NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday unveiled criminal charges against 10 defendants, including London-based brokerage Beaufort Securities Ltd, over their alleged roles in a more than $50 million stock fraud and a laundering scheme involving a late work by Pablo Picasso.
Prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, said Beaufort and two of its managers, Peter Kyriacou and Vinesh Canaye, defrauded investors from March 2014 to February 2018 by hiding their ownership in and manipulating prices of U.S. stocks, including through “pump-and-dump” schemes.
It also said eight defendants, including offshore bank Loyal Bank Ltd, schemed to launder fraud proceeds.
One scheme allegedly occurred from October 2017 to February 2018, when according to prosecutors Kyriacou and London art gallery owner Matthew Green tried to launder 6.7 million British pounds ($9.2 million) that an undercover law enforcement agent claimed were fraud proceeds.
According to the indictment, Kyriacou sent the agent a WhatsApp message on Feb. 19 with an invoice from Green’s Mayfair Fine Art Ltd for Picasso’s “Personnages, Painted 11 April 1965,” and later forwarded a message from Green stressing the need “to preserve a certain amount of anonymity.”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also announced separate civil fraud charges against Beaufort and Kyriacou over alleged manipulative trading in the microcap stock HD View 360 Inc, a provider of security surveillance systems.
Separately, the UK Financial Conduct Authority declared Beaufort insolvent and appointed administrators for it.
“The defendants engaged in an elaborate multi-year scheme to defraud the investing public of millions of dollars through deceit and manipulative stock trading, and then worked to launder the fraudulent proceeds through off-shore bank accounts and the art world,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn said in a statement.
Six individuals and four corporate entities were charged in the criminal case.
A lawyer for Canaye, 30, of Mauritius, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lawyers for the other defendants could not immediately be identified.
Beaufort and Loyal Bank, which has offices in Budapest, Hungary, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kyriacou, 26, of London, did not immediately respond to a similar request. Green, 50, also of London, could not immediately be reached.
HD View’s chief executive officer, Dennis Mancino, 46, of Miami, was arrested on Thursday and charged with conspiring to manipulate its stock. The company had no immediate comment.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Carolyn Cohn in London; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown