Business 6 June 2018

Dennis Wafula

Police in India shut down cryptocurrency scam

Law enforcement officials in the Indian city of Thane busted an alleged cryptocurrency scam on Monday. According to Hindustan Times, the raid happened after a businessman and five of his colleagues inquired about the wherebouts  of their money only to be sent away with threats.

The alleged scam involved the Flinstone Group,  a real estate company that allegedly promised to give investors flats and citizenship in Africa and the Caribbean countries. The company also had a cryptocurrency named MoneyTrade Coin (MTC). According to investigators, the company used the cryptocurrency to lure investors into injecting more money to the scam. The company promised to give investors upto 20 times return on their investments within six months. This, however, did not materialize, and the group reportedly kept giving numerous excuses to investors. Flinstone Group successfully ran the said scam for the last two years without being unmasked, authorities said.

On its website, MTC promises to be “a safer, more secure and superior alternative to storing wealth in the form of digital currency, to investors as well as commoners.

The alleged scam involved hundreds of crores, authorities said. The businessman and his colleagues who reported the scam to authorities claimed they invested Rs 1.7 crore (US$254,065) into MTC. The businessman said he did not receive any return on investment nor feedback from the company even after the deadline was over.

On conducting a raid on the company’s office in Thane, police discovered that they also had other offices in Vikhori. Both offices had a total of 70 employees. Investigators also learned that some policemen were involved in the illegal network. Investigations will be done and action to be taken on the involved police personnel, authorities said.

Police have further arrested two people believed to be connected to the scam. According to reports, the mastermind of the whole operation was the managing director of Flinestone Group, Amit Lakhanpal. Police are yet to arrest him as he is reported to have vanished. Police believe Lakhanpal left the country to avoid legal actions against him.

Lakhanpal’s office was filled with photographs of him with prominent politicians to lure potential investors. Word has it that Lakhanpal had invested in a Bollywood film that features a major male star, although this report has yet to be confirmed.

An investigating officer told local reporters that the company not only swindled many through cryptocurrency investments but also never constructed any buildings, which they claimed to be their primary trade.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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