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Gaps warning system

Invest a little money, maybe pay off the car: That was what Cornelia Schubert was thinking when she decided to invest in the digital currency Bitcoin. That was two years ago. Back then, Cornelia Schubert came across the "Marketrobo" platform while doing an internet search. The operators advertised with profitable systems: "Practically every hour" the Bitcoins of the investors will be increased, according to a video.

It later turned out to be empty promises: the site has disappeared from the Internet today, investors' money is gone. People from all over Germany have been cheated.

Professional scammers

Cornelia Schubert invested around 1000 euros. Whenever she had money left, she exchanged it for the digital currency Bitcoin – just as if she were changing euros for dollars. Cornelia Schubert then transferred the bitcoins to Marketrobo. Others invested amounts of up to 60,000 euros in this way. The platform's website looked professional. After registering on the website, alleged investment advisors got in touch. They also convinced Cornelia Schubert.

Investors could have been warned

Cornelia Schubert made the last transfer on May 8, 2020. Today it is clear that she could have been warned by then, because at that time there was already an official warning about Marketrobo. Only this did not come from Germany, but from Spain. The local financial supervisory authority had published the warning because there were indications that the site operators had no license for financial transactions. Several European countries took over the message to warn their population against the dubious plants. For example Greece, Sweden, Estonia, Belgium or Hungary.

BaFin did not warn

The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), which is responsible in this country, did not take over the report. This is shown by BR research. Although there were general warnings about dubious online trading platforms on the BaFin website in 2020, anyone who entered Marketrobo in a search engine like Google did not end up with BaFin. The report from Spain could not be found on the website of the German supervisory authority.

A spokeswoman argued in the BR interview that BaFin does not accept reports from other countries without looking at them. BaFin only warns "if we become aware that the company is addressing the German market and German citizens and is actually not allowed to do so because it does not have permission".

Marketrobo, however, turned specifically to German investors. This is supported, among other things, by the German website and the advertising videos. The alleged investment advisors also spoke German. Marketrobo did not have a permit for financial transactions. But BaFin apparently knew nothing for a long time.

International warning system without German participation

According to BR research, BaFin has also not actively participated in an international warning system in the past. It is based at the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). Financial regulators from around the world are relaying their warnings to IOSCO. IOSCO collects and publishes them in a database on its website. Investors worldwide should be informed about dubious financial companies.

In this way, more than 15,000 warnings have been published in the English-language database since 2010. Austria forwarded 600 warnings to IOSCO, Spain 1700, the UK 5000 warnings. Only one report was received from Germany: a good twelve years ago. When asked, BaFin explained that the authority is examining whether and how additional benefits can be achieved for German investors if warnings are forwarded to IOSCO in addition to their own publications. A few days after the BR request, two new warnings from BaFin appear in the IOSCO database.

Consumer advocates call for international exchange

Against this background, consumer advocates are calling for a better exchange between the authorities. In the BR interview, Sascha Straub, financial expert at the Bavarian consumer advice center, spoke out in favor of a European-coordinated approach. If – as happened in the case of Marketrobo – the Spanish financial supervisory authority warns, then the warning should be passed on, says Straub. The BaFin must take over.

Specialized investigators also argue similarly. You have known about scams like Marketrobo for a long time. Thomas Goger, senior public prosecutor at the Bavarian Central Office for Internet Crime, told BR that it was incomprehensible "why there was a warning about platform A in country A, but not yet in country B." That makes it difficult for the victims. Goger and his team focus on internet crime in Bavaria. From Bamberg, they investigate cases of fraud with digital currencies, which have so far caused damage in the high three-digit million range.

BaFin defends itself

When asked, the BaFin spokeswoman explained that the authority has only been able to warn since the end of 2020 if there is a suspicion of unauthorized financial transactions. Anyone can use the BaFin website to research whether a company has permission to offer its services in Germany. The authority welcomes stronger European cooperation.

Marketrobo investor Cornelia Schubert says today that if she had found a warning on the Internet, she would not have invested.

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