The dimensions are still unclear, with some estimates putting the damage at several million, others at several billion euros – this is how much money small investors around the world could put into a windy cannabis deal.
Juicyfields has promised gigantic returns
Juicyfields has been offering the so-called “E-growing”. At Juicyfields, investors were able to participate in the cultivation, harvest and sale of medicinal cannabis plants. The returns were well over 100 percent per year.
“People are just not used to making good profits anymore,” said Daniel Gauci, the company’s spokesperson and “innovation specialist” at Juicyfields at the time, when asked in early March about DW’s business model. He did not want to comment on how the company can generate such returns.
Confident look: Lamborghini with the Juicyfields logo ahead of the Barcelona trade show
The most important tool of the company was the internet platform. There, users could buy and sell plants, manage them in virtual greenhouses and receive payments. After the current events, it is unclear if the bets ever existed.
Since from mid-July, users can no longer log into the platform. Soon after, the company’s content on social media platforms also disappeared. Since then, there have been signs of what industry pundits have long suspected: Juicyfields is a scam. Investors’ money is gone.
Another big starting scam?
According to Juicyfields, 500,000 users have signed up on the platform. They come from Europe, Asia, Africa and also Latin America. The minimum limit to invest in virtual marijuana was 50 euros, the theoretical upper limit is 180,000 euros. Money can be deposited and withdrawn via bank transfer or through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
Payouts of profits ran smoothly for a long time, as investors repeatedly assured DW. Many small investors bragged about their returns and then often pumped even more money into the company. Some even took out loans. Juicyfields was betting on social media marketing, committed influencers, was ubiquitous at trade shows, and invested a lot of money in advertising.
There is speculation in forums as to whether the Juicyfields affair could be as big as the OneCoin cryptocurrency scam – initiated by Rujea Ignatova. The “Crypto Queen” was recently placed on the list of Most Wanted by the US Federal Police, the FBI. The damage caused by OneCoin is expected to amount to four billion dollars.
Juicyfields spokesman Daniel Gauci (left) with company CFO Thomas Stieger (left) at the show
So far, however, one can only speculate about the extent of the Juicyfields scam. Estimates range from tens of millions to billions. According to media reports, a Spanish law firm representing small investors claims that more than nine billion have passed through digital “wallets” – that is, Juicyfields cryptographic accounts.
A fraud case like a crime thriller
As with OneCoin, it becomes clear that Juicyfields is also based, at least in part, on a pyramid scheme. Deposits from new customers are used for any payments made. Elements of the so-called multi-level marketing. Investors receive bonuses if they can convince others to the product. Apparently, many suspected particularly high profit margins in the cannabis sector.
The industry has been recognized as a growing industry as cannabis has been approved as a medicinal product in many countries. In Canada and some US states, the drug is even legal for recreational use. The German federal government is also planning to legalize it completely.
In Europe, the Spanish regulator warned against Juicyfields early. The German regulator Bafin first pointed out the discrepancies in March this year. In June, it banned Juicyfields from selling further cannabis plants on its platform in Germany. The company did not comply. Thus, the DW research team was able to acquire a virtual factory even after the ban.
Who is behind it?
Now you can see that investors are unlikely to see their money anymore. Correspondingly, the annoyance is in the numerous Telegram groups in which they organize. Several versions of what happened are circulating on the Internet: the most common is the version of Russian supporters who reportedly planned the scam right from the start. In another version, it is suspected that some of the management team ran away with the money.
Four different cannabis strains promised a return of over 100 percent
The name of the company based in Berlin also appears time and time again. This maintains good connections with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Netherlands. Juicyfields also took off in Berlin. It was probably the investigations of the State Criminal Police and the growing pressure from the financial regulator that led to the company’s relocation to the Netherlands at the turn of the year.
A podcast series by DW
DW followed the development of the dubious company for six months. In an investigative, multi-part, English-language podcast “Cannabis Cowboys – a story about big dreams, juicy money and endless buzz ” tell DW journalists the story of the company.
It’s about greed, money laundering, secret services and the age-old dream of getting rich quick. Their search leads them to cannabis plantations, over-partying in luxury hotels, and to a castle in Switzerland. You can find the first episode here, and there are podcasts from mid-August everywhere.
This article was published on July 21, 2022 and will be constantly updated