Recently, Gerhard Huber, member of the Austrian parliament for the BZÖ, has submitted a list of parliamentary questions (pdf) to the Austrian ministers of Finance and Justice, Dr. Beatrix Karl and Dr. Maria Fekter, respectively. Mr. Huber has expressed his concern over the impact of the Lyoness fraud on Austria, Europe and the world and the possible tax exemption Lyoness has received from the Austrian government.
Mr. Huber is definitely not the first Austrian MP to express his concern over Lyoness in the Austrian parliament. A simple search with the key word 'Lyoness' on www.parlament.gv.at, shows that already in 2005, Lyoness was discussed in the answers to parliamentary questions. These questions were asked on June 8, 2005 and concerned the legal situation around article 168 of the Austrian Penal Code. More specifically, MP Johann Maier (SPÖ) asked the then incumbent Justice minister about the reports arrived on alleged pyramid schemes in 2004, and about what had been done with these reports.
Although the media attention in Austria and Switzerland grew a little after that, Lyoness - seemingly unchallenged - managed to expand into numerous new countries, in all of which it managed to dupe a considerable amount of consumers and companies, gaining sizable amounts of illegal earnings. In 2010, another branch of the Austrian Chamber of Labour (Vorarlberg) issued an unambiguous warning against Lyoness. In this warning, the Chamber referred to the following matters:
- The discount vouchers issued by Lyoness are unreliable.
- Lyoness spreads evidently false and deceptive information and hides the truth (i.e. lies).
- By joining Lyoness, members agree to the transfer of their data, turnover, photos and videos (made of them) to unspecified third parties.
- The 'cashback card' is redundant and not free.
- Any returns from the 'position system' are highly implausible and unrealistic if no-one is recruited into the system by you.
Little by little, journalists and the established media they work for started to pick up on the obvious fraud Lyoness had been committing, which spilled over into regulatory actors, investigative and litigative government agencies and politicians - yet, rather slowly. So slowly, that now, 3 years after the last warning issued by the Chamber of Labour (and 5 years after the first), 8 years after the entire parliament and government (as well as anyone else paying attention) got to hear and/or read that Lyoness was being accused of being a pyramid scheme and even 9 years after these first complaints were filed, Lyoness is still operating and continues to do so in more than 40 countries and on all continents of the world - with 2.7 million members. And the role of the Austrian authorities in this happening cannot be denied or neglected.
In 2011, it was reported that Freidl was behind a company called Trevilian, which hosted a 'shopping community' called Fryee. Now, two years later, the website of this 'shopping community' is down. Nevertheless, it is to be expected that Freidl is already working on his next scam.
We sincerely hope mr. Huber gets the answers he is looking for - the answers everyone victimised by Lyoness is waiting for. It should be especially interesting to hear how the Austrian authorities, particularly the Austrian Justice ministry is going to avoid new scams like these rising and flourishing in and from their country. However, mr. Huber should not forget to also ask himself the question why he has not picked up on this earlier, and he should probably ask his former party member and Justice minister Karin Miklautsch why she has not done anything to stop Lyoness. Then again, this goes for pretty much every politician who served in the Austrian government and parliament during the last 8 or 9 years, as well as for a whole bunch of regulators, prosecutors and officials that they have employed.