LONDON/JAKARTA, June 21 (Reuters) - Unregulated British firm Financial.org, which is on eight watchdogs' alert lists, has closed all investors' dollar accounts and converted the balances to its new cryptocurrency, according to a notice on the company's Facebook page.
Investors can only activate their new cryptocurrency accounts by investing another $7,000 by July 31, Financial.org said. They cannot withdraw any of the cryptocurrency - called FOIN - until next year, the company added.
Reuters reported in January that Financial.org, a sponsor of Formula One team Williams, is managing hundreds of thousands of dollars for Asian investors even though it is not licensed to engage in financial transactions. Investors said their money had been invested in U.S. stocks.
Financial watchdogs in Britain, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and the UAE have since placed the company on alert lists of unauthorised investment firms with whom investors should exercise caution, adding to previous warnings from Malaysia and Singapore.
Financial.org, which describes itself on its website as an education business with 200,000 members, announced at the weekend that it was closing all existing accounts, which are denominated in dollars, and converting the balances to FOIN.
"These decisions made are final and non-reversible," Chief Executive Arnaud Georges said in the notice, adding that he expected to be the first FOIN billionaire. "Just wait for one short year to realize your massive profits."
Georges said that "unhappy investors/members have been rumoured to be considering legal actions", adding that "legal litigations will definitely take years with no assurance of success and you may lose the opportunity to cash out/realize your profits during the whole litigation period".
Financial.org did not respond to a letter left at its headquarters in Canary Wharf, London, asking for comment about its decision to close investors' accounts and convert the balances to FOIN. It also did not respond to a phone call to its Abu Dhabi office or an emailed request for comment.
Williams did not respond to a request for comment.
One investor based in Japan provided screenshots of his account, which showed the balance of $9,800 had been wiped out and converted to 59 FOIN. He said he was no longer able to access the account.
Another investor, based in Singapore, provided screenshots that showed her balance of more than $3,000 had been cut to zero. The account has been closed and no FOIN has appeared, the screenshots showed.
Both said they had received no warning before their dollar balances disappeared.
Financial.org, which launched in September 2016, has held promotional events for FOIN in Asia in recent weeks, including in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Jakarta, the Laotian capital Vientiane and the Taiwanese city of Taichung, according to its website. (Additional reporting and writing by Kirstin Ridley in London; further reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich, Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi, Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok, Alan Baldwin in London and John Geddie and Jack Kim in Singapore; Editing by Pravin Char)