Web of companies linked to Exante still operating through Malta in spite of Russia’s blacklisting

Russian-owned trading firm’s operations ongoing in spite of 2015 SEC charges and 2021 blacklisting in Russia

 

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

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

EXT Ltd, another arm of the Exante network, was blacklisted by Russia’s Central Bank over “signs of illegal professional participation in the securities market” and is no longer authorised to operate in Russia. In the US case, Exante was linked to $100 million in profits allegedly derived from an international hacking ring that lifted data illegally from news wires to trade ahead of the market.

A screenshot of the notice from the website of Russia’s Central Bank detailing EXT Ltd’s blacklisting.

The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) told The Shift that EXT Ltd is registered and regulated in Cyprus and therefore remains out of 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 utilised the freedom of services established in terms of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to passport its services into Malta.”

In 2018, The Shift reported on Exante’s prosecution for alleged fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) following its 2015 case. Exante had charges against it from the Maltese regulator (MFSA) dismissed in October 2015, just two months after news of the allegations by the SEC emerged.

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

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

According to the MFSA, XNT Ltd “is subject to regular supervisory reviews and controls”, but further questions about what these reviews and controls are remained unanswered at the time of writing.

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

The local Exante network

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

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

Malta-registered XNT Ltd’s name is oddly similar to EXT Ltd, a Cyprus-registered company that was blacklisted by Russia’s Central Bank. Both exist under the umbrella of the Exante brand and carry out trades through one another’s services.

XNT Ltd is owned by Lartemisis Holdings, a company registered on 4 March 2011, the same day XNT Ltd itself was registered. Lartemisis Holdings lists Kirienko, Knyazev and Gatis Eglidis as directors. The three shareholding companies 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 popped up on the Malta Business Registry, with Eglidis listed as director. XMT Holdings Ltd’s shareholder is a Belize-registered company called Ornamental Ltd.

XMT Holdings Ltd is listed as the shareholding 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 “stablecoin” (STSS). In 2018, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca delivered 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 the Chief Technical Officer of STASIS, a blockchain-powered platform whose operations are linked with the locally-registered STSS (Malta) Ltd.

According to the MFSA, XNT Finance plc and Exantech Ltd “are both Maltese registered companies” that “are also not licensed or authorised by the MFSA to provide any financial services which require a licence or authorisation under Maltese law”.

Exante’s link to Maltese authorities

Alexey Kirienko Exante

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

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

In July of that same year, then Parliamentary Secretary for the Digital Economy Silvio Schembri made Exante the site of one of his first official visits.

More questions about Exante’s proximity to local authorities were raised when The Shift published a 2020 article detailing how a senior associate of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Kristina Arbociute, had joined the unit in June 2016 just one month after she left her post as a compliance officer at Exante.

Kristina Arbociute’s public LinkedIn profile.

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

The Shift partially published the FIAU’s response while maintaining that Arbociuite’s closeness to her previous employer and its top officials raised questions about the circumstances of this particular case.

Questions about the association between Arbociute and Exante were raised at a time when Malta was facing increasing scrutiny from international regulators over regulatory issues in the financial sector.

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

                           
                               
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Oliver
Oliver
2 months ago

There must be something brewing at Exante – resignations of its Maltese directors.

https://fintelegram.com/regulatory-monitor-maltas-xnt-hit-by-resignations-of-its-directors/

Cynthia
Cynthia
2 months ago

The MFSA’s executive committee, which includes disgraced Edwina Licari and Blockchain island promoter, Christopher Buttigieg, do not make their conflicts of interest public. Michelle Mizzi Buontempo has so far failed to ever take regulatory action against this Malta based, FBI investigated company. Weak with the strong, strong with the weak. In the meantime, they pocket thousands of euro every month from the taxpayers’ monies.

KLAUS
KLAUS
2 months ago

What can one expect from a government whose Permier Minister appears to be involved in shady deals and who is silent on Golden Passports for Russians.
This is about blood money and bloody passports!

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