For the Francophones among you, an article on my favorite crook, Jean-François Amyot (who has grown distinctly porky in the past couple of years, judging from the photo): http://argent.canoe.ca/nouvelles/une-vie-comme-un-film-qui-finit-mal-28032015
I don't think I have seen this link before.
A very rough translation follows:
"A life like a movie that ends badly
Quebecer Jean-Francois Amyot made $ 2 million in one afternoon just selling penny stocks, which he controlled from offshore accounts in the Bahamas and Panama. His life is similar in many ways to that of Jordan Belfort, the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in 2013, a manager of a brokerage firm that specializes in these unscrupulous junk shares.
Jean-Francois Amyot recounts today with astonishing candor that memorable day in 2007, during an interview that he agreed to give our Bureau of Investigation pending his sentence in the United States.
"My tax return in 2006, he says, it was $ 16 million. In 10 years, I had to make $ 100 million. "
A penny stock is a common stock that sells for pennies. In French, we call them junk shares.
Amyot confides in our investigative reporter because he has very little to lose: he got caught not by the authorities supervising the financial markets here, but by the US Securities and Exchange Commission SEC .
"Not all white"
The SEC wants a lifetime ban for Amyot from trading in penny stocks and a fine of US $ 11 million in response to appeals initiated in 2012. He did not appear at his trial. He also faces prison with a further AMF case), filed in September.
"I'm not white," he acknowledges, the calm voice when we met him in a luxury hotel downtown.
While he is unknown to the general public, well-placed people knew him. Amyot has organized fundraising dinners at $ 1,000 cover for Senator Larry Smith and the former Minister of Revenue Jean-Pierre Blackburn. He attended Arab princes. He was the partner of Jean-Guy Lambert and presented to the Canadian Senate. He even accompanied Jean Chrétien, Lucien Bouchard and Mike Harris with a delegation to China. A federal former Liberal minister, David Dingwall, served on the board of one of his companies, in which a relative of Vito Rizzuto, Tony Papa, was a shareholder.
Hidden in the Bahamas
In recent years, Amyot has lived in the Bahamas, a tax haven, in a fenced and guarded neighborhood for the ultra-rich.
"I left Montreal in 2012 because they informed me that my life was in danger, he says, referring to the presence of organized crime in penny stocks.
During the 2000s, Amyot controlled and promotes a hundred penny stocks in Quebec and elsewhere in North America. In theory, they are used in legitimate small companies trying to find funding. In practice, however, there are many fake companies which are not much more than scraps of paper.
Buyers are mostly Americans, but also naive Quebecois fall for it.
Most penny stocks sold by Amyot disappeared today. They are worthless.
The following names have therefore also disappeared Spencer Pharmaceutical, Energy 1 Corp., Andes Gold Corporation, Kender Energy Wanderport Corporation. These penny stocks with esoteric names are generally invented from nothing by Amyot.
Amyot has in turn promoted Finkelstein Capital companies, Midland Baring Hilbroy Advisory, IAB Media, Venture Capital Rainmaker, Publications Hypergrowthstock or Cunningham-Adams Fund in Panama.
According to the AMF and the SEC, promotions Amyot are purely pump and dump, that is to say, the pimping of worthless products.
Amyot denies having these charges. Although he admits he is not completely white, he said he had never broken the law itself.
"They were real companies. I lost my money too (in certain promotions). Sure I'm trying to present things in a favorable light, "he concedes.
He also claims that even if he had offshore accounts, he paid all taxes owed to Quebec.
It was during the tech bubble of the late 1990s that Jean-Francois Amyot has his first experience of the financial markets. A former student in Finance at McGill, he worked at Reuters.
"The first share I bought cost 10 cents, I bought $ 1,000 worth. The next day it had risen to $ 1. I called my broker and I asked him to sell. He told me to wait, it will go up again. On the third day, it was worthless. I learnt my lesson" he says.
Jean-Francois Amyot was presented primarily as a seller, like the Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort, who now lectures on the art of selling. Besides, he does not exclude giving also lectures when his case is completed.
"I'm a marketing guy. For a long time I thought we had to sell a penny stock as it sells any product, "he says to justify his work. He says philosophically he will accept the prison that awaits if ever the AMF manage to convict him.
"In life, shit happens. If Vincent Lacroix was sentenced to four years in prison, I wonder what we're going to give me. He, he stole 130 million to small savers. I've never done anything like this, "he pleads.
Sex, drugs, vodka
Jean-François Amyot is defined as a "vodka guy" and a good father, but he has already surprised a partner with escorts in a hotel room in Laval. Luxury cars, private jets, sex and drugs are common for stock promoters, which is not dissimilar to several scenes from the film The Wolf of Wall Street.
"There's something for everyone if you love women, power, luxury, alcohol ...," he said. During his "sabbatical" in the Bahamas in 2013, he said he attended Montrealers who made their fortunes in diamond trading. Those are shady fortunes too, he says. "We invite you in parties and it's another world," he said.
Amyot claims to have been threatened at least three times by the Mafia in his promoter career. A meeting was organized on the terrace of a downtown condo in 2013. Tonino Collachia, murdered in December, offered him a glass of grappa. "Where are my six million?" he asked, referring to its promotion of Spencer Pharmaceutical.
Amyot says he's very curious that neither the AMF nor the RCMP ever moved against the Mafia bigwigs associated with penny stock trading. According to him, the Mafia has been present for many years in the world of penny stocks and it is known to almost everyone.
According to Jean-Francois Amyot, the use of tax havens and offshore accounts is not likely to decrease but rather to intensify in the coming years in Quebec. "Revenu Québec has made a habit of threatening people, we live in a police state." He himself plans to soon return to the Bahamas to enjoy a more lenient taxation. According to Amyot, offshore is now moving to Asia. The language barrier and different alphabet help miscreants to hide, he said
The penny stocks in a few words
1. A promoter provides a website posing as a stock market information site. It can also acquire a list of emails where to send promotional emails (newsletters as they say in the business).
2. The promoter pays an "analyst" to promote a penny stock. The analyst implies that the company is promising. "We try all kinds of things to make look attractive" said Amyot.
3. The Company is promoted heavily, especially with keyword purchases on Google. Releases suggest that a major development is about to occur.
4. The promoters are also shareholders of the companies they tout. The shares, purchased for almost nothing, are held in offshore accounts (tax havens). When shares go up, they are sold at a very high profit. "Basically, it's nothing very complicated," he says."