CURITIBA – Francisley Valdevino da Silva, former aquarium salesman and former multi-level marketing entrepreneur, heard about cryptocurrencies in late 2016 while chatting briefly with a stranger in a market. Excited, a few months later he decided to found the crypto startup Intergalaxy, in Curitiba (PR) – another 100 CNPJ’s were opened in the following years.
With promises of monthly profits of up to 13.5%, something atypical in such a volatile sector as crypto-assets, he managed to attract thousands of customers across Brazil, some of them famous.
At the end of last year, when Bitcoin (BTC) was hitting its all-time high, the business stopped paying participants. As a result, Silva and his business group became the target of around 500 civil lawsuits in São Paulo and Paraná alone.
A survey carried out by InfoMoney CoinDesk in the Courts of Justice shows that the combined values of the actions reach R$ 100 million. As some cases are under judicial secrecy, and there are lawsuits in other states, the amount may be even higher.
All this imbroglio caught the attention of the authorities. The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office of Paraná reported that there are actually ongoing proceedings. The agency said that it cannot provide other information about the potential investigated until any complaints are formalized and filed. The Federal Police of Paraná and the Civil Police of São Paulo are also investigating the case, according to an article published this week by the newspaper O Globo.
How does the business work?
Silva has built a transnational business group made up of around 100 companies in Brazil and abroad. The main companies are: Rental Coins Tecnologia da Informação LTDA, Intergalaxy Holding SA, ITX Administradora de Bens LTDA and Interag Administração de Fundos LTDA. In some, his mother appears as a partner. In its communications, the conglomerate identifies itself as the “Interag group”.
Overall, these legal entities offer intermediation services in the acquisition of crypto assets, cryptocurrency rental, coin storage, trading, portfolio management and exchange. Two of the flagships are the issuance of own stablecoins supposedly backed by some traditional market asset, such as the dollar, real, gold and silver, and crypto leasing.
In practice, customers acquire these stablecoins (some of them are “Zelts Gold”, “Zelts Silver” and “Upper Dollar”) and send them to Rental Coins, which keeps the assets for 12 months and pays monthly interest. . That’s what one of the company’s customers did, who asked not to be named. He said he found out about the business at the end of 2020 through a friend, and made an initial contribution of R$1,000 with the promise of receiving 6% every month.
“At the end of 12 months, the R$1,000 became R$1,700. I concluded that the service worked and signed a new contract for BRL 30,000 in October 2021, split into their stablecoins backed by dollars, gold and pound and other cryptocurrencies. They paid for the first two months and then stopped withdrawals,” said the customer, citing that Rental Coins never proved the backing of the coins created. Stablecoin issuing companies often disclose their balance sheets and hire external audits to confirm their reservations. This is not the case for the group.
On the consumer protection platform Reclame Aqui, Rental Coins has around 1,300 complaints. In the messages, customers cite non-payment, breach of contract, false advertising, fraud and scam. In 2021, according to the legal opinion that the report had access to, the conglomerate’s crypto asset leasing service attracted just over 21,000 lessors and generated almost 100,000 contracts.
Famous clients and millionaire contribution
Among the people allegedly harmed by the group are model Sasha Meneghel, daughter of presenter Xuxa, and her husband, João Figueiredo. They allocated R$ 1.2 million in the business. In April of this year, after not being able to recover the amount, they filed a lawsuit in the Justice of Paraná.
Both met Silva – a fervent Christian, according to a statement given by a friend of his to the newspaper O Globo – at a religious temple. The case is under judicial secrecy and the report did not locate the couple’s defense.
Members and churches also decided to bet on Rental Coins. The Evangelical Church Comunidade das Nações LTDA, in Fortaleza (CE), signed a contract worth R$ 20 million with the conglomerate, according to a process that the report had access to. In exchange, Silva’s company would pay interest at 13.5% per month. No installment was paid, and the Community of Nations filed a lawsuit in the 17th Civil Court of the Judicial District of Curitiba.
An agreement was formalized between the two parties in March this year. Rental Coins, as per the signed term, committed to make a down payment of BRL 3.1 million, transfer a property worth BRL 1.6 million and pay the remainder of the debt in installments. One aircraft was subject to judicial arrest to guarantee payment.
In a statement, the church’s defense said that “Mr. Francis only paid the down payment of the agreement” and did not deposit even the first installment. In May, the breach of the agreement was reported to the Court of Curitiba.
The report spoke with some lawyers who defend clients with money trapped in the group. “We have no information that the Rental Coins operation is in fact fraudulent. The cryptocurrency ‘leasing’ transaction may have been structured to allow them to operate as ‘short sellers’ in the cryptocurrency market, betting that the market would fall and they would make money. This is not illegal, but it is necessary to comply with financial regulation”, said Alceu Eilert Nascimento, a lawyer at Demeterco Sade Advogados.
“What we have is a non-payment of rent situation and a financial product that is passing outside the standard financial regulation. Our requests in court focus on obtaining transparency in the business and forcing them to present the real situation and solvency of the company”, added Nascimento.
Already the lawyer Jeferson Brandão, representative of a group of 250 clients, said that the company may have gone through management difficulties. “I believe that management problems, megalomania and ostentation have drained all of the customers’ resources. And the business can also have characteristics of a Ponzi scheme, as it relies on input from other investors to pay current investors.”
What does the company say?
In a note, Silva said that the group found “internal abnormalities” and “flaws” at the end of last year and started a reorganization of administrative, financial and technological management to solve the problems.
“The mistakes made by past administrations, which even caused enormous damage to the structures, caused delays in payments and contractual defaults. As a result, urgent measures were taken to mitigate the impacts caused to customers”.
He said that the company made a restructuring plan, accepted by the clients. These people, he said, will receive them again in October this year. Others decided to terminate their contracts through out-of-court settlements and the rest went to court.
The report questioned the company about the civil actions and investigations by the PF and MPF. Furthermore, it asked if it could somehow confirm the reserves of precious metals and fiat currency it claims to have to support its stablecoins. For each “Zelts Silver” stablecoin, for example, the group claims it has 1g of raw silver in storage. The conglomerate did not answer these questions.
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