The scam, it is quickly spread

“Shello to you, young entrepreneur ! » On a video shot on a smartphone, a young man with a footballer’s haircut, bundled up in a lavender blue suit that is too narrow for him, speaks to Internet users. “So, if today I take the liberty of contacting you, it’s for a very simple reason. Did you know that 95% of the population owns 5% of the wealth? » After citing such a statistic, one might have expected a fiery indictment against the inequalities that undermine our Western societies. It is not so. “So, do you want to be part of it?” », asks the influencer. He holds a flute of champagne in one hand, sunglasses with pink lenses in the other, despite the dark cumulus clouds overhanging Lake Geneva in the background of the video.

“You need to ask yourself the right questions.he continues against a backdrop of melodramatic piano notes. Do you prefer to be pitiful and take the bus every day, or start making money with me very quickly through your phone and maybe be able to acquire this kind of high-end vehicle? » He points to a black Range Rover parked on his right and continues: “Me, I think the question is quickly answered [sic]. So, either you follow me, or you’re going to ask your grandmother for pocket money to go to the restaurant. » Before climbing into the luxury car, he throws his champagne flute over his shoulder, wiping insults from a cyclist in the process.

The one minute sequence, published on social networks on June 9, 2020, has acquired incredible virality in a short time: more than 1.2 million views on Instagram, 2.5 million on Twitter. The author of the video, then unknown, is a young 21-year-old Swiss named Jean-Pierre Fanguin, “JP Fanguin” on the networks. Previously, he had already published some very similar videos, with confidential visibility but a little more precise as to the highway to wealth that he promotes: he made reference to trading. This time, his performance is a hit and quickly becomes a joke, a meme like any other. It is the subject of many parodies and diversions. Even the Minister Delegate for Citizenship Marlène Schiappa is getting started, taking up, in her first video on TikTok, the hook “Hello there, young entrepreneur! »



JP Fanguin
— Illustration Marine Joumard for Days.

However, behind the scenes is much less laughable. A survey of Parisian showed that, by contacting the young Swiss at the e-mail address indicated in his video, one was referred to a certain Hamza, belonging to a company called Melius. In an e-mail in response to a young man asking him about his “Mass Money Technique”which we were able to consult, JP Fanguin answers: “Thank you for your enthusiasm. All the details are explained either by Zoom conference, or by personal presentation if you live in Switzerland. The explanation will take you about twenty minutes. Give me your availability and your contact details and I will find the solution that suits you best. Kisses. » During a conference on Zoom, the same Hamza assures the curious that there is a miracle method to quickly become a millionaire. But before, it will be necessary to subscribe to one of the different “training packages”, the amounts of which range between 175 and 1,320 euros per month. A precarious young student who followed the methods of Melius explained to the Parisian that, far from achieving prosperity, she lost the equivalent of a month’s rent. Melius, which legally has no existence in France, says it covers no less than 160 countries and brings together a community of more than 10,000 people. Its head office is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

On the other side of the Alps, Antoine Hürlimann, Swiss journalist at the daily 24 hours, tried to go to a presentation conference of the supposed company, without concealing his identity as a journalist. The organizer, a Frenchman who made himself known on social networks under the name of Manu Bersweiler, frequently stages himself on his Instagram account during his travels, from Paris to Dubai.

In his posts, he uses elements of language reminiscent of those of JP Fanguin: “If today you have no online income, ask yourself the right questions. » At the beginning of November, he estimated that “the pandemic has created more opportunities than at any other time in history”. When the Swiss journalist arrives at the conference address, Melius’ emissary is on the defensive. “He quickly turned on himself, he said that we were going to throw out “fake news”, try to get his project downhe tells the Days. At the last moment, I couldn’t attend. The session was held in Lausanne, in a private apartment. »

Social networks

The dream life on social networks
— Illustration Marine Joumard for Days.

On the internet, there is little information about Melius, apart from the Instagram profiles of the leaders and American-style shows during which they stage their success and their outward signs of wealth. The founders are three British expatriate brothers in Dubai, Monir Islam, Moyn Islam and Ehsaann B Islam, who claim to have started from scratch and lived on the streets before making their fortune through trading and multilevel sales or multi level marketing (MLM). This direct selling technique is supposed to allow a company to circumvent huge investments in advertising. In a video broadcast by the Moroccan branch of Melius, they present themselves as the “pioneers of the next generation of innovation”.

In reality, the Islam brothers were not completely unknown before founding Melius in 2018. In the United Kingdom, as recalled in September 2020 the tabloid The Daily Mirror, two of them promoted OneCoin, a financial package presented as a cryptocurrency but which turned out to be a gigantic pyramid scam. According to American justice, this scam brought in its leaders nearly 4 billion dollars worldwide. The co-founder of this system, a Bulgarian named Ruja Ignatova, has disappeared from radar since she found herself targeted by an international arrest warrant in 2017. Her brother Konstantin Ignatov, who had taken over, was arrested in Los Angeles two years later.

We are faced with a fraudulent system that seeks to attract as many participants as possible to help themselves along the way.

Jean Tschopp, head of the French-speaking consumer federation

Like OneCoin, the Melius system transits through offshore business entities. As part of his investigation, Antoine Hürlimann used the services of a “Swiss company internationally recognized for its expertise in the financial markets”. She went to the address of Melius, in the business district of Dubai, to draw an unequivocal conclusion: this is only a ” Letter box “. It has no premises and, obviously, no physical activity in the emirate. As for the European branch, registered in London, at the address of the Tower Bridge Business Centre, it has simply been dissolved.

It is impossible to quantify the number of young people who have allowed themselves to be taken on board by this system. Jean Tschopp, head of the Fédération romande des consommateurs, received several reports concerning Melius, which he passed on to the federal government, without reaction. “We give hope to people who join these pyramids to recover money and gain by participating financially. In reality, this is never the casehe unfolds. We are faced with a fraudulent system that seeks to attract as many participants as possible to help themselves along the way. »

The guru

The guru
— Illustration Marine Joumard for Days.

Like Melius, dozens of groups have been created on the promise made to young people, including minors, to get rich quickly through online trading and cryptocurrencies. Kuvera, Pro Network Vision, Attitude Legacy… This new series of Days is a dive into these fictitious societies, on the borders of financial scam and sectarian influence. By changing their name at regular intervals, these structures, most often domiciled in the United States or the United Arab Emirates, escape the French authorities. After JP Fanguin’s video in the summer of 2020, which shed light on his activities, Melius rebranded itself as BE Factor. As of December, the same year, it was the subject of a warning from the Autorité des marchés financiers in Quebec. This does not prevent the pseudo-company from continuing to promote itself on social networks, through enticing videos.

His role stricto sensu in Melius is very weak. In the system, he is just the hook. Afterwards, he made his own buzz.

Antoine Castagné, journalist at the “Parisien”, about JP Fanguin

What about JP Fanguin? Is it a centerpiece of the Melius system or a simple pawn sent to the breaker to make the buzz and bring in new recruits? In the few interviews he gave to Swiss media, he denied any involvement in MLM. “His role stricto sensu in Melius is very weakbelieves Antoine Castagné, journalist at Parisian. In the system, he is just the hook. Afterwards, he made his own buzz. » For confirmation, we contacted the ambassador of BE Factor in Switzerland and France, Manu Bersweiler, on his Telegram channel, without telling him our identity as a journalist. His answer is unambiguous: “He was never part of BE. » JP Fanguin will therefore have been a simple tout for Melius.

He nevertheless made a personal profit from it, since he continued his offbeat videos and even launched his own website, on which he sold until recently engraved “JP Fanguin” pens or t-shirts displaying his favorite expression, “the question is quickly answered”. At the end of 2020, Swiss justice put a stop to his media ascent by condemning him for minor traffic violations committed during the filming of his videos. The influencer then revealed himself in a much less glorious light: that of a young man with meager financial resources, without a driver’s license, having borrowed his mother’s Mercedes to shoot his videos. “His personal fortune is not specified by the prosecutioncould we read in December 2020 in the Swiss edition of 20 minutes. But the amount chosen by the prosecutor in his sanction, proportional to the defendant’s situation, suggests that he is not rolling in gold: the Vaudois was sentenced to a 150-day suspended fine, and the daily amount was fixed at 30 francs. »

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