driving without a valid license for months, which of course means your insurance won’t work either.
After some reluctance when I first contacted them, the DVLA called you and explained that they needed more medical information, although there was no explanation as to why you weren’t told months ago.
Officials said: “Medical applications are taking longer due to targeted work action and the de-prioritisation of NHS medical checks to support the pandemic and vaccine distribution. We expect to be back to normal processing times for medical claims by September.”
And the really good news is that the DVLA has agreed that you can continue to drive without a license under special Road Traffic Act rules that allow you to do so while your renewal request is being processed.
We are watching you
A few weeks ago I reported how Noble Caledonia had canceled a UK cruise on the Heritage Adventurer due to problems with the ship’s fire protection system and then wanted to charge a further £6,000 to move the booking onto the same ship’s next voyage in August.
Noble Caledonia told me it was a “mistake” and you will certainly be welcome on board in August without paying a penny.
However, this trip has now been canceled as well. The cruise line told passengers: “The necessary sea trials were completed recently as planned and the ship was operating well until a problem occurred with an external valve that allowed seawater to enter the engine room.”
The flood exposed metalwork in need of repair and damaged the generator. The company offered all its passengers £500 off any of its cruises later this year, but after two failed attempts to board the Heritage Adventurer, our reader and his wife called it quits – and asked for a refund instead. .
If you believe you have been a victim of financial fraud, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Due to the high volume of requests, personal responses cannot be given. Please send only copies of the original documents, which are unfortunately non-refundable.
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