D.he retirement provision gone, huge fixed assets gone: Gold has always fascinated people. It’s just stupid when hundreds of kilograms of paid bars of the precious metal are not where they should be. This is exactly what the public prosecutor’s office accuses two former managers of the insolvent gold dealer PIM from Heusenstamm in Hesse. From this Tuesday, the 49 and 52 year old men will have to answer before the Darmstadt Regional Court.
The main charge: serious fraud. The lengthy process involves many millions of euros that thousands of investors can write off. It is also about contracts for the purchase of around three tons of gold, which, according to the allegations, was never stored in any vaults on this scale. A year ago, PIM Gold GmbH’s business premises were searched and gold was confiscated. As a result, the company filed for bankruptcy in the Offenbach district.
According to the indictment, the company is said to have concluded supply contracts, including bonus promises, with its customers for the gold between 2016 and September 2019, but failed to fulfill them. Interest payments are said to have been paid out according to a kind of pyramid scheme via newly acquired customer funds. “There are cases with manageable amounts up to tens of thousands of euros,” says the spokesman for the Darmstadt public prosecutor’s office, Robert Hartmann. But there was clearly too little gold stored. It is about millions of euros.
“At the end of the procedure, you will arrive at an exact amount.” More specifically, the damage is already apparent with the insolvency administrator Renald Metoja. There are currently well over 7,000 registered claims with a total volume of almost 180 million euros, said his spokesman Sebastian Glaser. “Occasionally, more registrations are being received.” The range of individual claims ranges from amounts of 20 to 1.9 million euros. So far, around 560 kilograms of gold and jewelry have been seized in the inventory.
13 meters of files and 140 witnesses
The ninth criminal chamber of the regional court is facing a huge process in the middle of Corona times. Negotiations are scheduled until June, an extension is not excluded. So far, according to court spokesman Jan Helmrich, around 13 meters of files belong to the proceedings. Around 140 witnesses are invited. According to Hartmann, the indictment is 226 pages thick.
“That has not been determined,” said the defendant’s 49-year-old’s lawyer, Stefanie Schott, with certainty. Her client, who has been in custody since September 2019 because of the risk of escape, has not yet provided any information about the
Accusations made and will not do so at the start of the process. The process will initially deal with procedural issues. Schott is certain that it will be a long process. The witnesses summoned so far are only witnesses for the prosecution. “We have not yet called any witnesses.” That will only be decided in the course of the proceedings. The co-defendant, 52, is at large.
There are always large-scale scams with so-called pyramid schemes. In March 2005 the machinations of the Frankfurt investment firm Phoenix Kapitaldienst were exposed. In one of the largest cases of securities fraud in Germany, investors had been cheated by a total of 600 million euros since the early 1990s. Gold traders are also repeatedly criticized for possible dubious transactions, which is why the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bafin) has repeatedly called for intervention.
“Gold buying and selling is not subject to financial supervision,” says Katharina Lawrence from the Hessian consumer protection agency. This is where personal responsibility is required. With so-called bonus payments you should be careful. Consumers should not fall for possible insider tips, promised high returns, non-transparent websites or glossy brochures. “It must be clearly described when and under what conditions I will get my money back.” If in doubt, you should get help.
There are always dubious offers on the Internet or brokers calling from abroad. For Lawrence, however, it is also clear: “You cannot recognize a pyramid scheme at first glance.”