The Austrian mafia: promised rewards for silencing critics
No reader of this blog will be surprised to read that Lyoness and its instigators have been committing structural crimes over the last 9 to 10 years. The company runs an illicit pyramid scheme and has a side Ponzi scheme to persuade participants to invest tens of thousands of euros in 'advertising campaigns', without having drawn up a decent prospectus nor having informed - let alone having received approval or a license from - the appropriate authorities (like the Austrian financial markets watchdog 'FMA') about its investment scheme.
In the same line, it will also not come as a surprise that - therefore - Lyoness is in fact a criminal organisation, which violates a number of national and international laws and regulations. However, many people may be surprised to find out that Lyoness and its instigators employ mafia-like techniques to keep the organisation running. In 2012, the Swiss media Handelszeitung and Beobachter, both owned by publishing company 'Axel Springer Switzerland', reported that internal memos circulating amongst Lyoness members prove that Lyoness is offering rewards to Lyoness members who can provide the company with useful information on former Lyoness members spreading the truth about Lyoness on the internet. In fact, the promised reward is as high as 45,000 Swiss francs.
Additionally, when Lyoness detects who is behind the 'libellous rumours' (i.e. in reality: the truth), it threatens this critic with a lawsuit worth millions of euros.
This begs the question why an 'upright, legitimate shopping community' would be so afraid of some negative media attention. If none of it is true, it should be easy to refute. Unfortunately for Lyoness, the counter arguments produced by company spokesman Mathias Vorbach do not seem that strong overall (i.e. are blatant lies).
As a reaction to the above allegations, Vorbach merely responded to the 'pyramid scheme allegations'. This he did by saying that the Swiss authorities had either explicitly approved of Lyoness, or were at least not investigating them. Unfortunately for Mr. Vorbach, the reporters of Handelszeitung did their job. Since April 2012, the Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs (SECO) is reponsible for examining pyramid schemes. Its chief lawyer, Guido Sutter, says explicitly that SECO has never looked at Lyoness and has therefore not approved its business model. For the assessment of the Lyoness business model, SECO had to rely on the information gathered by its predecessors: the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and the Lotteries and Gaming Commission (Comlot).
Christina Bürgi (FINMA) has declared that her organisation has not thoroughly checked the Lyoness business model, but that the activities it claims to employ need authorisation from FINMA (or SECO). David Keller (Comlot) has also declared that his organisation has never explicitly endorsed or approved the Lyoness business model. In fact, he said his organisation has expressed concern whether participation in this system could indeed render the advertised financial benefits. Chief prosecutor of the canton of St. Gallen, Hans Jacob Thomas, has explained why his office has discontinued its prosecution of Lyoness. He explained that the jurisdiction dispute between the Austrian and Swiss prosecutors had resulted in the Austrian authorities taking over the case, but that the Swiss prosecutors would continue to investigate and be willing to help out their Austrian counterparts if requested.