HAVANA, Cuba. – That a certain Ricardo Martínez Rosales be one of 100,000 Cuban stakeholders may pass unnoticed to most people, but upon learning that he is a grandson of Division General Ulises Rosales del Toro –one of the closest and most loyal of Raúl Castro’s men- and the son of Perla Rosa Rosales Aguirreurreta, the present director of the Office of the Historian of Old Havana –the late Eusebio Leal’s replacement- is something to keep in mind.
The more so when the Cuban regime, unexpectedly, has declared war against Trust Investing, and has sent to prison some of its principal operators in Cuba, among them the man who started it all, Ruslan Concepción.
However, contrary to the fate of the few men locked-up and awaiting trial, after their bank accounts were frozen and assets and property confiscated, Ricardo Martínez Rosales has not been bothered by the police. What’s more, he hasn’t even bothered to remove from his Facebook profile the link to his active Trust Investing account, where he identifies himself as user “rickyyy728”.
Ricardo Martínez Rosales, the son of Perla Rosales, is user Rickyyy728 in Trust Investing (Credit: Screenshot from his Facebook page)
Neither has his cousin, Marcos Machado Rosales –the son of Perla Rosa’s sister, Zulema Rosales, and grandnephew of José Ramón Machado Ventura –distanced himself from Trust Investing, although, unlike “Ricky”, he has kept his identity as truster better protected under false names in social media and private chat spaces, from which, apparently, he has continued to invite close friends to participate in this brokerage which has been described on various occasions as a more sophisticated, Ponzi-scheme-like scam.
According to sources close to the Rosales family who gave information to CubaNet, it was at the invitation of cousin Marcos Machado, identified in Trust Investing as “powermark32” and the category of manager, that Ricardo Martínez Rosales and cousins Raúl Rosales and Daniel Machado (born in Russia and presently living in Denmark), joined the cryptocurrency company that has generated so much alarm in the last few months in Cuba.
Other sources that CubaNet consulted, associated directly with Trust Investing who have asked us to respect their anonymity, have confirmed that the first links established by Spanish residents Diego Chaves and Fabiano de Lima with the Panama and Lithuania-registered company (although not physically headquartered in either country), were the result of invitations from Ricardo Martínez Rosales and his cousins Marcos and Raúl. These three presumably joined the company before September 2019, reaching the status of team leader that year, and manager in February 2020.
Ricardo Martínez Rosales (Credit: photo taken from Facebook)
“I bought my first package in September 2019, at Marquito’s invitation. I remember it was September because there was an UJC event (Young Communists Union) at the theater to celebrate the start of the school year,” states one of our sources, a student of Information Sciences University (UCI, by its Spanish acronym) back then, as was Marcos Machado Rosales.
Our source adds: “A couple of months before, my girlfriend, who was a student at CUJAE (the “José Antonio Echeverria” University Center), joined Trust Investing. She went on to study at ISRI (Higher Institute of International Relations) (…). She was invited through the Facebook group (of students and graduates from ISRI) by Raúl Rosales, who still was not a “manager”, because this was just getting started in Cuba (…). As far as I know, about 20 of us from UCI joined (Trust Investing), all from the same year. At no time did we see any danger, talks were conducted at UCI, openly, no secrets, sometimes at the FEU’s hall (University Students Federation), because for us, this was all legal, myself and others had been invited by people who (you thought) would not be involved in anything illegal. Nothing is more legal here than being a relative of a VIP (…). What happened afterward is that we heard nothing from Trust Investing, we had no access to the account, same thing happened to my girlfriend. We had to join again through another sponsor because something strange happened to the accounts of everyone that joined initially through them.”
Marcos Machado (Credit: photo taken from Facebook)
“The first talk took place at the Computer Club in Playa; Richard (Ricardo Martínez Rosales) attended,” states another source interviewed by CubaNet. “Later, there was another talk, larger than the first, it was like a congress, there were more than 100 trusters at the (Computer) Palace Central, so there was nothing to worry about (…) If meetings were being held in those places it was because the government knew about them and approved (…), Machadito (Marcos) was already a team leader, since February (2020); others who were present included cousin Raúl (…) and I remember other privileged boys (…), like Alejandrito Maciques (the grandson of Abraham Maciques, a friend of Fidel Castro and president of Grupo Empresarial Palco). Who would have thought they would jail Ruslan (Concepción)? Those meetings were attended by people from the (Central) Bank, from the (Communist) Party. I still don’t understand what happened.”
Although Ricardo Martínez Rosales and Marcos Machado Rosales reacted on several occasions to Ruslan Concepción’s initial postings about Trust Investing (between June and July 2019}, and considered themselves part of Trust Investing’s “family”, it was not through Ruslan –identified by the media as the main organizer of the company in the island- that they opened their account and their working channels. Instead, according to information we obtained from several sources linked directly to Trust Investing in Cuba, they accomplished that individually, with foreign sponsors, as one among many independent truster networks that operate in the island, in addition to Ruslan Concepción’s own network. It is interesting, however, to note that only the latter has been dismantled by the police, while the rest remain active and promoting themselves on social media.
Raúl Rosales on vacation (Credit: photo taken from Facebook)
Ruslan Concepción himself –one of the best-qualified trusters in a global community that spans 90 countries, and has more than half a million members in the planet- stated on his Facebook account on January 20, 2021 (a few months before his incarceration), that his was not “the only Trust Investing network that existed in Cuba” and that, “unfortunately”, there were other sponsors that, unlike him, were only “interested in recruiting people, cashing-in on their commissions, and do not do their job correctly.”
Also on Facebook, Concepción talked about individuals that registered only with relatives or friends, and even with links whose identity “they don’t even know, or are searching and hunting
desperately for fallouts affecting other international leaders with whom they don’t communicate, or they simply look in YouTube for a referral link so as not to pay the commission to the Cuban party that introduced them to the business,” which lets us see just how spread out, fragmented and laden with conflicts of interest the community was before his arrest, in comparison to the image of a sole brotherhood under one person’s leadership that has been projected even in official media.
Then, is the arrest of Ruslan Concepción, identified as the general director of the company in Cuba, a raid against Trust Investing, or is it a settling of scores, given the notable and massive exceptions? Is Ruslan Concepción the scapegoat in a business whose control the regime (or certain factions within the regime) has lost, the more so when influencers and independent media started talking about the participation of certain state officials in Trust Investing?
Several members of the Rosales-Machado family are part of Trust Investing (Credit: photo taken from Daniel Machado’s profile on Facebook)
Trust Investing in Cuba: More than the regime would like us to see
If we accept as true the statistics shared by Ruslan Concepción himself, and in addition to the third place that Cuba occupied on the Top 20 in Trust Investing’s 2021 report –third after Spain and Brazil- the enigmatic company has presumably come to group more than 100,000 people in the island.
What Ruslan Concepción launched in Las Tunas in June of 2019, when he was only a “Growth Leader” and not the company’s “Regional Director” (although he presented himself as such on social media from the very beginning), resonated in other places as well, especially at CUJAE and at the University of Information Science (UCI, by its Spanish acronym), from where other independent lines were created with other growth leaders, all of them pioneers of cryptocurrency exploration in Cuba.
“The first talk (that I attended) was held in November 2019,” states Yohana, a graduate from the University of Computer Science (UCI, by its Spanish acronym). Today, she is categorized as “Regional Director” of Trust Investing.
“The talk was held in one of the labs, and as part of the introduction a video of Ruslan’s conference in Las Tunas was shown. Afterward, a professor explained what it was (…). Some of the students, myself included, were already working on cryptocurrency, and I can say that we all joined Trust Investing immediately because we saw nothing strange about it. There was faculty involved, they still are. An official of the Economy Ministry was invited to a conference in 2020; he gave a very good explanation. In fact, Díaz-Canel spoke later on about Cuba’s interest in cryptocurrency. Everything we did we shared transparently on social media; there has never been a complaint, everyone is very happy, everyone is getting their payments, without problems,” states Yohana. When Ruslan Concepción was arrested, she decided to deactivate her accounts on social networks and to continue working anonymously through private groups.
“I don’t think Ruslan’s case was a settlement of scores. They just backpedaled a bit,” is Yohana’s opinion. “They severed the most visible head to divert attention. Regardless, we took our precautions because, if something is clear, it’s that the government gets very angry when Cubans attain financial independence; when Trust Investing started, only two or three people were involved, but by the time Ruslan was arrested, there were thousands of people in Cuba earning more than US$ 300 through an activity that it (the regime) cannot control nor track –at least not to the extent desired- like it does with a paladar or with a mula running contraband,” states Yohana.
Invitation to the first meeting of rust Investing in Cuba circulates in social media (Credit: Courtesy)
The first event of Trust Investing-Cuba took place on Sunday, October 13, 2019 at the facilities of the Las Tunas headquarters of the National Union of Architects and Construction Engineers of Cuba. Ruslan Concepción was in charge of the meetings; at the time, he was the business’ “Expansion Leader” in Cuba. The master of ceremonies was Ramiro Mejías Rodríguez, regional communications support specialist or ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.). Both are being processed today for “illicit economic activity and personal enrichment”.
Nevertheless, as far as some of the “founding trusters” were concerned, the Cuban government intended to promote the company and incentivize participation, but only from official ranks.
Josué, an engineer and CUJAE graduate, and a Trust Investing “manager”, states: “(The Cuban leadership) realized it was a gold mine, but did not foresee that the business could get out of their direct control.”
In trusters groups on WhatsApp, there are many postings expressing gratitude to Trust Investing (Credit: Courtesy/Screenshot)
“It was about getting the word out, and monitoring just how far the ‘word of mouth’ messaging would reach. All of us who started it were graduates in information science and other engineering disciplines. There were workers from ETECSA, from the (Central) Bank, and other
executives. Even a nephew of Fidel Castro, grandson of Machado Ventura, was involved. (…) When Diego (Chaves) and Fabiano (de Lima) -CEO and Trust Investing marketing director, respectively- visited Havana in 2019, they met with many people, gave talks in hotels which were promoted on the Internet from the pages of Joven Club (a group managed by the Union of Communist Youth/Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas) without any problem. It all happened without fear of success, as people say. (…) The truth is that there is no criminal definition in the Cuban Penal Code to process this activity as a crime. There is no mention of cryptocurrency activity. I think that the whole thing exploded when the government realized that the number of Cubans who were receiving high earnings from this activity was growing, and all of them are financially independent and not dependent on a government job. They panicked at the prospect of so many people becoming independent from what is regarded as a repulsive government. There is nothing more dangerous for the government than people who are no longer dependent on a salary. And that is the goal,” states Josué, who is also a member of Intelcont Investing, a group with hundreds of trusters in Havana.
Meeting of a Trust Investing group at a Joven Club de Computación site (Credit: Courtesy)
In October 2019, from his Facebook page, Ruslan Concepción referred to the financial independence and prosperity that his type of entrepreneurship would provide. At the beginning, he didn’t talk much about a “before and after” effect for Cuban history based on financial independence of citizens with respect to the State, but his statements early on did not cause the fear they would in subsequent postings.
Other posts on Facebook, like those from October 2020, where he talked about “breaking the barriers, limitations and obstacles that we have always faced,” a clear reference to the Communist Party’s internal blockade, began to rub some in the government’s leadership the wrong way.
Fraudulent or not, Cubans have seen opportunities in Trust Investing (Credit: Private group posting in WhatsApp/Courtesy)
CubaNet interviewed a source from Cuba’s Ministry of the Economy directly involved with cryptocurrency and widely versed on the subject of Trust Investing. On condition of anonymity, this individual told us that Ruslan Concepción’s flaws were “talking too much” and “his vanity”.
“I don’t think I understand his role. Vanity and naïveté did not let him see what he was getting into, he thought he had gotten there on his ability alone and not because he was “allowed” to get there (…). In Cuba, there is a legal vacuum regarding the processing of anything having to do with cryptocurrency, which means that nothing would happen if one gave full range to an economic experiment, especially at a time when all measures taken are out of desperation (…). (The government) was not going to participate directly in an enterprise that was clearly a Ponzi scheme, just like it has not opened an account or created a company in an off-shore tax haven, or that it has people that do it, maybe unaware. There are people in Cuba who have no idea that they are directors in a corporation in Panama or the United Kingdom. They sigh papers here and there, and nothing happens, they know nothing. Here, we sign without reading first. (…) Ruslan began to feel too independent for his own good, to talk about things that are best kept silenced. He, and thousands of followers whose monthly incomes were more than US$ 1000 in bonuses. Something that is insanity in Cuba. And to top it all off, the pandemic broke out, which has driven the government to scour the earth for funds (…). They will not shut down Trust Investing because the company continues to generate money at a time when there are no other funding sources and because there are many “untouchables” in the business (…). Ruslan is like (General) Ochoa in the nineties. One head had to roll in order to shut others up,” claims our source.
As national director, Ruslan Concepción received a considerable monthly bonus (Credit: Facebook)
Trust Investing: Another swindle doesn’t matter
As National Director of Trust Investing, a post he achieved in July 2020, Ruslan Concepción started to receive a monthly bonus of US$ 3000, in addition to the profits from his own participation which, according to public information revealed by Ruslan Concepción himself, in less than two years amounted to more than one million US dollars. Such a fortune, in the Cuban context, which is laden with hardships, stimulated some competitors’ efforts. However, in the opinion of others who are more realistic about the evil side of human nature, it inspired resentment and jealousy.
Aura, a young Cuban physician who is a Trust Investing “team leader”, states: “I don’t think that a regime that steals from its doctors by keeping part of the salaries earned on international medical missions, and also sells donated goods it receives, could care less about another swindle.”
Although labeled in several countries as a fraudulent scheme, Trust Investing is viewed in Cuba as an opportunity for prosperity that the regime does not provide its citizens (Credit: Facebook)
Aura continues: “There is a lot of envy in the Ruslan “affair” (…). Envy from other trusters, and envy from the government. That a guy was walking around with one million US dollars in his pocket? (The government) was not going to allow that. Trust Investing has improved the life of many people in Cuba, people who had no way out of their misery. Look at me, a physician with a specialty. Even I had to resort to this in order to get ahead. It may be a swindle or whatever people call it, but the fact is that it’s helping a lot of people who feel swindled by the government, anyway. If you have to choose, there you have it. Ruslan was the scape goat. No one else who is involved openly in it (Trust Investing), and I mean involved, has been touched.”
On March 29, 2021, Ruslan Concepción, aka Trust Investing user “liberfinanzas21”, announced that he was going for his first “diamond” in the company, a very high investment not reached before by any Cuban. Exactly one month later, he was arrested by the police at the airport in Havana as he was preparing to fly to Russia with his family.
It is estimated that, as of April 2021, there are 190,000 Cuban trusters out of a global count of about 500,000. According to Google Trends statistics, in November 2020, the country most interested in Bitcoin was Cuba. For example, the term “buy Bitcoin” had reached a score of 100 points, the highest score granted, while countries like Argentina and Venezuela, which are large buyers of crypto-assets, did not score higher than 30 points. Internet search for the term “Bitcoin” ranked Cuba as fifth globally, with 48 points.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Cubans are part of Trust Investing (Credit: Internet)
There is speculation that the company will cease promoting itself in Cuba in 2024, at which time its directors will return to private status, no explanations given. In addition to the economic prosperity it has afforded some, Trust Investing has gained prestige not only as investment mechanism and independent association, but also as facilitator of online payments on such things as hotel reservations payable in cryptocurrency; acquisition of services such as Spotify, Netflix, AppStore, Google Play; payment on Amazon, Ebay, AliExpress; Cubacel telephone recharging; and even conversion of digital assets into hard currency that are directly deposited to a card at Banco Nacional de Cuba.
Already labeled as a fraudulent broker in countries such as Panama and Spain. Trust Investing describes itself on its webpage as a digital currency agent, headquartered in Estonia, with divisions within the company such as Trust Wine, which markets Spanish wines; Trust Travel Club, for tourism that is paid with Bitcoin; Trust Diamond, based on the extraction of precious assets such as gold and diamonds; and Truster Coin, for the creation of its own digital currency.
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