There’s an offshore ICO scam going on and it’s focused on Cayman Islands Corporations. If you’re planning an ICO, here’s what you need to know to avoid the offshore ICO scam and Cayman Islands Corporations.
First, note that I use the term “scam” very carefully and intentionally here. I truly believe there is an offshore ICO scam going on and it’s being perpetrated by lawyers and incorporation agents, many of them in the Cayman Islands.
Second, this article is about an offshore ICO scam that affects those issuing ICOs out of the Cayman Islands and most other offshore jurisdictions. I’ve seen this ICO scam in Belize, Nevis, Cook Islands, and in a number of offshore countries.
Third, this article is for those who are looking to fund their businesses with an “offshore” ICO. I’m not talking about ICOs in regulated jurisdictions such as the United States. Also, this scam does not generally affect ICO investors. I’m speaking only to those who wish to issue an ICO.
With all of that said, here’s the offshore ICO scam often found in the Cayman Islands:
Those hoping to issue an ICO call up a lawyer or an incorporator and say, “hey, I need an offshore corporation in the Cayman Islands to issue an ICO for my new business.”
The sales agent say, “sure, no problem. Send us $9,500 and we’ll set up your corporation.”
Buyer pays and gets his or her Cayman Islands corporation. Scam complete.
Now, you’re thinking, what the heck? The buyer got exactly what they paid for. How is this an ICO scam perpetrated by the lawyer or incorporator?
This is an ICO scam because the agent knows full well that the buyer won’t be able to get a bank account. They know that the buyer doesn’t have the legal structure or documents necessary to issue an ICO. They know that it will be a cold day in hell before this client gets a bank account opened for his ICO.
They know the Cayman Islands corporation can’t be used as intended. These lawyers are intentionally selling a useless structure to make a buck. They’re taking advantage of a buyer who has no idea what they’re doing and doesn’t have the financial backing to issue a proper ICO.
Even if the buyer could get a bank account opened, it would be closed after the first few deposits… and the ICO would probably be blacklisted by the industry.
The only way to open an account would be to lie to the bank about how you intend to use that Cayman Islands corporation. You say that the company will sell a service such as internet marketing or whatever. You won’t get an account in the Cayman Islands, but you’ll get one in a smaller offshore jurisdiction.
Now you issue the token and deposits start coming in. You’re converting bitcoin into FIAT and transferring that to your offshore account to fund your business.
Do this a few times and the bank will get suspicious. Send a large transfer, and the bank will get suspicious. They’ll want to know the source of funds and to see your sales agreements if you’re saying these are business transfers.
Let’s say you skirt past the bank’s KYC, AML and compliance systems (this won’t happen), what are the Cayman regulators going to say? If in some alternate universe, you somehow manage to raise a few million bucks, regulators will be all over you.
The bottom line is that these Cayman Islands corporations are useless for an ICO. At least, they’re useless without all of the legal and planning work that goes into a proper ICO.
Sure, Cayman Islands is a top-tier jurisdiction for offshore ICOs and crypto funds. I recommend Cayman to clients all the time… clients who can afford the high costs associated with issuing a proper ICO from the Cayman Islands.
Back in the early days if ICOs, you might have been able to start in Cayman for $10,000. Today, you can’t get anywhere spending less than $50,000 on the front-end, and with most spending $100,000 on the back-end (success fees). Even low cost lesser jurisdictions are $35,000 in 2018.
The typical components of an offshore corporation in Caymans that will issue an ICO are as follows:
- Corporate entity,
- Financial Services Entity,
- Anti Money Laundering Manual (AML),
- Know Your Customers (KYC) procedures and systems,
- Dedicated Money Laundering Reporting Officer or Chief Compliance Officer with several years experience, and
- Sufficient capital to entice a correspondent bank to take you on as a client.
Setting up an ICO in 2018 is not cheap and any shortcuts will likely wind up causing massive headaches down the line.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks offering services in this area who haven’t got a clue or who know that what they’re selling is worthless. Sure, I can set up an offshore corporation for you in Cayman for less than $10,000, but it won’t be good for anything.
The choke points are the banks and international correspondent banks. They simply won’t accept anything that is not whiter than white in the crypto arena. That means proper licensing, approvals, and conformity with laws and regulations, especially US Securities laws if US persons are involved.
You’ll need to also address issues such as utility token or security coin right from the start. If a security, we’ll need to start as an exempt offering under 506(D) if any US persons are involved. Otherwise, we will still need a proper offering document wherever you want to set up shop that’s compliant with whichever countries you plan to sell into.
If you’re currently speaking with a promoter offering to form a cheap Cayman Islands company for your ICO, here’s what to do. Simply ask them to guarantee in writing that they’ll open a bank account in Caymans that will be allowed to receive ICO funds. Also, let them know you plan to visit the bank to discuss your ICO. This will shut them down very quickly.
I hope you’ve found this article on the offshore ICO scam and the Cayman Islands corporations. If you would like assistance with a proper and legal ICO out of Cayman, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at for a consultation.
We can also help you clean up your legal structure if you’ve already done some pre-sales. The only thing we can’t fix is sales of tokens or deposits accepted from non-accredited US investors. The only option there is to refund these buyers or face the ire of regulators.
And no, we can’t form an offshore corporation in the Cayman Islands for an ICO, allow you to do some pre-sales, and then get you into compliance. There’s way to much risk in that for you and us. Plus, the costs to fix a mess always outweigh the costs of doing it right the first time. If you’re already in trouble, we can help you get back on track, but we can’t go down that road with you.