John Clifton Davies, a convicted fraudster estimated to have bilked dozens of technology startups out of more than $30 million through phony investment schemes, has a brand new pair of scam companies that are busy dashing startup dreams: A fake investment firm called Equity-Invest[.]ch, and Diligere[.]co.uk, a scam due diligence company that Equity-Invest insists all investment partners use.
A native of the United Kingdom, Mr. Davies absconded from justice before being convicted on multiple counts of fraud in 2015. Prior to his conviction, Davies served 16 months in jail before being cleared on suspicion of murdering his third wife on their honeymoon in India.
John Clifton Davies was convicted in 2015 of swindling businesses throughout the U.K. that were struggling financially and seeking to restructure their debt. For roughly six years, Davies ran a series of firms that pretended to offer insolvency services. Instead, he simply siphoned what little remaining money these companies had, spending the stolen funds on lavish cars, home furnishings, vacations and luxury watches.
In a three-part series published in 2020, KrebsOnSecurity exposed how Davies — wanted by authorities in the U.K. — had fled the country, taken on the surname Bernard, remarried, and moved to his new (and fourth) wife’s hometown in Ukraine.
After eluding justice in the U.K., Davies reinvented himself as The Private Office of John Bernard, pretending to be a billionaire Swiss investor who made his fortunes in the dot-com boom 20 years ago and who was seeking private equity investment opportunities.
In case after case, Bernard would promise to invest millions in hi-tech startups, only to insist that companies pay tens of thousands of dollars worth of due diligence fees up front. However, the due diligence company he insisted on using — another Swiss firm called The Inside Knowledge — also was secretly owned by Bernard, who would invariably pull out of the deal after receiving the due diligence money.
Bernard found a constant stream of new marks by offering extraordinarily generous finders fees to investment brokers who could introduce him to companies seeking an infusion of cash. Inside Knowledge and The Private Office both closed up shop not long after being exposed here in 2020.
In April 2023, KrebsOnSecurity wrote about Codes2You, a recent Davies venture which purports to be a “full cycle software development company” based in the U.K. The company’s website no longer lists any of Davies’ known associates, but the site does still reference software and cloud services tied to those associates — including MySolve, a “multi-feature platform for insolvency practitioners.”
Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity heard from an investment broker who found out his client had paid more than $50,000 in due diligence fees related to a supposed multi-million dollar investment offer from a Swiss concern called Equity-Invest[.]ch.
The investment broker, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his client be named, said Equity-Invest began getting cold feet after his client plunked down the due diligence fees.
“Things started to go sideways when the investor purportedly booked a trip to the US to meet the team but canceled last minute because ‘his pregnant wife got in a car accident,’” the broker explained. “After that, he was radio silent until the contract expired.”
The broker said he grew suspicious when he learned that the Equity-Invest domain name was less than six months old. The broker’s suspicions were confirmed after he discovered the due diligence company that Equity-Invest insisted on using — Diligere[.]co.uk — included an email address on its homepage for another entity called Ardelis Solutions.
A corporate entity in the UK called Ardelis Solutions was key to showing the connection to Davies’ former scam investment and due diligence firms in the Codes2You investigation published earlier this year.
Although Diligere’s website claims the due diligence firm has “13 years of experiance” [sic], its domain name was only registered in April 2023. What’s more, virtually all of the vapid corporate-speak published on Diligere’s homepage is identical to text on the now-defunct InsideKnowledge[.]ch — the fake due diligence firm secretly owned for many years by The Private Office of John Bernard (John Clifton Davies).
“Our steadfast conviction and energy for results is what makes us stand out,” both sites state. “We care for our clients’ and their businesses, we share their ambitions and align our goals to complement their objectives. Our clients know we’re in this together. We work in close partnership with our clients to deliver palpable results regardless of geography, complexity or controversy.”
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