Network of Exante-linked companies still operating through Malta despite Russia blacklisting

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An investigation by The Shift has confirmed that a network of companies linked to Malta-based Exante are still operating in Malta despite being blacklisted by the Russian Central Bank in 2021, and the brand itself is still listed in as a member company of the Malta Stock Exchange. (MSE).

Exante Ltd, known as XNT Ltd since 2016, has been the subject of previous reports of its links to a major US stock market manipulation case from 2015, with questions remaining as to why other companies locals linked to the same brand and the same individuals are still despite documented run-ins with US and Russian authorities.

EXT Ltd, another branch of the Exante network, has been blacklisted by the Central Bank of Russia for “signs of illegal professional participation in the securities market” and is no longer allowed to operate in Russia. In the US case, Exante was tied to $100 million in profits allegedly made from an international hacking ring that illegally mined data from newswires to trade before market.

A screenshot of the Russian Central Bank’s website notice detailing EXT Ltd’s blacklist.

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) told The Shift that EXT Ltd is registered and regulated in Cyprus and therefore remains beyond the reach of local authorities when it comes to enforcement.

“This entity (EXT Ltd) is regulated by the Cypriot regulator, Cysec,” they said, “and has used the freedom of services established under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to passport its services to Malta” .

In 2018, The Shift reported on Exante’s prosecution for alleged fraud by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) following its 2015 case. Exante was dismissed by the Maltese regulator (MFSA) in October 2015, just two months after the SEC’s allegations were announced.

Although charges against Exante Ltd were dismissed by US prosecutors, nine company insiders have been charged for their alleged role in the scheme. While the SEC was making its case, Exante CEO Alexey Kirienko was busy dining and dining with former chairwoman Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca at the Verdala Palace in December 2015, shortly before her name was announced. appeared on the 2016 list of people who bought Maltese passports.

Exante Ltd restructured in October 2016 and changed its name to XNT Ltd, presenting itself as a ‘one-stop-shop’ trading platform. Two people were listed as administrators: Kirienko and Anatoli Knyazev.

According to the MFSA, XNT Ltd “is subject to regular supervisory reviews and checks”, but further questions about the nature of these reviews and checks remain unanswered at the time of writing.

Despite troubling allegations against two of Exante’s operating arms, XNT Ltd remains active and at least four new local businesses linked to the same network have been registered.

The Exante LAN

Black boxes indicate local companies, green box indicates a locally registered company with offshore shareholders, and orange indicates offshore shareholders linked to Lartemisis Holdings Ltd.

A researcher from The Shift described Exante’s network as “a squid-like creature with tentacles all over it” and a bewildering array of names.

The name of XNT Ltd, registered in Malta, bears an uncanny resemblance to EXT Ltd, a company registered in Cyprus which has been blacklisted by the Central Bank of Russia. Both exist under the Exante brand umbrella and transact through each other’s services.

XNT Ltd is owned by Lartemisis Holdings, a company registered on March 4, 2011, the same day that XNT Ltd itself was registered. Lartemisis Holdings lists Kirienko, Knyazev and Gatis Eglidis as directors. The three corporate shareholders behind Lartemisis Holdings are all based in the British Virgin Islands.

Lartemisis Holdings added another sub-company called XNT Finance plc to its portfolio in December 2017. In August 2018, XMT Holdings Ltd appeared on the Malta Companies Registry, with Eglidis as a director. The shareholder of XMT Holdings Ltd is a company registered in Belize called Ornamental Ltd.

XMT Holdings Ltd is listed as the shareholder company of XMT Gozo Ltd, a third local company linked to the Exante brand, registered just two days after XMT Holdings Ltd. XMT Gozo provides services related to the Stasis EURS (STSS) stablecoin. In 2018, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca gave a keynote speech for the launch of STSS, including the “first transaction” in this cryptocurrency.

A fourth local company, Exantech Ltd, was registered in November 2019 with Eglidis, Kirienko and Knyazev as directors. Knyazev is also listed as CTO of STASIS, a blockchain-powered platform whose operations are tied to locally registered STSS (Malta) Ltd.

According to the MFSA, XNT Finance plc and Exantech Ltd “are both companies registered in Malta” which “are also not licensed or authorized by the MFSA to provide financial services requiring a license or authorization under Maltese law. “.

Exante’s link with the Maltese authorities

Alexei Kirienko Exante

Exante Executive Director Anatoly Knyazev and Exante CEO Alexey Kirienko were guests of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat a few weeks after the 2017 general elections. Photo: Exante website

According to Exante’s website, then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hosted Kirienko and Knyazev “to discuss the rise of cryptocurrencies and the launch of Exante’s cryptocurrency trading” shortly after the 2017 elections.

In July of the same year, Silvio Schembri, then parliamentary secretary for the digital economy, made Exante the site of one of his first official visits.

Further questions about Exante’s proximity to local authorities were raised when The Shift published a 2020 article detailing how a senior Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) associate, Kristina Arbociute, had joined the unit in June 2016, just one month after leaving his post. as Compliance Officer at Exante.

Public LinkedIn profile of Kristina Arbociute.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Arbociute was promoted from Senior Associate to Manager in June 2021. Shortly after our article was published, FIAU defended Arbociute, writing to The Shift that “the majority” of the unit’s employees join “private sector entities”. and that “knowledge and experience of the operations of regulated entities is an asset for any financial supervisor and is, in most cases, a prerequisite for the position”.

The Shift partially published FIAU’s response while arguing that Arbociuite’s closeness to his former employer and senior officials raises questions about the circumstances of this particular case.

Questions about the association between Arbociute and Exante have arisen at a time when Malta has faced increasing scrutiny from international regulators over regulatory issues in the financial sector.

Featured Image – Innovation Minister Silvio Schembri visits Exante in July 2017 (centre), together with Exante Executive Director Anatoly Knyazev and Exante CEO Alexey Kirienko.

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