After threatening to quit British racing after an investigation was launched into their founder, Phoenix Thoroughbreds have had the decision made for them after the BHA announced they would be barred from having runners for the foreseeable future.
That comes after the syndicate’s accounts were frozen on Monday as the mystery surrounding the firm and their owners continues to deepen.
Phoenix, and their partner syndicate Phoenix Ladies, have also been barred by France Galop after the group continued to fail to reveal where their funding was coming from.
That follows accusations levelled at Amer Abdulaziz Salman, Phoenix’s founder, claiming that he was a key figure in a £75 million money laundering scheme. The increased media speculation saw the group metaphorically spit their dummy out and threaten to quit British racing, however they have continued to have entries and as recently as Sunday (September 6) they won at York with Frankenstella.
Now, the BHA has said that Phoenix will not be allowed to enter British races after their racing accounts being suspended.
The group remains active in Ireland, the USA and Australia, where Phoenix enjoyed a couple of major Group 1 winners in Loving Gaby and Farnan in 2019. However, two key authorities in Australia – Racing NSW and Racing Victoria – have confirmed they too are now investigating the firm.
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In 2019, it was alleged that American lawyer Mark Scott stole more than £250 million from investors via the fraudulent ‘OneCoin’ cryptocurrency project. He was found guilty of fraud after it emerged he had laundered the stash of cash through the scheme.
In the New York court proceedings, the name ‘Amer Abdulaziz Salman’ appears as an alleged money launderer as part of the OneCoin scheme. No formal charges have ever been brought.
The murky episode revolves around the evidence given by Konstantin Ignatov, co-founder of OneCoin, who alleged that Abdulaziz was a ‘money cleaner’ for the operation under the guidance of Gilbert Armenta and Ruja Ignatova, two more of the accused parties.
Ignatov, by this point, had already pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges.
“Amer Abdulaziz, after he stole €100m from OneCoin, he started buying racehorses for, like, €25m. [He was] one of the main money-launderers for Ruja,” he told the court hearing.
A leaked transcript of a conversation between Mark Scott and the FBI also names Phoenix as a recipient of $190 million, although this has never been investigated.
The Racing Post then began investigating Abdulaziz and the Phoenix Thoroughbreds syndicate, and they alleged that the group’s initial fundraising effort went completely unregulated – despite Phoenix’s grand protestations to the contrary – and that the money generated was never used as a ‘fund’. Again, no charges have been brought, and the firm continues to spend big at various bloodstock sales around the world.
Whether money from OneCoin has been invested in Phoenix remains a mystery, but Tom Ludt – the syndicate’s head of equine – has since walked away from the project on those grounds, while other key partners such a trainer Bob Baffert ad Martyn Meade have also cut their ties.