October 1, 2023

John Clifton Davies, a convicted fraudster estimated to have bilked dozens of expertise startups out of greater than $30 million via phony funding schemes, has a model new pair of rip-off firms which can be busy dashing startup goals: A pretend funding agency referred to as Fairness-Make investments[.]ch, and Diligere[.]co.uk, a rip-off due diligence firm that Fairness-Make investments insists all funding companions use.

A local of the UK, Mr. Davies absconded from justice earlier than being convicted on a number of counts of fraud in 2015. Previous to his conviction, Davies served 16 months in jail earlier than being cleared on suspicion of murdering his third wife on their honeymoon in India.

The rip-off artist John Bernard (left) in a latest Zoom name, and a photograph of John Clifton Davies from 2015.

John Clifton Davies was convicted in 2015 of swindling companies all through the U.Okay. that had been struggling financially and searching for to restructure their debt. For roughly six years, Davies ran a collection of companies that pretended to supply insolvency providers. As an alternative, he merely siphoned what little remaining cash these firms had, spending the stolen funds on lavish vehicles, residence furnishings, holidays and luxurious watches.

In a three-part collection printed in 2020, KrebsOnSecurity uncovered how Davies — needed by authorities within the U.Okay. — had fled the nation, taken on the surname Bernard, remarried, and moved to his new (and fourth) spouse’s hometown in Ukraine.

After eluding justice within the U.Okay., Davies reinvented himself as The Private Office of John Bernard, pretending to be a billionaire Swiss investor who made his fortunes within the dot-com growth 20 years in the past and who was searching for personal fairness funding alternatives.

In case after case, Bernard would promise to speculate thousands and thousands in hi-tech startups, solely to insist that firms pay tens of 1000’s of {dollars} value of due diligence charges up entrance. Nevertheless, the due diligence firm he insisted on utilizing — one other Swiss agency referred to as The Inside Data — additionally was secretly owned by Bernard, who would invariably pull out of the deal after receiving the due diligence cash.

Bernard discovered a relentless stream of recent marks by providing terribly beneficiant finders charges to funding brokers who may introduce him to firms searching for an infusion of money. Inside Data and The Personal Workplace each closed up shop not lengthy after being uncovered right here in 2020.

In April 2023, KrebsOnSecurity wrote about Codes2You, a latest Davies enterprise which purports to be a “full cycle software program growth firm” primarily based within the U.Okay. The corporate’s web site not lists any of Davies’ recognized associates, however the website does nonetheless reference software program and cloud providers tied to these associates — together with MySolve, a “multi-feature platform for insolvency practitioners.”

Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity heard from an funding dealer who discovered his shopper had paid greater than $50,000 in due diligence charges associated to a supposed multi-million greenback funding provide from a Swiss concern referred to as Fairness-Make investments[.]ch.

The funding dealer, who spoke given that neither he nor his shopper be named, stated Fairness-Make investments started getting chilly toes after his shopper plunked down the due diligence charges.

“Issues began to go sideways when the investor purportedly booked a visit to the US to fulfill the staff however canceled final minute as a result of ‘his pregnant spouse bought in a automotive accident,’” the dealer defined. “After that, he was radio silent till the contract expired.”

The dealer stated he grew suspicious when he realized that the Fairness-Make investments area identify was lower than six months previous. The dealer’s suspicions had been confirmed after he found the due diligence firm that Fairness-Make investments insisted on utilizing — Diligere[.]co.uk — included an e-mail tackle on its homepage for one more entity referred to as Ardelis Options.

A company entity within the UK referred to as Ardelis Solutions was key to displaying the connection to Davies’ former rip-off funding and due diligence companies within the Codes2You investigation printed earlier this yr.

Though Diligere’s web site claims the due diligence agency has “13 years of experiance” [sic], its area identify was solely registered in April 2023. What’s extra, just about all the vapid corporate-speak printed on Diligere’s homepage is identical to text on the now-defunct InsideKnowledge[.]ch — the pretend due diligence agency secretly owned for a few years by The Personal Workplace of John Bernard (John Clifton Davies).

A snippet of textual content from the now-defunct web site of the pretend Swiss investor John Bernard, in actual life John Clifton Davies.

“Our steadfast conviction and power for outcomes is what makes us stand out,” each websites state. “We look after our purchasers’ and their companies, we share their ambitions and align our targets to enrich their aims. Our purchasers know we’re on this collectively. We work in shut partnership with our purchasers to ship palpable outcomes no matter geography, complexity or controversy.”

The copy on Diligere’s homepage is equivalent to that when on Insideknowledge[.]com, a phony due diligence firm run by John Clifton Davies.

Requests for remark despatched to the contact tackle listed on Diligere — data@ardelissolutions[.]com — went unreturned. Fairness-Make investments didn’t reply to requests for remark.