15+ years as a real estate entrepreneur, business angel, and venture capitalist. Traveling the world seeking business opportunities and cultural growth, in this process founded several successful companies.
He is currently an options trader and blockchain advocate. He has a professional blog where he writes several articles about the companies he covers in the stock markets, finance-related content, and more.
Being accused of money laundering on behalf of criminal organizations is very serious and above all, defamatory. For someone who works abroad and bases their work on their reputation, it can be a career-ending accusation.
In the world, they do not understand that in Italy, one can end up under the yoke of the “executioners,” finding himself condemned by public opinion despite acquittal in court through various degrees of trial. Even if you were acquitted in two trials and your acquittal was sought by the same prosecutors who initially accused you, incredibly you can, on any given day after decades, find yourself without any responsibility having to defend yourself against absurd and unfounded accusations made by journalists in looking for controversy.
This is what happened to Antonio Velardo, an entrepreneur of Italian origin, an expert in finance and cryptocurrencies, one of the most excellent experts in the sector, esteemed and appreciated internationally. These days he finds himself at the center of a journalistic tsunami and, despite himself, his name bounces around in several newspapers where the most infamous crimes are pointed out to him.
But what is his story? Velardo, just over 18 years old, leaves Italy, precisely Pompeii, where his family has been dedicated to construction for three generations (without ever having to deal with justice or the shadow of organized crime) to study abroad. In the United States, he obtained his pilot’s license, and then in London, he received the title of engineer. He is an intelligent and capable man who knows how to take advantage of opportunities, take advantage of them and take risks by working hard and achieving personal success thanks to his talent as a salesperson in the real estate sector. And all this while being abroad. He deals with sales with marketing; he doesn’t build houses but sells them. From Ireland and England, he manages to bring hundreds of people to buy a beach house in wonderful vacation spots; he does it with outstanding professionalism and with excellent results.
His real estate brokerage business begins in Spain, where he is hired as a salesperson by a significant English real estate developer. He shows that he knows how to do it and is soon promoted to manager. He flies to Cape Verde, where he handles a major real estate sale of holiday homes for Irish and English clients, organizes trade shows, drives clients to their destinations, and sells the houses with his team. After having learned the profession well, Velardo decides to go on his own, and together with an Irish partner, Henry Fitzsimons, known in Cape Verde, with his personal capital, they choose to undertake and found the company VFI Overseas Properties.
The two businessmen have the misfortune to decide to negotiate real estate in Calabria, beginning to sell the ” Jewel of the Sea” apartments, from which a series of judicial vicissitudes will arise that still haunt them today despite acquittals in varying degrees of judgment.
Actually, in Calabria, there are other splendid towns inhabited by hundreds of foreigners to whom Antonio Velardo’s company has sold holiday homes without any problem.
But the ” Jewel of the Sea” operation was hell for many years, a nightmare where Italian justice, after some uncertainty, ruled out any link between Antonio Velardo and criminal organizations, acquitting him for not having committed any crime.
It should be noted that the Irish partner, who was also overwhelmed by the investigation, was acquitted at trial and even financially compensated for unjust detention.
Velardo was a businessman who sold houses; he did it honestly, respecting the rules and saying that it is not him with his lawyers, but rather the sentences of the courts that first investigate him, judge him and then acquit him.
So why do we keep talking about Antonio Velardo? Because in February 2022, another financial scandal brought to light 700 names of Italians who had secret accounts in Swiss banks, a report known as ” Suisse Secrets. “
Velardo inappropriately found his name on the list of these 700 Italians, and some jealous but somewhat superficial journalists began to connect the dots in a cross-eyed and imprecise way.
What is published about Antonio Velardo by newspapers worldwide is devoid of any foundation and, in some cases, invented from scratch. Based on the sentences, this dossier aims to demonstrate, without leaving any doubt, that the name of Antonio Velardo cannot and should not be associated with crimes of any kind. A non-superficial reading of the trial records best manifests Antonio Velardo’s distance from the accusations that the press unhesitatingly launches against him.
The purely journalistic investigation was carried out by a group of journalists led by IrpiMedia in Italy and OCCRP abroad. The work carried out by accredited journalists in these publications specialized in investigative journalism has meant that the same news published by them has been reported uncritically, often with a “copy and paste” by dozens of newspapers around the world, causing a vast and dramatic reputational damage to Antonio Velardo.
In this article published on February 22, reference is made to alleged responsibilities for money laundering activities.
Velardo was accused of laundering mafia money. That accusation has already been debunked during the METROPOLIS trial. Antonio Velardo was acquitted of all charges, even at the prosecutor’s request.
This means that before asking for Velardo’s acquittal, everything was thoroughly investigated, involving him in two trials and then acquitting him, even at prosecutors’ request, with the return of all his money, assets, and companies.
In this document called “Metropolis Device,” the seriousness of the accusations is deduced that allow the magistrate to request and obtain an arrest warrant that was revoked shortly after due to the inconsistency of the accusatory system.
This is the sentence that annuls the arrest warrant; “judgment of cassation.” But acquittal is not enough for journalists! Even placing themselves above justice, some newspapers try to hypothesize a profile of Velardo’s guilt, assuming that the prosecution has not been able to prove the accused’s guilt due to the lack of collaboration from the banks. The thesis is suggestive but TOTALLY FALSE. Both the Italian and Swiss authorities had Velardo’s bank accounts in their possession, which were even seized until the court was acquitted in the first instance. Once released, Velardo received compensation for legal fees from Switzerland and the freezing of accounts.
What is difficult to understand is how it is possible that the same accounts seized and controlled by the judicial authorities of two countries could end up on a list of secret accounts. This detail would suffice to understand the journalistic error made by the journalists despite having been informed of Velardo’s strangeness both personally by Velardo himself and through emails aimed at a correct reconstruction of the events. Unfortunately, no fixes have been made.
The document from the Swiss authorities indicating Credit accounts Suisse clears all doubts; in fact, the accounts that the Italian authorities ask to be verified and placed under preventive embargo are indicated without the possibility of being denied. It is clear that the only account that has not been frozen is the last one of CHF 25,000 because it was already closed at the time of the accusations.
This is the document of the Swiss authorities that details the investigation against Antonio Velardo and who was later compensated for the blockade and the legal costs incurred
At the time of the events, Antonio Velardo legally resided in Tunisia and was therefore not required to declare his accounts to the Italian tax authorities. However, as can be seen in the annexes above, the Italian authorities had access to his accounts, and after this access, he was acquitted as it was possible and relatively easy to trace the origin of the money deposited in his accounts.
But it is essential to understand that the company VFI Overseas Properties that Velardo had founded with his Irish partner Fitzsimons (accused and acquitted in the same process) managed 15 real estate projects, and Jewel of the sea was just one of them.
Antonio Maccarone, who worked as a real estate agent, is also involved in the Joya del Mar operation without having any involvement in the operation itself. Antonio Velardo has never been involved in the mafia or organized crime issues, making the trial’s truth clear. The attempt to create a suggestive connection is a journalistic lie according to which Antonio Velardo would have baptized Maccarone’s son. This is false not only because Antonio Velardo is not a Catholic but because the church records that tell the truth scream it: Antonio Velardo is not the godfather of Maccarone’s son!
Maccarone had never before been charged prior to this case in which, however, he was fully acquitted. In addition, there is no judicial document that informs or insinuates a relationship between Maccarone and Jewel of the Sea. To affirm otherwise is a profound act against the truth; it is fake news, is a journalistic lie.
And the accusation that Antonio Velardo has known members of the Mancuso family must always be relegated to the world of fantasy. It is enough to read the trial records to deny this journalistic invention.
Jewel of the Sea was one of several projects that the VFI company has promoted and sold. To clarify the picture, VFI was not the builder and did not receive any money from the builder, as was proven in court. Jewel of the Sea construction company shareholder, Antonio Cuppari, was accused of money laundering for the mafia and being a member of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia group. He was found guilty of mafia-type association but acquitted of money laundering when it was shown that the money for the project came directly from the clients who had bought the houses.
Cuppari himself, questioned by the court during the trial, declared that he had hidden from Velardo that he had a criminal record; he had kept quiet not only because of his reputation but above all because he feared that Fitzsimons and Velardo would not agree to sell their properties.
If all this is in the trial papers, one wonders how it is possible that in journalism, we should read that Velardo defrauded clients and, at the same time, used the Joya del Mar project as a front to launder money from the mafia?
This absurdity has been dismantled in court, but not only. And if the journalists had studied the trial papers, they would have realized that the money went from foreign clients to a law firm, mainly the lawyer’s. Giambrone, who, before paying the builder or commission to VFI, had to examine the situation through various due diligence. In fact, it was the law firm that paid the commission for the sales made and the construction company directly to both VFIs.
VFI was building sales on several projects, and Jewel of the Sea was just one of them. The company had different costs and employees, so the shareholders received their dividends as part of the net income after paying taxes and other expenses. Therefore, Velardo did not receive any money directly from Jewel of the Sea but instead took a dividend from his VFI company.
VFI was only an intermediary for the Jewel of the Sea project, which several law firms followed, including, as already mentioned above, the Giambrone law firm who, through “due diligence,” verified that the land and the builder had no limitations on the success of the real estate transaction.
It is the lawyer who had to verify that the builder had taken out an insurance policy in favor of the clients to cover 100% of the amount paid by the clients in the event of non-payment or when a problem arose. And it was Giambrone’s own professional insurance company that indemnified clients when the project failed, that is when it was placed under judicial seizure for the mafia charges against Cuppari, but certainly not for money laundering.
VFI did not participate in any compensation action, and Velardo was never sued for liability related to the failure of the Jewel of the Sea project because the flow of money was reconstructed in the course of the investigation and lawsuits and its legal origin. Therefore, all documents are public and can be consulted by anyone who wishes to know the procedural truth.
Thus, the statement proposed in the journalistic notes, according to which a prosecutor would have said that “it was impossible to prove the origin of the flow of money,” represents a false journalist denied by the procedural truth.
The reference to the flow of money is actually related to another lawsuit, Black Money, where Velardo was involved in the accusation of tax evasion and referred to the alleged nullity of the tax shield requested by Velardo. Therefore, the reporters were also confused by mixing totally separate essays.
The accusatory theorem of the Black Money trial was intended to prove that Antonio Velardo, together with his lawyer, bookkeeper, and accountant, had improperly laundered the tax shield money in other businesses in Italy. The theorem turned out to be totally unfounded, and Velardo was also ultimately acquitted of this accusation.
The money laundering theorem underlying the Back Money process was weak from the start because these types of crimes are typically committed through companies in countries with favorable tax regimes. Velardo was then also acquitted of this charge in the second-degree trial. This judgment is final. Velardo has no pending charges or criminal record as he has been fully acquitted of all charges.
It is essential to point out that, in the same sentence (first instance), the judge ordered the release of all the accounts and assets of Antonio Velardo (including those of Credit Suisse ) because there was no reason to freeze their assets as they came from lawful sources proven in court. The money had been legally and legitimately earned.
VFI was a company that had more than 60 employees who could be monitored and questioned about their work. VFI paid taxes in the countries in which it operated. Reporters even interviewed some VFI clients and had to admit the truth.
In conclusion, this dossier is designed to demonstrate the total falsity of the journalists’ accusations. Through this story supported by annexes extracted from the official sentences, the whole story is told to restore serenity to an honest, successful businessman who was inadvertently involved in events of the past in which his strangeness had already been demonstrated in the courtroom.