On January 19, 2023, DW launches Cannabis Cowboys, its first investigative podcast.
The eight-part true crime series is about a cannabis investment platform called JuicyFields that has affected thousands worldwide. For more than two years, the Berlin-based start-up collected huge amounts of money from from internet users, promising huge returns through investments in medicinal cannabis.
DW business reporters Andreas Becker and Nicolas Martin had an early hunch that something was wrong. Becker and Martin thought the promised rates of return were good to be true.
So, they decided to investigate. At the time, JuicyFields was paying its investors on time and company managers were free to meet the press. Investors were euphoric and the power of social media helped JuicyFields grow fast.
A classic exit scam?
Then, in the summer of 2022, the house of cards collapsedbefore Becker and Martin's eyes. The platform went dead, and content on the company's social media channels was deleted. Thousands of investors in dozens of countries were blocked from their accounts — and still can't access their money today.
One investor in Germany, we call him Eddie, invested 80,000 euros. Daniel Johansson from Sweden deposited 350,000 euros with JuicyFields. They told us their stories, through the highs and the lows.
The extent of the total damage is unclear. Police say it could be hundreds of millions of euros, other estimates run into the billions.
But unlike a classic exit scam, the people at JuicyFields did not disappear with the money. The company's website (juicyfields.io) was still online, more than six months after investors had been left stranded.
And from time to time the site is updated. Sometimes, the operators seem to be offering investors a refund if they send in copies of their passports and financial details. And most recently, masked men announced in a video that the investment platform would soon be up and running again. Masked men?
Who's behind the JuicyFields scam?
Police investigations are ongoing. The perpetrators remain at large. Many of JuicyFields' former managers have distanced themselves from the company. Speculations on who is behind it all run wild among aggrieved investors on social media. Some think it was as Russian mafia operation, others point to German aristocrats.
In Cannabis Cowboys, DW reporters Nicholas Martin and Andreas Becker work their way down the many rabbit holes and surface to tell an intriguing, criminal tale. They look for the weed that JuicyFields claimed to sell, they follow the money, and they speak with JuicyFields' former staff and partners. And they discover that JuicyFields is no ordinary ponzi scheme — if, indeed, that is what it is. They find smoke, mirrors, and indications of an even bigger secret hidden beneath it all.
The eight-part series is about greed, money laundering, and the eternal appeal of getting rich quick. It's about cannabis and a truly unique cast of characters.
The search takes Becker and Martin from parties in luxury hotels and the back streets of Berlin to a castle in Switzerland and secret meetings on Europe's borders to the East.
The first two episodes of Cannabis Cowboys are available on all podcast platforms from January 19, with new episodes released each week after that. And who know... the story goes on so there may be more.
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