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Dope's the dope for the dope that wrote this spam

BIScom Subsection: 
Editorial Staff

Changing language means that the word "dope" when referring to drugs has moved on from marijuana, usually to heroin where it has effectively reversed into that use from the term "doped up," meaning in a highly drugged state. But it's also mutated from the equivalent of "it's the dope" meaning "it's the best" to "it's dope" meaning, approximately, very good. But all of these uses are relatively new: originally "a dope" was a stupid person. So, now you understand the headline, read the article which refers to a disturbing form of spam.

About ECO Equity

ECO Equity's mission is to grow one of the best medical cannabis products and provide high-quality infused products to all qualified dispensaries and retail stores in Europe. In 2019, Eco Equity Limited acquired a license (sic) for the cultivation of cannabis, manufacture of products, supply, store, import and export for medicinal purposes and or scientific use.

ECO Equity is aiming to cultivate on up to 350 hectares of long-term leased land within the borders of Zimbabwe. A license (sic) has been acquired for the production for export only, distribution of Cannabis products to international regulated markets where permitted.

As you might imagine, ECO Equity also offers an Executive Board of considerable experience, commensurate with the levity and profitability of its Cannabis-related ventures.

And then the final blow " You are receiving this email as you are subscribed to the Investsense mailing list" (no we are not, at least not legitimately) and a purported address "IW, PO Box 10315, Grand Cayman, KY1-1003 Cayman Islands." That address is the legitimate mailbox address of "Cayman Enterprise City," a Cayman Islands government approved special economic zone.

So, what's behind the spam?

In March this year, Cannabis Business Daily announced that a local Zimbabwe company had been granted a licence to grow cannabis exclusively for medical use which, subject to strict conditions, is legal in that country. That media outlet reported "Precision Cannabis Therapeutics Zimbabwe was approved for the licence on 7 March, pending payment of a hefty USD46,000 fee." (see https://mjbizdaily.com/wp-cont...)

Eco Equity gives its address as the old NatWest Tower in the City of London, now known as Tower 42. On its website it says "We have up to 2,000 hectares of long-term leased land within the borders of Zimbabwe. " So, there's a disparity between the spam and the apparent target. In fact, the disparity can be explained by Eco Equity's own timeline which says that the plan is to initially cultivate 350 hectares - but that's not what the spam says. The spam directly lifts "the opportunity" from the website.

That website has a page upon which it says "Approvals. To view this protected post, enter the password below. " There is, at least when this newspaper viewed the page, no box into which a password may be entered. One also asks the question that if the approval is a matter of public record, why it is not publicly accessible. The answer may lie in the fact that there is no mention of Eco Equity or an approval for growing cannabis on the website of the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Eco Equity says, on one page, "The Company in association with Zimbabwe Ministry of Health will develop, own and operate a medicinal cannabis facility in Zimbabwe with the objective to export the products derived from the facility to Canada, USA and Europe." The spam makes no mention of such a joint venture - and nor, so far as we were able to find, does the Ministry.

The fundraising is in pounds.

The UK's Financial Conduct Authority does not list Eco Equity Limited as an authorised person. A business, Eco Private Equity LLP, is listed with the address Audrey House 3rd Floor 16-20 Ely Place London EC1N 6SN and is marked "no longer an authorised representative." It is implied that that business sold insurance related investment products. The entry is marked "No longer registered as an Appointed Representative This is an appointed representative (AR) that is no longer an agent of an authorised firm. Do not start to do 'REGULATED' business with an AR that is no longer registered." There is no implication that that business is connected to Eco Equity Limited.

The spam is inviting "investment" in "straight equity in the form of Ordinary Shares." It is, by reason of being a spam distributed indiscriminately, not limiting the marketing to those who might be qualified investors.

The Eco Equity website has, within the past month, published a significant number of highly positive articles relating to medical cannabis and its investment value.

The internet domain name eco-equity.com was created on 1998-09-22. There is no publicly available record of transfers. However, the domain information was last updated in May this year. It is important that there is not too much value placed on that update: domain information is frequently marked as updated when information is confirmed but not changed. It is hosted by a US company DNS Simple. The domain is registered via a UK company SafeNames Ltd.

Searches of the Financial Conduct Authority reveal no entries for Eco Equity's founder and CEO, Jon-Paul Doran nor for the "wealth management and private equity firm" Axium which he lists at LinkedIn. He says that, after a four year gap in his listed CV, he launched Axium in March last year and Eco Equity in he following May.

Here's the thing: It would be easy to use all of the above and build a picture that there is something not-quite-right about Eco Equity when one starts digging behind the spam. However, Eco Equity itself has all the appearance of a business that is committed to its objectives. It clearly invests time and money in its development. It does not appear to be a fly-by-night venture setting itself up to grab money and run.

However, that's what the spam is aimed to do. Is it likely that the spam is issued by unrelated chancers? We would think that's more likely than not. The business, in its own material, does not solicit investment from third parties and although its team includes some with investment experience, including investor relations, there is nothing to indicate that it plans to raise funds from the public.

And that's why the spammer is a dope. it's all too easy to look into its mail and conclude that there is something awry with his conduct, regardless of the business the spam focusses on. The potential victims appear to be both Eco Equity itself and those who might pass money to the spammer.