A story of how Kyiv-based ‘traders’ Milton Group organized a $70M fraud, and who’s behind it

Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter has published an investigation into the Ukrainian company Milton Group. According to the publication, the company, disguising itself as a brokerage and IT business, organized a large field of activity and received more than $70 million from people from 50 countries. And that is just one of their projects.

AIN.UA talks about the investigation of Dagens Nyheter and shares new details of a multi-million-dollar scam.

Getting people’s attention

  • Milton Group published a fake advertisement on social networks. On it, Hugh Jackman, Gordon Ramsay, and other celebrities advertised investments in bitcoin, precious metals, and other assets.
  • Those who swallowed the bait were “processed” by call center operators. The call center is located in the Mandarin Plaza business center in the very center of Kyiv.
  • The victims were promised high profits without serious risks. Journalists describe several frauds involving elderly Swedes – this audience was considered one of the most profitable.
  • Operators cozied up to the victims by following the instructions: at first, they showed interest in people’s lives, and gradually switched to the point. They would create client files with status and key events.
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Screenshot from Milton Group internal database, source — OCCRP

How to diddle people out of tens of thousands: details of the Milton Group’s scheme

  • The first tranche – one thousand Swedish kronor (about $100). Then they would install remote access software (AnyDesk or TeamViewer) on computers and an extension for embedding code on pages. As a result, the appearance of realistic transactions was created.
  • Victims thought their assets were growing by leaps and bounds, while operators took short-term loans in their names at rates up to 39%. People could not cash out their income.
  • Just as the situation was becoming critical, the second category of scammers came into play. These were the “saviors” – they would report that the missing funds were found. To receive them, you only had to pay a commission and tax. Sending money did not change the situation.
  • Dagens Nyheter provides several eloquent illustrations. Thus, a 67-year-old Swede named Mai-Britt sold the house. A 73-year-old retired ambulance driver Kent Lundin has invested tens of thousands of dollars.
  • A man from the Czech Republic suffered a record loss of about $200,000. A Swedish citizen of Iranian descent paid approximately the same amount.
  • Many clients were “processed” by a man named William Bradley. In fact, it was an Iranian Javid Hamze. He even boasted that he had obtained about $150,000 from one of the victims. People filed complaints against him and the Milton Group with the Swedish police, but local law enforcement officials were in no hurry to investigate.
  • In total, according to The Guardian, we are talking about citizens of 50 countries. The operators were divided into segments by language: Russian, Spanish, English, Italian. However, the scammers tried to avoid the Americans, so as not to attract the attention of the FBI.

Scale of the Milton Group project

  • Dagens Nyheter collected their data thanks to the many months of work of their own source within the Milton Group. The source took pictures of the workflows of the company, employees, and collected data.
  • In total, the Milton Group employed about 200 people. To avoid data leaks, employees were forced to leave phones at the entrance to the office. And to motivate the employees for the fulfillment of plans the company paid bonuses.
  • The income of managers who made a large number of calls was based on commissions. Credit card transactions yielded 4%, transactions through transfer services like Western Union or Moneygram – 6%, transactions through cryptocurrencies – 9%.
  • As the editors of AIN.UA managed to find out, bank payments were accepted through the British operator Clear Junction Ltd. Earlier, AIN.UA already wrote about it – this company registered its payment system in Ukraine, it also presented euro accounts for Monobank. It is owned by Dmitry Katz, who also has business in Ukraine.
  • Mass media allege that the turnover of Milton Group with all its brands in 2019 alone amounted to $70 million. The organizers talked about $50 million and $65 million at different times.
  • Milton Group CEO Yacob Keselman called the description of their work as “incorrect” and said that the company provides IT support services
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Yacob Keselman
  • Journalists from OCCRP write that the Milton Group has connections with call centers in Albania, Georgia, and Northern Macedonia. AIN.UA journalist managed to find a resume of a former Milton Group employee who notes “opening an office in another city” but does not disclose the location.

Milton Group. On paper and in reality

The journalist of AIN.UA further investigated the business of Milton Group and its affiliates. The key positions are occupied by Georgian nationals who do business in Ukraine. Some of them are former Georgian officials, and some have already been accused of illegal activities.

  • There is not much data on the Milton Group in Ukrainian registries. Milton Group LLC was founded in 2016, its specialization is computer programming. The authorized capital of the enterprise is UAH 2.6 million, and the revenue in 2018 supposedly did not exceed 4 million. The only official beneficiary of the Milton Group is Georgian national Irakli Dadivadze.
  • In the journalistic investigation, the employees say that the real owner is another person, Georgian-born Israeli citizen, David Todua. He is associated with the forces of the United National Movement party of Mikheil Saakashvili.
  • Todua owns the Cyprus payment company Naspay, through which most of the funds passed.
  • In Ukraine, Dadivadze and Todua have an extensive network of companies.
  • The second major business registered in the name of Dadivadze is Lime Consulting. It also presents itself as an IT project, but indirect signs suggest that it could operate in the online casino niche.
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Job opening description at Lime Casino
  • Lime Consulting has an office in Arena City, as well as active recruiting activities, where newcomers with no experience are promised to get an income of $2,000 – $3,000 within the first 4 months.
  • Sales managers prevail among the available openings of the company; there is language segmentation (such as Swedish, Polish, German). Responsibilities: telephone, ability to retain a regular customer, and no specifics for the product.
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Description of job “Customer Manager” at Lime Consulting
  • Former Milton Group employees openly write that the company is selling binary options and other fake assets. They also describe other facets of the work: they were forced to work while standing and provide their life histories during employment.
  • Several users mention that in May 2018, law enforcement officers visited the Milton Group’s office with a search. They allegedly seized computers and documents and also informed them about the initiation of criminal proceedings. But in the court register, there is no mention of this search – as well as of the Milton Group legal entity in general.
  • David Todua has several businesses in Ukraine, established in partnership with the former Minister of Defense and Director of the Georgian Financial Police, David Kezerashvili. In 2013, he was accused of bribery and smuggling of alcohol to Ukraine.
  • Through the joint Project Partners LLC – which is also engaged in IT programming – Kodua and Kazerashvili own the Firma Spets-trading Company and a share in Elitkomfortbud.
  • Former Georgian officials have been appointed directors and authorized persons. So, the head of the Firma Spets-trading Company Gia Getsadze is a former deputy minister of justice of Georgia (she held the same position in Ukraine). And the co-founder of Elitkomfortbud is Petr Tsiskarishvili, the Minister of Agriculture of Georgia in the Saakashvili government, writes “Slidstvo.Info”. However, no real ties between these enterprises and the business of Milton Group have been found.